By this point in the season, the decorations are probably hung and the excitement is building. We find ourselves in the second week of Advent, continuing to celebrate and planning and preparing for upcoming celebration. This week, the wreath candle is the candle of preparation (or peace), or the Bethlehem candle. In honor of this, it is a great time to contemplate how first century believers waited and prepared for Jesus, and also how we prepare for Him today. Last week we discussed prophets and how they were sent to announce the coming Messiah. Announcement is such a huge part of the Bible, and a huge part of our faith in general. As we mentioned with prophets, the Old Testament is full of people who were called to tell others to get ready for a coming King. The exciting thing about the life of Jesus in connection to the Old Testament is watching all of these predictions and proclamations come true and seeing the prophetic words echoed. Consider the words of Isaiah:
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God. -Isaiah 40:3-4
In the person of John the Baptist, we see this come true:
He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’” -Luke 3:3-6
John announced Jesus and pointed people to look to him. When asked if he (John) was the savior, he was quick to emphasize his own inadequacy when prepared with Christ. His purpose was to prepare for the important ministry of Jesus. But he wasn’t the only announcer of Jesus. Many people after Jesus also announced his work. Think of the disciples and their efforts to spread the gospel in the earliest days of the church. Think of Paul and his missionary work to set up churches. Think of modern missionaries and ministries.
What does this mean for us? Well, just like the earliest Christians and even the prophets before them, our job is to be heralds of good news. We are to announce and explain to others who Jesus is and what He did. We also need to prepare… How do we prepare? What does it mean to announce or get ready for something special? Think about ways that we prepare for things. How do you prepare for a test? A special visitor? A new baby? What about Christmas?? We hang lights and put up a tree, shop for presents and make cookies…but how do we prepare our hearts?
Illustrating the Incredible Incarnation…
It can be mind-boggling enough for adults to comprehend the concepts of the Trinity and Incarnation…explaining it to young children can be even more daunting! But it doesn’t necessarily have to be…consider using an illustration or scenario to describe what happened two thousand years ago…
- Use the ant adage. This is an old and oft-told story, but it works…imagine that you are walking along and notice a long line of ants scurrying about trying to find their way (or choose a cuter creature, like cats or sheep or something). You are desperate to help them out and try shouting to point them back on the right path. The ants ignore you, not trusting or understanding. What does it take? Becoming an ant like them to show the way. That’s what Jesus did.
- Use the toy box as tool. Have kids think about a favorite toy or perhaps a car. What if a sibling or friend accidentally broke it and you couldn’t fix the tiny pieces? You might have to become as tiny as a Lego man to make the repair. And that is what God did! (okay, so these are a little cliché and far-fetched…just trying to make the point clearly)
Activities for Advent Celebration
As we continue with this church season, enjoy whatever meaningful family traditions you may have kept for years, and try to find some new ones to celebrate, too! Consider especially exploring some customs around the world. Jesus came for the whole world, after all, so why not look at how other places honor the holidays? This is an especially great week to look at other traditions.
- December 6th is St. Nicholas Day. It is always fun to go sock-footed and put a shoe out for the Saint of Holland!
- December 6th also marks the beginning of Hanukkah this year. Consider talking about the Jewish holiday and playing a round of the dreidel game. Maybe even make your own dreidels with clay. Make a tasty “Menorah” treat with pretzels, mini marshmallows, and a banana.
- December 13th is St. Lucia Day, celebrated in Sweden with special costume and food.
Have fun researching and learning about these various practices. Another custom that might be fun to research and adopt is the making of a Jesse tree. Fraught with greater significance than a traditional Christmas tree, a Jesse tree tells the story of the background leading up to the coming of Jesus. It details His family genealogy and events surrounding preparation for Messiah. A Jesse tree can be simple or elaborate, and contains a different small ornament and oration with significance for each day of Advent.
Whatever you do, make it a way to contemplate and consider the hand of God and the wonder of His son. Make it worship and love, for your life, your family, and most of all for the KING.