I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. With all its programs and parties and consumerism, sometimes Christmas makes me want to run and hide. I’ve tried to bring a deeper sense of peace to the season using daily Advent readings, but always fall behind around Day 4. Over the past few years, I have found that a meaningful, less stressful tradition is to light a weekly Advent candle.
Originally a Lutheran tradition, the Advent wreath and candles have been brought into other denominations because of their simple beauty. The candles in the wreath are lit once a week, usually on Sundays, starting four weekends before Christmas. The last candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Each candle has a special meaning and its lighting is traditionally accompanied by a thematic Bible reading.
Maybe your church follows this tradition, lighting a candle each week during Advent. If you’ve been a part of this sacred practice before, you may have already adopted it for your home and family. If not, I’m sharing 4 reasons that this has become my favorite, no-stress, can’t-miss-it, Christmas tradition.
4 Reasons to Start an Advent Candle Tradition with Your Family
1. It builds a sense of anticipation for something other than presents.
You know the struggle—you tell your kids that Christmas is more than presents, but every year, the anticipation always revolves around the gifts! The mere idea of wrapped boxes makes them exciting, even if we pare the gifts down to a bare minimum.
With Advent candles, we start by lighting only one candle. The next week, we light two candles. As we wait in anticipation for Christmas day, our kids also wait in anticipation for the day we finally light all the candles! This increases our sense of anticipation and expectation for more than just the gifts and becomes a symbol and reminder of how the Jewish people waited for their Messiah.
2. It’s a hands-on way to introduce a big concept to kids.
Just as “the people living in darkness have seen a great light” (Matthew 4:16), we await the lighting of the final Christ-candle in the middle of the wreath. Our children may not yet fully understand the concept of Christ being light, but they will definitely understand the frustration of waiting for something to happen! As they await the lighting of the final candle, the Christ-candle, they may ask to light all the candles at once.
This is a fabulous opportunity to explain that this is how God’s people felt: God didn’t speak to the Israelites for 400 years, and so they waited in spiritual darkness for their Savior for a VERY long time! Fortunately, we don’t have to wait quite that long to light all our candles as a celebration of Jesus’ arrival.
3. It’s easy to fit into your schedule.
Rather and trying to squeeze an extra devotion into an already busy season, lighting Advent candles can be a 5 minute moment that you do 5 times throughout the entire season. You can handle that, trust me.
4. It brings peace to the chaos.
There is nothing my kids love more than turning off all the lights and staring into a flame. This also gives me a chance to reflect and calm down, and it keeps my squirmy boys more engaged than doing a devotional in normal lighting conditions. Candles are magical, seriously.
If you’re ready to bring some peace and Christ-filled anticipation to your Advent season, here’s your quick-start guide:
What You Need:
5 candles: 3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white.
The type of candle is unimportant: taper or pillar or tea light, scented or unscented. If you have trouble finding those colors, white candles are just fine! This is a great way to get your children involved; have them create simple holders out of playdough or painted baby food jars.
Place them in a circle with the white candle in the center.
Family-Friendly Advent Readings
We created this Minno Advent Family Devotional and companion 5 Minute Family Devotional videos to help guide your family through Advent with a simple and meaningful rhythm. This Advent devotional is appropriate for children ages 3 and up. It provides a weekly or daily (if you choose to go all out) rhythm that will help family members of all ages engage in the season.
There are several traditional formats that Advent readings can follow. This devotional follows the Hope / Peace / Joy / Love message tradition.
Starting this Advent candle tradition will help you teach your kids about the season while building Christ-focused anticipation for Christmas in a simple, peaceful way.
May your season be full of the joy and peace of Christ this year!