Family Advent Time for November 29
Advent, which begins this Sunday, is a beginning time; it is the first season of the church year.
Advent is a getting ready time; we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Advent is a waiting time; instead of instant gratification, we embrace the experience of taking it slowly.
Advent can be a special family time. Often, younger members of the family observe part of their worship in Sunday school while the older members observe their worship in the sanctuary. But families can do “church” at home with everyone staying together. On Wednesdays throughout Advent, we’ll be posting Wednesday Chapel ideas to get you started.
Choose a place for the family’s Advent Centre, such as the living room, where there is space for everyone and where your Advent Centre can remain visible and accessible throughout the season. Designate a time for your gathering.
You might wish to change where and when you gather each week, and different members of the family could take turns choosing.
Spread a blue cloth on a flat surface for the first two weeks and the last week of Advent, and a pink cloth for Joy (the third) week. The cloth can be any size or shape; it might be a tablecloth, scarf, or blanket.
The candles can be blue for Hope, Peace, and Love weeks, with a pink candle for the third week, Joy. Or use four white candles and with blue crayon/pencil/marker write “Hope,” “Peace,” and “Love” respectively on the sides of three candles and write “Joy” in pink on the other candle. Or use one candle and begin by printing “Hope” on the side, adding the other words each week. You could do the same with a flame-less candle.
Each week, add something to your Advent Centre that helps people think of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. A symbol of Hope could be a candle or a baby blanket. A symbol for Peace could be a dove or an origami peace crane. A symbol for Joy could be a party hat or bubbles. A symbol for Love could be a favourite stuffed animal or a family photo. Decide who will choose the item for each week, or everyone can choose together. You can also use your special symbol during the closing Waiting Prayer, passing the symbol to each person as they say who or what they are praying for.
Prepare your Advent space by laying the cloth and setting up the Hope candle or writing “Hope” if you are using a single candle. Have ready matches and the item selected as a symbol for Hope. Have a paper and pen to write down your “random acts.” Decide who will do what in your Family Advent Time, making sure everyone has a role.
We light this first Advent candle, the candle of Hope. (light candle)
In the light of the flame, we wonder about Hope.
In the light of the flame, we begin to wait for Jesus to be born.
In the light of the flame, we see one another, and know that God is with us.
Storytelling and Wondering
In our Family Advent Time we hear stories from the Bible, but not about the baby in the manger. Not yet! These stories are like another member of the family who teaches us and waits with us.
Waiting can be frustrating, even boring. However, our first Advent story teaches us something about waiting. It’s from the book of Mark (Mark 13:32–37), and Jesus is in the story—not the baby Jesus, but the grownup Jesus. He is in the city of Jerusalem teaching and answering questions about God, and three of his companions want to know when everything he has been talking about will happen. First of all, Jesus says no one knows when these things will happen—only God. Imagine how his companions feel about that! What would you think? And then Jesus tells a story. There is a person who’s going on a journey and this person needs people to stay behind to take care of the house, including someone to watch the door. But the owner of the house doesn’t know when he will be back, so the doorkeeper has to watch and stay awake the whole time. If the doorkeeper falls asleep, and is sleeping when the homeowner returns, there will be trouble! “So,” Jesus says, “keep awake!”
What can we learn about Advent waiting from this story? Of course, we know how long Advent is and when Christmas will come. And we can’t stay awake for the whole time! But I wonder if our waiting can be watchful. We can be on the lookout for hopeful things, like kindness and sharing. Sometimes we don’t notice hopeful things unless we are watching for them. So let’s watch!
A Special Symbol
It’s time to get that special symbol that makes us think about hope. What is it about this object that makes us think about hope? Let’s pass it around and talk about that. When we are finished we will make it part of our Family Advent Centre.
Showing Hope this Week
Discuss and then choose random acts of kindness to pursue this week, at least one act of kindness for each member of the family. Write them down and decide when to carry them out.
Singing an Advent Song
Sing the following to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” choosing whether to sing softly or loudly, slow or fast, smooth or bouncy.
Hope, hope, hope for you, hope for you today.
Jesus comes to bring you hope. Hope for you today.
Hope, hope, hope for me, hope for me today.
Jesus comes to bring me hope. Hope for me today.
Hope, hope, hope for all, hope for all today.
Jesus comes to bring us hope. Hope for all today.
(Pause for at least 10 seconds wherever “silence” is indicated. A person not wishing to speak will say “Pass.”)
God of Hope, today we are hoping for… (Pass the Hope symbol to the person speaking. Silence follows.) Help us to wait. (silence) Help us to watch. (silence) Help us to know how we can be part of your hope. (silence) We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(All blow out the candle together.)
Donalee Williams is in ministry with the congregation of Fort McMurray First United Church and she enjoys delightful and creative ways of sharing God’s good news.