28 ideas for Advent

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free
Baby Jesusphoto © 2008 Gabo Halili | more info (via: Wylio)

Happy New Year to my fellow liturgical nerds!  

This will be my second year observing the church calendar and incorporating seasonal liturgy into our worship services at The Mission.  As I’ve eased into all of these rich, ancient traditions I’ve found collaboration with fellow Christ-followers to be invaluable. Back in February, I shared 40 Ideas for Lent, so I thought I’d do the same for Advent in hopes that you will contribute some ideas of your own.  

5 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Why do I need a savior? Which areas of darkness are in need of light? 
2. Why does the world need a savior? Which places of darkness are in need of light? 
3. Which areas of my life require patience, waiting, and anticipation…and what can Advent teach me about perseverance in those areas?  
4. How can I prepare myself, my home, and my family for the arrival of Jesus? 
5. How can I create little pockets of peace during the busy holiday season? 

5 Books to Read

1. The Book of Common Prayer 
2. Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from the Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle
3. Advent and Christmas with Thomas Merton
4. Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, and Enuma Okoro
5. God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

5 Meditations

1. Isaiah 60, Isaiah 7:14/ “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”/ Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer 
2. Isaiah 35,  Isaiah 53 (note: The Message interprets Isaiah 53 beautifully)/  “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” / Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer
3. John 1:1-18/ “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”/ Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer 
4. Mary’s song: Luke 1:46-55, Zecharia’s Song: Luke 1:68-79, Simeon’s song: Luke 2:29-32/ “O Holy Night”/ Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Book of Common Prayer
5. Luke 2:1-21/ “Joy to the World,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”/ Collect for Christmas Day, The Book of Common Prayer 

5 Traditions to Start: 

1. Advent Wreath– Light a different candle each Sunday of Advent—one for hope, one for peace, one for joy, and one for love—concluding with a fifth candle representing the light of Christ to be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Consider using the passages and hymns from the mediations above to lead your family/ congregation in a short time of worship. More info
2. Jesse Tree—In addition to your regular Christmas tree, use a tiny, desk-sized tree as a Jesse Tree. Homemade ornaments representing various biblical figures and events in the redemption story are placed on the tree during the month—one each day. (You might want to add ornaments representing Ruth, Tamar, Bathsheba, Rahab, and Mary—the five women listed in Jesus’ geneology.) More info.   
3. Advent Calendar—This is a good way to add some suspense building up to Christmas day. More info
4. Liturgical Colors—If it’s your first year observing the church calendar, you might enjoy incorporating the season’s colors into your daily life or church decor —tablecloths, napkins, clothing, flowers, banners, etc. The color for the season of Advent is violet.
5. Empty manger—Consider setting up your manger scene early in the month, but without the baby Jesus figurine.  Wait to add Jesus on Christmas day. It’s as if the rest of the figurines are waiting in anticipation—just like you and your family! 

5 Ways to Give

1. Get your Christmas cards from Unicef
2. Gift a goat through World Vision 
3. Join the Advent Conspiracy by spending a little less and giving a little more.
4. Don’t let perfectionism kill community! Invite people into your home (even if it’s messy). Share meals (even if they’re not entirely homemade). Nurture community (even if it means a sloppy wrapping job or two). 
5. Be kind to the folks working retail during the holidays. It’s a tough, thankless job. 

3 Prayers

1. “Gracious God, send us your grace this Advent Season so that we can prepare for your coming. Touch our hearts with longing so that we can better love and serve you and each other. Fill us with the hope that we can be transformed by your Spirit and so help transform the world. Give us the peace of knowing that you came to share our human life and redeem us for the sake of love. We ask these things in the name of Jesus whose kingdom we seek. Amen.”

2. “During this Advent, let your light of peace and love shine in our world. Give us eyes to see the signs of your presence in the world. Help us to prepare our lives and our homes to receive the One who said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ Amen.”

3. “Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Saviorand give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.”


Remember, Advent is all about anticipation. It is about recognizing our need for a Savior, longing for that Savior, and joyfully welcoming that Savior. It can be tough to recreate this anticipatory tension when the busyness of the holidays pushes us into go-mode and our days center around how many items we can cross off our to-do lists. But creating little pockets of peace in each day can make the entire season more reverential and meaningful. 

So what are your plans for Advent? Feel free to share your ideas, links, and reflections.

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