Family Devotional

Winter Devotional – Advent: The Gift of Waiting

“Why do you think we have to wait to open our presents?” A child replied to the question, saying that it takes Santa a long time to get all the presents ready and we have to wait while he makes them. They’re perfectly right about waiting! The gift of this season comes in the waiting. We call this season, Advent.

When I was a child, waiting for Christmas was fun but also really difficult. One year, around 3 a.m. on Christmas morning, I woke up and went into the living room to see my gifts. I walked into a dark room filled with all the things I had asked for. As I looked at them, feeling excitement to know they were mine, I also felt disappointed. The Christmas lights were off, there was no smell of cinnamon rolls, and the magic of Christmas was gone. Even a few hours later when my parents and sister woke up and we were in the living room together with the Christmas lights lit, the presents in front of us, and cinnamon rolls on our plates, the magic was still missing for me. I wanted to see my presents so badly that I didn’t wait. I learned my lesson though. In skipping the waiting, I also skipped the magic and wonder of Christmas morning. I skipped the gift of Advent, the beauty that unfolds in anticipation, preparing and waiting.

Advent is the season of getting ready for Christmas. It lasts for four weeks beginning December 1st this year and during this time, we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of Jesus. It’s easy to become busy this month. There are so many wonderful and fun things happening. There are so many ways we are invited to give, to serve and to connect. In the midst of the messy and busy of it all, Advent offers us the gift of waiting together as a family and community. Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, this season invites us to pause and give thanks for our family and for the gift of anticipation.

The Advent wreath provides a fun way to wait, an easy way to mark the days of Advent. There are instructions below for how to make and use one during the month, along with the history and meaning of why it’s a tradition. In this season of waiting, we give thanks for the birth of the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us. We remember the promise of hope and God’s fulfillment in that promise. 


Bible Story – Luke 2:10-20

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


Family Reflections

1. What is your favorite part of the Christmas story and why?
2. What is your favorite family tradition at Christmas and why?
3. How can your family share God’s love with others during the Advent and Christmas seasons?


Family Activity: Making an Advent Wreath

One way your family can prepare for celebrating Jesus’ birth is by making an Advent wreath. The Advent wreath was originally a German and Scandinavian home devotional practice used to mark the time during the four weeks of Advent. Families would light a candle corresponding to the weeks past and the current week at their dinner or evening time of prayer. Each week, we add light from an additional candle in the face of the actual increasing darkness as the winter solstice approaches. This light reminds us that we too can be lights in our world by sharing God’s love in how we treat others, in the kindness we share and the generosity we offer this season.

The wreath, because it is a circle, symbolizes God’s never-ending love. The wreath, because it is green, symbolizes life. An Advent wreath contains 4 candles representing the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. In the center, many people place a white candle symbolizing Jesus. You can make a wreath using a foam base, greenery, and purple candles. If you do not have a foam base, place your candles in candle holders. Arrange them in a circle, with the white candle in the middle. Place greenery around the candles. 

Or maybe the only supplies you have at home are play dough, birthday candles and a little bit of glitter. That will work too! Create a wreath out of playdough and add a little glitter for fun, then put four birthday candles into the playdough wreath and wrap it around a larger white candle for the center Christ candle.

 

Lighting the Advent Candles

 
1st Sunday of Advent December 1st
We light the candle of HOPE because Jesus is our hope.
(Light one candle.)
2nd Sunday of Advent December 8th
We light the candle for PEACE because Jesus is our peace.
(Light the candle from the first Sunday and a second candle.)
3rd Sunday of Advent December 15th
We light the candle for JOY because Jesus brings joy.
(Light the candles from the first two Sundays and a third candle.)
4th Sunday of Advent December 22nd
We light the candle for LOVE because Jesus is love.
(Light the candles from the first three Sundays and a fourth candle.)
Christmas Eve
We light the four Advent candles and the Christ candle. We give thanks for the birth of the Christ child, Emmanuel, God is with us. We remember the promise of hope and God’s fulfillment in that promise.

Family Prayer
Loving God, help us this Christmas to be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Amen.

Tricia Guerrero (right)
Pastoral Associate for Family Ministries
t.guerrero@santamonicaumc.org
(310) 393-8258 ext. 104

Jamie Jones (left)
Children and Family Ministry Intern
j.jones@santamonicaumc.org