Advent slows us down & is especially helpful for children with special needs who need structure, predictability, and a “liturgy” to their days. When bustling holiday preparations seem overwhelming, appreciate Advent! Advent turns children away from the clutter to Christ, who comes to us.
Advent reminds us not only of the real reason we celebrate Christmas but also of the real reason we needed a Savior in the first place. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Advent turns us to the coming of Christ at the end of the age as Judge. This makes the mercy of Christ’s coming to us as Savior, living a miraculously perfect life, and dying to atone for our sins all the more humbling, necessary, and welcome; for the rest of the passage tells us this:
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-25)
Therefore here is a simple prayer to teach children and pray throughout the season:
“All praise, eternal Son, to Thee
Whose advent sets Thy people free,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.”*
What is Advent?
The word “advent” is from the Latin word for “coming,” and as such, describes the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s coming manifests itself among us in three ways — past, present, and future.
Christ’s coming in the past fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the very incarnation of God, the Word made flesh. This coming is the one pictured on Christmas cards in a humble, lowly stall in Bethlehem. Christ’s coming in the present focuses on His ministry among us today through Word and Sacrament (Baptism, the Lord’s Supper). Christ’s coming in the future is his “second coming” on the Last Day at the end of time.
The traditional use of Advent candles, often placed in a circle or a wreath, historically involved three purple candles and one rose (pink) candle. The purple candles and the purple cloths (paraments) on the altar indicate the penitential tenor of Advent, as we sorrow over our human condition, sins, misdeeds, and things left undone. This can become daunting, so the rose candle is included as the third candle to be lit. This third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminds us that “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” We rejoice because the Savior of the world, our Lord, is near. Some also include a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit on Christmas Day and sometimes during the 12 days of Christmas, December 25 to January 5. Christians then celebrate Epiphany on January 6, but that is a topic for another day.
You may have noticed that in recent years the purple candles have been replaced by blue. Sometimes this is for the royalty of the coming King or for hope.
No matter which candles you choose, Advent is a good time to create a meditative tradition in your home. We teach children to slow down and, reflectively, to wait. Your children may appreciate this video on Advent focused on waiting and on Christ as the Light of the world.
A blessed Advent to all.
*a stanza from “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry,” Charles Coffin, 17th century
photo – from our church last night before the first Advent service of the season