Preparing for Advent

It’s sounds kind of funny to talk about preparing for a season of preparation, doesn’t it? But, Advent is almost here, and prepare we must!

Last year, I shared our daily Jesse Tree readings. A Jesse Tree, for those who don’t know, is a kind of a family tree for Jesus. It doesn’t include only His biological relatives, however…it also includes those people, prophets, and fulfilled prophecies closely associated with the Christmas story. There were twenty-eight readings last year, because Advent was as long as it can possibly be. This year, Advent is short, so a few readings must be left out, (which ones to exclude is at the discretion of the reader). Here are all twenty-eight topics one convenient location:

In addition to the Jesse Tree readings, I’m also adding readings for the “O Antiphons” in the evenings leading up to Christmas Eve, as well as a “Jesse Tree Extension“–readings for the 12 Days of Christmas, with corresponding ornaments that will go on the Jesse Tree with the Advent and Antiphon ornaments. I’m very excited about these two additions to our Advent/Christmas routine!

If you haven’t purchased your Advent candles for the year yet, there’s still time! We light our candles before we say the “Prayer at the Close of the Day” from Lutheran Service Book, but I know some families that light them during dinner, or at another time during the day. We also sing a verse from “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” at this time. I always take my Advent wreath into the store with me when I buy the candles, because even though the tapers all look the same, there are minor differences in their diameter, which can make them hard to fit into a specific wreath. I recommend that you choose your Advent candles based on the colors used in your church…we used to use purple candles at home, but since our church uses blue,we’ve switched over, and it’s nice to have that continuity between church and home.

There are also several church year commemorations that take place during the season of Advent. We always remember St. Nicholas (in addition to reading about the real man, we also decorate our Christmas tree on December sixth), and St. Lucia ( in our home, we celebrate this day with lussekattes and Lucia Brides and Star Boys, in addition to reading about Santa Lucia), and the last few years, we’ve added Ambrose of Milan (known for penning the Advent hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come”), as well. This usually involves reading a book about the life of the Saint, and/or discussing his or her history, and how God used that person to spread the Gospel. Sometimes we do an additional activity, like opening stockings on St. Nicholas Day, visiting a church named for Ambrose on December seventh, and  making St. Lucia crowns and Star Boy hats on December 13. In addition to these, there are dates set aside during Advent for Noah, St. Andrew, John of Damascus, Daniel and the Three Young Men, Adam and Eve, Katharina von Bora Luther, and St. Thomas (a great time to visit elderly members of your congregation, particularly those who are shut-ins).

I also can’t wait to start our daily Advent readings. This year, we’re back at the beginning of the trilogy with Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide. But, there are two other books in the series to look forward to: Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels. There are other books that count down the days to Christmas, too…some with more secular stories, and some that simply count down the days in December, instead of the actual days of Advent. I like the Jotham trilogy because they both tie into the Bible story, and because they’re meant to be read every day in Advent, no matter how long or short it is.

Advent is my very favorite time of year. I love the solemnity, the anticipation, the getting ready. What are your favorite Advent traditions?

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