I’m not sure about you, but I wasn’t raised in a faith tradition that observed Advent. I heard about Advent, yet never learned what a Christian is to do during Advent or what this season actually represents for followers of Christ.
But a few years ago, I was introduced to the rich history of the Church calendar. A friend shared with me that the focal point of Advent was waiting. I had been in a long season of waiting that year and Advent sounded interesting and mysterious. I decided to jump in and see what taking part in Advent would mean for me.
Many of you may already be familiar with Advent, but for those of us who aren’t, Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in the Church as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. It’s a time set aside where we remember both God’s faithfulness in sending us His son, while at the same time leaning into the hopeful expectation of our reality as followers of Christ: we still await the return of our Messiah; the world is yearning for Him.
The season of Advent lasts for 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. It begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. Advent 2020 begins on Sunday, November 29th, and ends on Thursday, December 24.
For more information regarding the history of Advent, I found this article super helpful: https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html
So…why observe Advent this year?
I won’t go into all of the reasons why this year has been hard; it just has been. Personally, the hard parts of this year have exposed the frayed and underdeveloped parts of my character. I notice this in my response to last minute changes, small annoyances, and, what feels like, unending tension in the world.
Corporately, we’re all exhausted. It feels as though we have spent the entire year waiting. Waiting for local restrictions to be lifted, waiting for permission to re-gather as a Church, waiting for good news to come regarding Covid numbers, waiting for resolution after a tumultuous election cycle, waiting for a sense of normal to return to our lives…waiting.
Advent invites us to lean into the waiting. It beckons us to remember that the Israelites waited, too. They held onto the words of prophets like Isaiah who assured them that the Messiah would indeed come. We stand in a very similar place today; we are waiting for Jesus to return and make all things new.
This is what we do in Advent – we remember, but we also wait with hope-filled expectation.
There is so much that God does in the waiting.
How am I observing Advent with my students in 2020?
I’ve decided that rather than only practicing Advent with my own family this year, I’d also introduce my small group of high school girls to it. There is deep value in learning what it means to wait on and with Jesus, and I can’t think of a better year to guide them through what that looks like.
If it’s helpful to share specifics with you, my plan is to download and print The Stories of Advent resource from the Download Youth Ministry store. This social media-ready devotional is making it super easy for me to have a ready-made resource to hand to my small group. I’ll give them the printed read-along devotional and walk them through the meaning and significance of Advent at small group the week before Advent kicks off (our group meets on Wednesday nights, so we’ll do this the day before Thanksgiving). From there, my plan is to assign each girl in my group a day of the week where they will film themselves (selfie-style) reading the devotional for that day. They will be responsible to text our group the video of the devotional on their assigned day (with a few reminders from me, I’m sure).
My hope is that this will keep the girls engaged all month and if they miss reading the devotional on their own, they have a friend reading it to them in the video (which they can easily play while getting ready or doing their chores). Every week at small group my plan is to start our time together by having them share any insights, questions, or thoughts from the devotional. It’s okay if they skip a day or “get behind”, the goal is to simply help them open to God and see what He has for them in a season of waiting. I’ll also use the social media graphics included in the resource to post on my Instagram account (which all of my small group girls follow) to serve as an encouragement for them throughout the month. If a devotional is out of sight, it’s out of mind, so my goal is to sprinkle reminders of Advent for them via text, on social media, and at small group.
In light of the year we’ve faced, I’m choosing to enter into this holiday season with hope-filled expectation. I encourage you to take part in Advent this year and receive the gifts that God has for you, and your students, in the waiting.