Focal verse

“An angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Reflection

Most mornings I wake to the sound of my children running down the hallway and turning on our CD player. Vacation Bible school songs from the past summer fill our living room. Both kids dance and sing. In the darkness of the early mornings before school I hear them sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” These lyrics are seeping into their minds and bodies, reminding them of Jesus’ boundless love. They remind us of it, too. And this Advent is a great time to focus as a family on what it means to know and experience Jesus’ love.

At the start of Advent, I always feel hopeful that our Advent practices as a family will be meaningful. I envision Bible readings over dinner, counting down with an Advent calendar, lighting candles together and engaging in service throughout the month. Yet, even with the best intentions, our month becomes full—of extra activities, worship services, concerts and festivities. There’s much vying for our attention this season.

Yet I wonder how we’d experience Advent if we shifted our focus from completing tasks to witnessing love at work—seeing the health care workers who care for others daily, teachers who bring ideas to life for their students, volunteers who sit with those who are lonely and grieving. How would this season change if we spent it on the lookout for love?

Additionally, what would it look like this Advent for your family to focus on sharing love with others? You might drop donations in collection jars, pay for someone’s meal anonymously, write notes of encouragement on your Christmas cards or invite a neighbor to your holiday meal.

I can think of so many different practices I want to engage in this Advent with my children, but ultimately, in this season of waiting for Jesus’ birth, what I want them to know is Jesus’ love for them, for others and for the world. This Advent, challenge yourself to manifest and embrace Jesus’ love coming down for us at Christmas.

Practices

  • List random acts of kindness on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Every few days pull one out and do the act as a family.
  • There are 24 chapters in Luke’s Gospel. To remember the life of Jesus together, read the first chapter on Dec. 1 and another for each day leading up to Christmas.
  • Purchase or make an Advent wreath and place it where you’ll see it every day. Every week light a candle to count down until Jesus’ birth.

Prayers

We pray for those who find little joy this season.
We pray for those longing to start a family.
We pray for church leaders, volunteers and musicians.
We give thanks for manger scenes, lights, trees and decorations.
We give thanks for retail and hospitality workers.
We give thanks for songs that tell of God’s love.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

Service opportunity 

Make a list of people who could use a reminder that they are loved this Advent and Christmas. As a family, send notes of encouragement to some of the people on your list.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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