“The King Is Coming!
Open up your eyes to see it,
Open up your ears to hear it,
Open up your mind, believe it,
Open up your heart, receive HIM.”
-Christy Nockels “The King is Coming Prelude
Quickly diving into a small portion of the history of advent…
Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas (This year, Advent starts on Sunday, November 29th). Advent means ‘Coming’ in Latin. This is the coming of Jesus into the world – The King is coming! As followers of Christ we can use these four Sundays and weeks of Advent leading to Christmas to prepare our hearts and remember the true meaning of Christmas.
The Advent wreath was invented in the early 1800s by a Protestant pastor named Johann Hinrich Wichern in Germany. He was pouring out his life into the poor children in the urban suburbs when just like us around this time of the year he was surrounded by many little ones asking, “Is it Christmas yet?” In response to their constant questioning over their excitement for the arrival of Christmas he fashioned the first advent “wreath” from a wagon wheel. He screwed 25 holes around it, one candle for each day. He then placed 20 red candles on it and 4 white candles. The more widely know advent wreath these days you will find there are four candles for the four Sundays before Christmas and (sometimes) a fifth candle to be lit on Christmas day. Each candle holds a meaning: hope, love, joy, and peace. Four Sundays before Christmas one candle is lit. The first Sunday, the first candle is lit; the hope candle. The second Sunday before Christmas the first and 2nd candle are lit; the hope candle as well as the love candle. And so on and so forth.
“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, we make present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.”
The word liturgy means worship. The root of Advent comes from the Latin word adventus. Which means: coming, waiting. The Liturgy of Advent is the remembrance and anticipation, the expectant waiting and preparation. The worship of the King as we remember His birth and anticipate His second coming. It’s a practice of worship in our waiting, longing, hope and expectancy.
Years ago I read something that said something along the lines of, “Why do we have celebrations that come back year after year? Why do we come back to ponder the same thing over and over?” The conclusion I have come to in my own heart is this: repetition is a beautiful teacher. We are designed to remember and celebrate. We are designed to want the truths presented to dwell in our hearts, and what better way to do that than to focus on them again and again, that they may become a part of us – lingering in our hearts. I am always one for a beautiful word picture so this makes me think of an instrument that continually needs tuned.
Lord, tune my heart to sing thy grace.
I think the act of continually re-tuning our hearts to gaze at the Lord’s beauty, to relive those moments of agonizing waiting, raw hoping, and eager expectation is to allow the gospel to become alive in our hearts again and again – this tunes our hearts to sing His grace. Binding our wandering hearts to Him, for we are, and I am, so apt to forget all too quickly.
For sometime now I have wanted to share several things we do in our home to herald the birth of our Lord and Savior. How Josh (my dear husband) and I spark discussion and weave the narrative of Christ into the very fibers of our days during this Christmastide. I am just beginning in this journey and have by no means “arrived and perfected” my methods. I know there are so many meaningful and beautiful traditions surrounding this season that I do not know of nor do I do. I love many things we have done and incorporated in our home and my hope is that by sharing this it will be a blessing to you and spark inspiration as you magnify the Lord in your home.
Friends, I’m finding these moments in time don’t have to be extravagant to teach our children. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to achieve perfection in our traditions. As we are layering Jesus in each moment; pointing beyond ourselves, beyond this earth, Jesus can be found in the simple repetitive acts of our humble homes. In fact, the very definition of tradition is a custom or belief which passes from generation to generation. And what sweet joy it is to discover Jesus & the wonder of His arrival with my little family this Christmas season through those endearing daily moments that create customs and build foundations of what our family believes.
It’s choosing the slow. It’s lingering upon the sacred and it is allowing His presence to saturate our hearts and homes.
It’s not in the perfection of our traditions or how magically our homes are decorated or how picture-perfect our crafts look that will change hearts. We simply point our hearts and the hearts of our children, our family, our friends to the Cross to which we cling and allow Him to do the rest.
I found that as I am weaving the narrative of beholding Christ in our home I do so through our five senses. This was very unintentional (at first) but the more I thought on it the more I saw the beauty of it. Our senses are deeply tied to our memories. I can tell you exact smells, songs, et cetera that instantly transport me back to a very vivid and specific memory. We are creating memories through taste, smell, and touch that can showcase Christ incarnate to our children
“The King Is Coming!”
“Open up your eyes to see it,” through scriptures, quotes, poems, and art all around us. I love being creative and tucking artwork around our home that calls us to ponder this season. Mary caring for her child, the tears of Simon as he held His long awaited Savior in his arms; poems, hymns, and scripture written out for those passing by to read and linger upon.
“Open up your ears to hear it,” through reading and lingering upon Scripture together, the reading of books, and through music. Jennifer Naraki shares this perfectly and poetically in the introduction of Slow and Sacred Advent.
“Music is powerful. Rhythm and melody dance off the page, and into our hearts, not only guiding us in lyrical content but creating deep memories. This truth is evidenced the moment you hear a familiar string of chords. Instantly you are brought back to a certain time. A particular place. The Creator of our world sent the sweet song of angels to celebrate Christ’s coming. Beloved Christmas Carols + Hymns have been woven throughout hearts and homes across our globe, while lingering throughout the ages.”
Open up your mind, believe it,
Open up your heart, receive HIM.”
-Christy Nockels “The King is Coming Prelude
And so without further ado here are some of our family favorite traditions (with links) we have built into this sacred season. To help us remember, to help us linger, to cause us to worship and rejoice. It is my hope that they encourage meaningful conversation and stir up joyful and thoughtful reflection in your hearts and homes. (Also, I think it’s worth saying, lest you think we do all of this every year. This is a list of things we have done in the past and hope to do someday. Not by any means is this a list of everything we do EVERY year. It wouldn’t be a time of slow and sanctuary if we tried to fit all of this into the month of December.)
- Slow and Sacred Advent (This beautiful advent is without a doubt one I hope to incorporate in our home every year. Jennifer wove such a sacred depth in the hum of this advent with repetitive readings, crafts, recipes, and truth all rolled together simply, deeply.) Keep scrolling for more advents. ☺️
- Books (to see a list of favorite books with links. Keep scrolling ☺️)
- Baking Homemade treats together.
- Baking Christmas Cookies to buy a Chicken for children in need through Compassion International
- Bringing out the Fisher-Price Christmas Story manger and hiding Mary and Joseph as they are traveling to Bethlehem. I try to remember to hide them each evening for the boys to search for the next morning. I got the boys this manger several years ago and I love that they can play, interact, and imagine the story playing out. And I am not worries something will break 😉
- Layering artwork throughout our home. (Google search for pictures and simply print them off and hang/frame them. It doesn’t have to cost much.)
- Memorize a poem together over the month of December. Last year we memorized a stanza from a childhood favorite of mine, In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rosetti. We also listen to the Keith and Kristen Getty song of this beautiful poem.
- Telling the Christmas Story through Christmas Carols.I am SO excited about this one! I am hoping that this is the year we get to do this one. We shall see. It has been around four years since it’s been on my heart to actually do. Gather around the piano and read the Christmas story from Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2. while pausing throughout the reading to sing hymns + carols mixed in. (i.e. sing Silent Night after you ready Jesus in the Manger, sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing once you read about the angels appearing to the shepherds, etc.) Do all this in the glow of candlelight and your twinkling Christmas lights.
- Bake a cake together to celebrate Jesus’ birthday – we call it the Happy Birthday Jesus Cake!
- I go through my own personal Advent study and allow that to pour over onto my family. This year I am doing the Advent by Revive Our Hearts, Born a Child and Yet a King. Here is another advent by Revive Our Hearts, Consider Jesus. In past years I have done (and loved) the advent studies my sweet friend, Gretchen Saffles has prayerfully put together. You can find her ministry, Well Watered Women here.
- Josh and I also have done advent readings together so we are learning and growing together as a couple – as we wait and behold our King. Was it last year or the year before that we did, God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer? We are planning on doing this one again this year.
- Building a manger together for baby Jesus. One year we went on a family walk and collected sticks and built our own manager for baby Jesus.
- Wrap all your Christmas books and put them under the tree. Open one each day and read under the lit up Christmas tree! Add a new book or two every year.
- Cut down a Christmas tree as a family at the Christmas tree farm.. Bonus idea: bring hats or gloves and give each person one to “mark” their favorite tree, then vote which one to cut!
- Make cranberry, popcorn, dried orange garlands for the tree.
- Have a hot cocoa party with different flavors and toppings. Bonus idea: have a contest for the best or craziest combination!
- Draw names, and each person makes a handmade gift for the person whose name they drew. On Christmas Eve, each person sits in the “special chair” one at a time to receive their handmade gift, and then everyone goes around and says why that person is special.
- Sleep under the Christmas tree on the night before Christmas Eve.
- Make a bunch of different Christmas treats, box them up and deliver them to neighbors. Last year, we made homemade beeswax candles as a craft as we talked about how Jesus is the light of the world. We then gifted those candles to our neighbors symbolizing spreading the light of Jesus to those around us.
- Go on a snowy horse drawn sleigh ride the day, bundled up and sipping hot cocoa.
- Go Christmas caroling!
- Drive around to look at Christmas lights.
- Instead of gift tags, wrap each person’s gifts in their own wrapping paper. It makes it easier for kids who can’t read yet, and it’s fun to see all the different paper!
- Set up your tent (or build a fort) and have a “camp in” while watching a Christmas movie, and then sleep in the tent for the night!
- Make Gingerbread houses OR a gingerbread nativity together as a family.
- Have a Shepherd’s Dinner on Christmas Eve. Make food that they would have eaten back in Jesus’ day, dress up as shepherds, sit on the ground and eat by candlelight, and then read the Christmas story from Luke.
- Allow the Lord to work in our hearts and highlight. We need to quiet our hearts and allow the Lord to lead. Not be harried and do all the things. But allow the Lord reign.
- And one of the most important parts, dedicating and committing this season and our hearts to the Lord. “Unless the Lord builds a house, those who labor, labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a) May we not be “doing all the things” filling our days to bursting, and miss the coming of the Lord into our ordinary days. He wants to meet us there, He is in our midst. Emmanuel, God with us.
A virtual bookshelf of our favorite books we enjoy during the winter and Christmas season:
- The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey – A touching story of a bitter widower and how his life was touched by a young widow and her innocent son.
- The Legend of the Candy Cane – Another dear story that I have done with the boys for years now. We never look at the candy cane the same.
- An Orange for Frankie – This one makes me cry every time.
- The Little Drummer Boy – Last year this was David’s favorite song. This book makes it come alive.
- The First Christmas Night – beautiful vivid illustrations.
- Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale – Such a sweet story.
- The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker – Magical.
- The Story of Holly and Ivy – Anything by Barbara Cooney is a must!
- Christmas in the Big Woods – We love all the Little House books.
- Mortimer’s Christmas Manger – A fun story from the perspective of a little mouse.
- The Legend of St. Nick – A sweet introduction to the story of St. Nick.
- All Creation Waits – I have yet to read this one but it looks wonderful!
- Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent – Another on my list to read, maybe in a year or two.
Favorite music for the season I can’t recommend enough:
These two albums above are two of my all time favorites that you will hear often if you visit our little cottage during the month of December. Though, I certainly have a whole bunch more I could share. Maybe in the next week or two I’ll put together a Slow and Sacred playlist to share with you all in the coming days. ❤️
There are so many lovely resources for this Advent/Christmas season here are some favorites and some I think look life-giving and truth-filled:
- Slow and Sacred Advent
- Ann Voskamp has four beautiful devotional youtube videos, recored at home, one for each Sunday. I love watching these and being reminded and blessed. Advent Video 01. Hope., Advent Video 02. Love., Advent Video 03. Joy., Advent Video 04. Peace.
- Unearthing Wonder Advent Guide follows along with the book, All Creation Waits
- Peaceful Press’ Christmas Guide
- Here is a free advent printable that follows along with The Storybook Bible.
Note: I have not used all of these advent guides or Christmas guides but these are all something that tug at my heart and I would use. I like simplicity in our season so I don’t do everything. Some years I even plan on doing something but if it doesn’t end up happening it rolls over onto the list for next year. Remembering this season should become a sacred sanctuary of basking in the glory of our Savior and not an endless list of “have to do” is key for carving out a slow and sacred advent season. Maybe something tucked within these lists are the perfect fit for your family, I hope so. ❤️
May we treasure Christ in our traditions. May we come to His throne as a family and Behold the Lamb anew. May our homes and hearts become a sanctuary in the midst of these restless days.
I’d love to hear what you all are doing this year to behold the coming of our King. Or if you’d like to share if anything I shared sparked inspiration in your heart.✨