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Prepare Him Room

One of the great joys of the Christmas season is the arrival of special guests. It may be a son or daughter who has been away at college or in the military. It could be a favorite aunt or uncle who has flown in for the holidays. Friends might be coming to share a holiday dinner. Whoever it is, you anticipate the arrival of your guests and prepare yourself and your home for their coming. And finally, when you hear the knock or the doorbell, you jump up, eager to welcome your loved ones into your heart and home.

That spirit and emotion are at the heart of Advent, a way of celebrating Christmas that may be new to you. Perhaps you’re aware of Advent but don’t know a lot about what it means or what you’re supposed to do about it. When you hear the word, you probably think of candles and calendars. While those are often involved in the celebration, they are merely symbols of what Advent is all about

The word Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival.” When related to Christmas, it has to do with the coming of Jesus Christ. It’s that period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

If Advent is a new concept for you, don’t feel bad. In fact, be glad that you are discovering something that can help bring the true meaning of Christmas to you and your family in a fresh way. Rather than going through the Christmas season in a frenzy, pausing for just one day to contemplate and celebrate the Savior’s birth, you have the opportunity to take more time to prepare your heart and mind for the commemoration of Jesus’ arrival into the world

Traditionally, there are two ways to celebrate Advent. The first is to anticipate the coming of Christ on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day by lighting a candle each Sunday. Each candle represents a different aspect of the Christmas story. One tradition follows various people of the Christmas story: the prophets, Mary, the angels, and the shepherds. Another tradition emphasizes four emotions of Christmas: hope, peace, love, and joy.

Whether you follow the people or the emotions of Christmas, you celebrate Advent by lighting a candle on each of the four Sundays before Christmas—and taking time to think about what it represents. If you’re doing this with your family, you can share the meaning of Christmas together and talk about why the prophets are part of the story, or why Christmas inspired hope. With either tradition, there is always a fifth candle, called a “Christ candle,” that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to signify Jesus’ birth.

The second way to celebrate Advent is with an Advent calendar. There’s nothing sacred about the calendar itself (just as there’s nothing sacred about the candles), but like the candles, a calendar can help you think about what’s sacred. The Advent calendar allows you to mark off each day of December leading up to Christmas.

Typically, Advent calendars have spaces or boxes containing a special images of a person, symbol, or emotion of Christmas. You can buy these calendars ready-made or make them yourself. Whichever you choose, it’s a wonderful way to engage children to think about Christmas beyond the secular images of presents and Santa Claus that bombard them throughout the season.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the Advent celebration—whether you use candles or a calendar or both—is that it reminds us that the coming of Christ into the world is not something that happened just once in the past. Advent tells us that Christ continues to come into our world in the present through the lives of people who choose to follow Him. And it also reminds us that Jesus is coming again in the future in the Second Advent.

Just as we delight in preparing for special guests to our physical home, we need to prepare our spiritual house for the arrival of the most special Guest of all.

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