This little corner of the internet has been quiet the past few weeks for a couple of reasons: 1) I’ve been working on a project for my church that is now in the out-of-my-hands-but-not-yet-into-yours stage. (If you attend Horizons Church, keep an eye out for the Advent guide!) and 2) Josiah and I have been spending most of our spare time preparing to move. I wrote a bit about how our rental home was for sale and it looks like someone is interested in purchasing it, so we’re moving. If you think about it, we’d love your prayers. We love our home and aren’t excited about leaving it, but we’re trusting that this is God’s best for us and trying to walk faithfully in that.
Now that that’s out of the way, I wanted to share a few ways that I celebrate the season of Advent. Advent is the season on the church calendar that stretches the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and it’s traditionally a season to practice expectant waiting for Jesus’s coming.
There are probably hundreds of lists on the internet about ways to maximize your time this Christmas to attend all the parties and see all the lights and wrap all the presents with picture perfect homemade bows. If that is how you love to celebrate Christmas, then please do those things and enjoy them! I’ve found that a slower pace makes it easier for me to focus my heart on Jesus and enjoy the good gifts of this season without feeling rushed and frantic. Below are some of the traditions I’ve made that help foster that slowness and expectancy.
Before I got married, I celebrated Advent on my own using a few different devotionals/guides over the years. (One of my favorites was The Dawning of Indestructible Joy which I still highly recommend!) Last year, Josiah and I tried the She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth Advent books and loved them so we’re doing the same thing this year. Each day of Advent, there’s a scripture reading and online devotional that we do on our own. Then, each Sunday of Advent, we read the scripture together and light the candles in our Advent wreath. Celebrating Advent this way is one of my favorite traditions.
I’ve already started listening to Christmas music this year and have been loving The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album. The songs/movements are soulful and deep with bouts of joy and celebration mixed in, which feels like the perfect mix for a season where there is much to celebrate but there is also much we are still waiting for expectantly while suffering presses into us. This album balances that in a really unique way.
Last year I perfected the art of the homemade chai tea latte. I use Twinings Chai Tea (which you can find at nearly every grocery store) and heat up about ¼ cup whole milk while the tea is brewing. My younger brother gave me a milk frother (like this) for Christmas a couple years ago and I use it to froth the warm milk before pouring it into my cup of tea. I top it off with a sprinkle of cinnamon and it always makes me feel Christmas-y to drink it in the morning!
One of the ways I practice simplicity during the Advent season is in the way I wrap gifts. Every year I buy a big roll of plain butcher paper and use it as wrapping paper. It’s significantly more cost effective than buying rolls of bright glittery wrapping paper, and I personally prefer the understated look of the matching gifts under our tree. To decorate them a bit, sometimes I’ll add a sprig of greenery from outside, some red or dark green yarn, or a hand-lettered word on the package like “merry” or “holly.”
A few years ago I tried my hand at making clay gift tags and I’ve made them every year since. They are a bit more labor-intensive, but I love the way they look on packages, and it’s a fun project to take on while listening to Christmas music. I used to use salt dough, but last year I tried a recipe for cornstarch dough and it’s what I’ll use again this year. It’s whiter than salt dough and smoother to write on. The recipe talks about adding glitter and making different shapes, but I like to keep it simple by making plain white circular tags that I can write on later with a Sharpie.
While not exactly an Advent-specific tradition, I love to make homemade bread this time of year. I follow a simple recipe and the rise time reminds me that Advent is a season of waiting. While it’s baking, our whole house smells wonderful and inviting, and the best part (of course) is eating it warm out of the oven with butter.
During Advent, Josiah and I love to diffuse Young Living’s Christmas Spirit essential oil. I don’t sell essential oils and nearly all of mine are the cheapest brands I could find on Amazon or at Target, but this little bottle is worth the $10. It smells like a Christmas tree and oranges and cinnamon, and it always lasts the entire month of December even though we diffuse it every time we are home and awake. Whenever I smell it now, I think of sweet Christmas memories with my husband and the cozy feeling of our home in the winter.
However you choose to celebrate, I hope this season is full and rich with reminders to you of the Lord’s faithfulness and love.