Advent is the season of waiting, the season of preparation, the season of nearly but not yet. We prepare the manger, but the Baby isn’t here yet.
The season of Advent, traditionally the four weeks prior to Christmas, is a time to get our hearts and minds ready for the coming of the King; but we don’t wait for December to start thinking about Christmas, do we? In some places, the Christmas music starts playing and the trees go up in stores even before Halloween. By the time we get to December, we are burned out and so busy that we miss the entire point of Christmas.
That’s why we need Advent to help us slow down and reconsider God coming to the world. Here are some ways to introduce Advent.
Learning to Wait
Discuss the people in the Bible who spent time waiting for Jesus to arrive: the prophet Isaiah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna. Make this a four-week series for Advent and explore how why and how we wait on God.
Willing to Wait
Use an empty manger or empty stable from a nativity scene. Hand out note cards or pieces of paper and pens and have the students write down their responses to the following questions:
• What are you waiting for today?
• What hopes, dreams, plans have you been waiting, praying and longing for?
• Are you willing to wait for these things?
• Are you willing to wait for God?
• What will it take for you to wait on Him?
Then have the students place these cards in a manger, physically and symbolically giving them to God. Or have them write their names on a card and place them in the manger as a symbol of their willingness to wait on Jesus as Mary, Joseph and others did.
Lighting the Wait
Create an Advent wreath with your entire group. Use a large circle of greenery or an artificial garland and place four large pillar candles in holders or glass jars just inside the garland forming the corners of a square. Light one of the large candles each week of Advent.
Place trays of sand on the inside of the wreath. Provide a basket with enough tea light candles for your entire group. Have each student light a candle and add it to the center of the wreath. This can be done as they enter worship time, at the end as a closing or as a part of your teaching time. Explain that by adding their candles to the wreath they symbolize their willingness to prepare their hearts for Jesus’ coming.
Provide votive candles for your students to take home and light each night as symbols of waiting for the light of the world and as reminders that they are to take the light of Jesus to others. Use a map of the world and have students attach glow-in-the-dark stars on the places in the world that need the light of Jesus this Advent. Encourage your students to take home a star as a reminder to pray for the places and people around the globe or in their own neighborhoods who need the love and light of Jesus.