Advent is the first season in the liturgical calendar. It is meant to help us prepare for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ. Pastors will focus on this during services in the season. It’s a good idea for us, the flock, to do the same.
My family has celebrated this season since my earliest memory. As a small child, I knew Christmas was coming because mom made an Advent calendar and got out the Advent wreath. My husband and I have continued that tradition for our own children.
Each of the four Sundays of Advent are celebrated by the lighting of a new candle. On Christmas day, a fifth is lit, and it is called the Christ candle. There are different names for each candle, depending on denomination. Ours are Prophet, Angel, Shepherd and Star.
There are Bible readings that go with each candle. After the reading, we discuss what the passage meant. We had a list of questions to help prompt the discussion, and it could get very interesting. The following are an example of questions you could use in your family.
What kind of comfort was the prophet Isaiah speaking of?
Christ is to be our comfort. By His stripes we are healed, and He conquered death, hell and the grave. In Him, we have everlasting life.
Why was Zachariah struck dumb?
He was in the Holy of Holies. The only way someone would be in there with him would have to be an angel sent by God.
Why wasn’t Mary?
She wasn’t in a location that made it impossible to disbelieve. Also, according to the culture, she had every right to be suspect of the appearance of Gabriel. Men didn’t talk to young women when they are alone.
How did God use Rome to get Mary to Bethlehem?
Prophecy named the birthplace of Christ centuries before the event. However, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, which is 80 miles away. In those days, that was an incredible distance, especially for a very pregnant woman.
The census demanded by Caesar meant that they had to go to their ancestral home city, and they were of the house and line of David. That meant a trip to Bethlehem at a very inconvenient time in the pregnancy.
On Christmas Eve, the last day of Advent, we discuss the lack of room in the inn. Over the centuries, many people have thought ill of the innkeeper. However, considering the hoards of people in that tiny city, it is not his fault. In fact, he may have already given a customer his own bed. The offer of the stable is also considered a bit insulting, but again, people were sleeping in the street. Being away from the crowd while giving birth was an important concession. Just think, all of the guests in the inn probably had at least one animal with him.
These discussions helped all of us focus on Jesus, rather than on Santa. I have nothing against the latter, but Jesus is the reason, not a side issue.