I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. With all its programs and parties and consumerism, Christmas makes me want to run and hide. I’ve tried to bring a deeper sense of peace to the season using daily readings, but always fall behind around Day 4. Over the past few years, I have found that an easier, 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 its 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. 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 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.
3. It’s easy to fit into your schedule.
Rather and trying to squeeze an extra devotion into an already busy seasons, lighting Advent candles is a 5 minute moment that you do 5 times in 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, use white candles with colored candle holders. This is a great way to get your children involved; have them create simple holders out of play dough or painted baby food jars.
Place them in a circle with the white candle in the center.
- Your Advent readings.
You can source out your own or you are welcome to follow mine. These readings are very simple and are appropriate for children ages 3 and up. I have thoroughly tested them on my own squirmy boys for multiple years, and the readings continue to engage them.
There are several traditional formats that Advent readings can follow. While the Hope / Peace / Joy / Love tradition is the one I’ve seen used most frequently, I have chosen to follow the Prophets / Angels / Shepherds / Magi format for my concrete-thinkers.
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!
Christie Thomas is a children’s book author and family faith leader. Connect with Christie on her website to find out more about her amazing resources for families.