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128 pages
Nov 2006
Tyndale House Publishers

Looking Forward to the Nativity

by Jon Farrar

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The Christmas season is filled not only with great joy but also with eager anticipation. Children yearn for Christmas morning, with its ribbons and wrappings, stockings and gifts.

Often, the days leading up to Christmas can be harried, with presents to be bought and wrapped and goodies to be baked. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the season, the reason we celebrate gets hopelessly lost.

Looking Forward to the Nativity can help your family savor the Christmas season. Beginning with December 1, take some time each day to gather your children around you for reflection and prayer. Read the short story and related Scripture passage that illustrate the excitement, the wonder, and the true meaning of Christmas. Then encourage your children to participate in the simple, yet meaningful, family activity to further enhance their anticipation of the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Looking Forward to the Nativity shows your children how  people throughout human history—from Adam and Eve to King David to the Virgin Mary—looked forward to the birth of Jesus in the same way that your children are looking forward to this year’s Christmas. On December 1, you’ll start with the story of Adam and Eve and why they yearned for the promised Savior.

As you read through December’s readings with your children, you’ll realize with them that many of the important people of the Bible were looking forward to the Nativity. From December 17 through December 25, you’ll read a little of the Christmas story every night to your children.

The Advent Season

As you read daily devotions during the month of December, you’ll be doing what many Christians have done for thousands of years. Christians have been counting the days before Christmas since the sixth century A.D. In that century, a church council established the season of Advent—the four weeks before Christmas— and invited Christians to fast and pray during those weeks. Today, many Christians use the four weeks of Advent to remind themselves of the story of Jesus’ coming (the word Advent means “coming”).

You can calculate exactly when Advent begins by finding the Sunday nearest November 30. Depending on what day Christmas is, the Advent season can last anywhere from twenty-two to twenty-eight days. Looking Forward to the Nativity starts the devotional readings on December 1 to make it easiest to create a daily habit of reading about Christmas during the busy holiday season.

The Advent Wreath

During the season of Advent, a green Advent wreath with flickering candles has served as a gentle reminder of the true meaning of Christmas for many Christians throughout the centuries. Traditionally, the wreath has consisted of four candles placed in a circle of evergreen branches. Sometimes a fifth candle—the Christ candle—is placed in the center. The circle represents the unending love of God, and the evergreen branches represent eternal life.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit. Then on each of the three following Sundays, an additional candle is lit. Each candle represents another week of Advent. The glowing flames are reminders of how people throughout the centuries awaited Jesus’ birth with great hope and joy. Usually the candles are blue, a color that symbolizes hope in God’s promises. Sometimes they are purple, a royal color signifying Jesus’ kingship. Finally, on hristmas Day the white Christ candle in the center is lit.

An Advent wreath placed in a central location in your home—on a dining room table or on a fireplace mantle—can be the perfect place for you to gather your children for the short stories in Looking Forward to the Nativity. Each of the candles can represent a part of the Christmas story.

First week—the promise candle symbolizes God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and other Israelites. Through their family, all people would one day be blessed.

Second week—the prophet’s candle reminds us of the prophets of Israel who foretold a coming Savior—a great High Priest, a Prophet, and a King.

Third week—John the Baptist’s candle symbolizes John the Baptist’s warning to the Israelites that Jesus was coming soon.

Fourth week—Mary’s candle reminds us that Mary believed the angel’s announcement of good news and rejoiced in Jesus’ coming.

Christmas Day—the Christ candle represents Jesus, the Light of the World.

Christians have used the candles of the Advent wreath to symbolize other ideas as well. For instance, some call the first candle the promise candle; the second, the Bethlehem candle; the third, the shepherds’ candle; the fourth, the angels’ candle. Whether or not you use an Advent wreath, use this devotional, Looking Forward to the Nativity, to remind your children of the great number of people who yearned for their Savior, who looked forward to the coming of Jesus.