This Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, the season in which Christians around the world count down until Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Christie Thomas is a mom who has written a series of Advent readings to celebrate the season with her kids. Today, she’s here to share a bit of background of this tradition and how you can start it with your own family.
The Advent wreath and its candles provide a simple yet beautiful way to count down the weeks until Christmas. The candles in the wreath are lit once a week, usually on Sundays, starting four weekends before Christmas. The last candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Each candle symbolizes something, and each has a Bible reading involved.
As we wait in anticipation for the coming of the Saviour, we add one candle for every week of Advent. This symbolism increases our sense of anticipation and expectation. Just as “the people living in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16), we await the light of the Christ-candle—the centre candle that we finally light on Christmas.
Young children often can’t understand the symbolism of Christ being the light of the world because their brains haven’t developed into abstract thought patterns. But I can tell you that they do understand and love candles!
Creating an advent candle tradition is a fantastic, hands-on way to start introducing children to one of the very abstract concepts in the Bible. They might not understand everything that Christ’s birth symbolizes, but they definitely understand the frustration of waiting for something to happen, like waiting for that final candle to be lit!
As you slowly add the candles, children may ask to light all the candles at once. This is a fabulous way to explain to them that this is how God’s people felt. God didn’t speak to His people for 400 years, and so they waited for the Saviour for a VERY long time! Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long to light all our candles!
If you’d like to create an advent candle tradition with your kids this year, here’s the low-down on what you will need for this Sunday (the first Sunday in Advent):
- You will need 5 candles: 3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white. The type of candle is unimportant: taper, pillar, or tea light, scented or unscented. If you have trouble finding those colours, use white candles with coloured candle holders. This is a great way to get your children involved; have them create simple holder out of play dough or painted baby food jars. You can also get a fun candle-making Advent kit. Place the candles in a circle with the white candle in the centre.
- You will need Advent readings to read as you light each candle. The readings I have written are very simple, and can be used with the youngest children. There are several traditions that advent readings can follow. While the Hope/Peace/Joy/Love tradition is the one I’ve seen the most frequently, the one I have chosen to follow for my concrete-thinkers is Prophets/Angels/Shepherds/Magi.
For access to the readings, please subscribe to my Advent Traditions Newsletter (newsletters are sent weekly in November and December). You will receive the readings as well as some other ideas for a meaningful advent with your children. You can also find more info on cultivating authentic faith in the home on my website.