Category Archives: Church Calendar Traditions

Advent Devotionals

I finally did it!

After years of promising to recreate, edit and post the two Advent devotionals I wrote back in 1997…today I got it done! (well ok it took almost two full days)  Someday perhaps I will officially publish these books so they will be easy to use and have copies on hand for the entire family but for now at least you have access to these devotionals that can be used during your weekly Advent devotional service with your friends or family.

The first one is for any age and includes prayers, scripture readings, the candlelighting, great discussion questions, Christmas worship and an Advent blessing.  We have primarily used this one in our family for years and it never gets “old”.  Make sure you involve the whole family in the readings and participating in the service You can click on the title below which will take you to a PDF of the devotional along with the Advent Primer information I posted in the previous blog.

Jesus Came – An Advent Devotional

When I was first inspired to write an Advent devotional it was because I couldn’t find a “child friendly” one to use with my girls who at the time were 7, 4, 2 and 1 years old.  I needed something simple with some good “hands on” activities or “visual aids” to keep them focused.  So I decided to write my own advent devotional for families with small children.  It is written for children seven and under but all ages can benefit from the devotions. Again be sure to let the children be involved in lighting the candles, praying and reading. You can click on the link below to get a PDF version of “The Gift of Jesus”

The Gift of Jesus – An Advent Adventure for Families with Small Children

I am not charging for these resources….they are my gift to you.  However if you would like to give a donation to my new non profit organization – Inspire Ministries – that would be a huge blessing as we are launching our website and first magazine in the next month and are in much need of funding for these projects as well as other start up expenses.  We currently have a facebook page that you can check out and see what our  plans are for this ministry.  You can click on this link to be taken to that page and if you hit the “Like” button you will become one of our fans!

If  you would like to make a donation for these Advent Devotionals – you can do so on our secure paypal site here.

If you would consider becoming a monthly partner with Inspire Ministries to help us encourage and inspire people to live a life of passion, purpose and praise please email us at inspire@bethlambdin.net and we will give you information on supporting us.  We are looking for 100 partners at $25 a month during this start up year. Thank you for your consideration of these needs!

I hope that you all enjoy a meaningful and joyful Advent season.

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Filed under Christmas Season, Church Calendar Traditions, Family Traditions, Inspire Ministries

An Advent Primer

 

For many of us this time from November to the beginning of January is considered the “holiday season” and it truly can be the “most wonderful time of the year”.  And yet today with so many competing & conflicting messages surrounding these holidays – we often let the TRUE meaning slip away from us and we miss this wonderful opportunity to build up our faith and teach our children.

It is sad to think that the day set aside to celebrate the birth of our Lord & Savior has become vastly commercialized – fully exploited for profit.  The sales seem to start earlier and earlier each year enticing us to buy, buy, buy!  The pressure to give gifts is relentless and fills many with a dreaded sense of obligation or “guilt gifting”.  How many of us have lamented this commercialization & yet we let year after year go by without being purposeful about making sure Jesus is at the very heart & center of our celebrations.

In today’s culture there is also a full on assault on the Christian faith that is being being attacked relentlessly from many avenues – everywhere from court decisions, to politics, to the marketplace, to education as well as atheists who take offense at the fact that Christmas truly is about Jesus (whether they like that or not). Billboards like this are popping up everywhere during the holiday season.

When children were recently asked at a shopping mall what the true meaning of Christmas was….they responded with —

• Santa Claus
• Presents! Presents! Presents!
• Christmas Trees & Lights
• and even one said…something to do with the Discovery of America

Children learn about Christmas like they learn about most things in life – from their families. Even in our own very purpose driven family when I ask my five year old, at the beginning of the Christmas season, what it is all about  he responds with….“Presents!”  I then explain to him that it is not really about getting  presents at all but rather a celebration of the birth of Jesus. It takes him several weeks to instantly answer…“Jesus!” …after being quizzed as to the true meaning of Christmas. (Yes, repetition IS the key to learning!)

I don’t know about you but I want my children to grow up and reject the commercialization of Christmas, to not “cave in” to the pressure to spend and make the season all about gifts and to stand strong against the anti Christian culture that is gaining strength and momentum.

I believe that as purposeful Christians we should have three main goals during the Christmas season –

  1. To teach the true meaning of “Christmas” to our children – (after all the word “Christ – mas” – means Christ worship)
  2. To emphasize the spiritual & NOT the secular – let’s have everything point to Jesus!
  3. To use the holiday season to share the love of Jesus Christ with others!

One of the best ways that our family has been able to keep the Christmas season focused on the gift of the Savior (rather than the gifts under the tree!) is by celebrating Advent.  This is one of those rare years that Thanksgiving fell so early in November that Advent did not begin the Sunday after Thanksgiving…but rather has its start next Sunday December 2nd. This morning as I contemplated the calendar…it struck me how many of my blog readers would actually have a chance to implement the observance of Advent this year as they would have the entire week to prepare if I could quickly get a blog post out to inspire them to begin this awesome family tradition!  So my dear friends…lets begin an Advent “primer” to get you all fully up to speed and ready to begin this coming Sunday!

What is Advent?

The word Advent means “coming” – celebrating Advent means celebrating the coming of Jesus. This is three fold for our family:

  1. His historical coming – as in His physical birth over 2000 years ago.
  2. His coming into our hearts – the moment in time that we commit our hearts and lives to Jesus (as the Christmas hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem so eloquently describes: “O holy child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in; Be born in us today”)
  3. His prophetic final coming in the last days – the ultimate return of Jesus Christ for which we wait expectantly!

 When is Advent?

The season of Advent begins four weeks before Christmas. This year it is Sunday December 2, 2012

  • Advent 2013 begins on the First Sunday in Advent, December 1, 2013
  • Advent 2014 begins on the First Sunday in Advent, November 30, 2014
  • Advent 2015 begins on the First Sunday in Advent, November 29, 2015
  • Advent 2016 begins on the First Sunday in Advent, November 27, 2016

 Celebrating Advent

Celebrating Advent helps you to set aside time every day or at least once a week to concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas. We have celebrated advent in our family several ways over the years but our main annual tradition that we have always done is having an advent wreath and weekly family devotional service.

The Wreath

The Advent wreath is in a circle which represents eternity and is  surrounded by evergreens which represent life….eternal life. The wreath is decorated with five candles….one for each of the four Sundays before Christmas and one for Christmas Eve.

The first candle (purple) symbolizes hope – the hope that the Messiah would come

The second candle (purple) symbolizes love – Gods love towards us for sending His Son Jesus to save us from our sins

The third candle (pink) symbolizes joy – the joy we find in Christ and His coming

The fourth candle (purple) symbolizes peace – the peace that comes in knowing Christ as Lord and Savior

The fifth candle is the Christ candle (white in center) which symbolizes purity

The wreath is always in the center of our table so everyday we are reminded of the Advent season.

The Family Advent Service or Devotional

We have our weekly advent service every Sunday evening during dessert. We always dim the lights and set the table with some festive china….we want to make it a special time that the kids look forward to! We use a simple advent devotional book that is not too cumbersome so we don’t lose the attention of the younger children. Our service includes – scripture reading, lighting of the advent candle, a short story, singing some Christmas hymns & prayer. Different family members take part in each aspect of the service so everyone is involved. (they love that!)

After our service we enjoy yummy desserts & egg nog, hot apple cider or cocoa while we savor family time together.  Having a weekly Advent family service I believe has been one of the key components of keeping Jesus the focus of our Christmas season.

There are multiple resources out there for good devotional books or head on over to the Christian bookstore and pick one up.  I have two that I have written which I hope to have up for you before Sunday!  (UPDATE: got’er done!  You can access the devotionals here)

Other Advent Adventures

There are many other things that you can do daily for Advent and if you search the Internet I am sure there are a plethora of great ideas.  Don’t get overwhelmed just pick one or several and just do it!

We have had an Advent Prayer banner in our home where we list people who are lost, hurting, in need of a healing or a Christmas miracle. Everyday we pray for these people and add new names to the list. It helps us keep our focus on others and not ourselves.

This year we will be adding a new Advent activity to our family traditions.  We have heard of these wonderful Advent storybooks – Jothams Journey, Bartholomews Passage and Tabitha’s Travels – from our friends for years and I finally purchased them.  They are fifteen minute readings that are simple, short and spiritual.  A wonderful way to keep shopping, traffic, rehearsals, concerts, parties and all the other preparations of Christmas in balance with the reality of God in our lives. We will begin the first book this Advent season…reading a selection everyday. I can’t wait!

I pray that today you will be inspired to begin your own celebration of Advent this year…setting aside time to really focus on the true meaning of this wonderful time of the year.  Whether you are a college student in the dorm with your fellow co-eds, a single young adult, a newly married or childless couple, a young family, small family, big family, crazy family, empty nesters or elderly grandparents….I encourage you to do prepare your heart for Christmas by observing Advent this year in a very special way!

I would love to hear what you plan to do this year for Advent! Leave a comment below so that we may all enjoy.

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Filed under Christmas Season, Church Calendar Traditions, Faith, Family Traditions, Inspiration

A Season of Sacrifice – Observing Lent

Last Wednesday we began our yearly observance of Lent.  The season of Lent is yet another great opportunity to teach our faith to our children throughout the year. For those of you who are new to these more traditional religious  observations let me give a quick overview of Lent.

Information on Lent

In most Christian denominations, Lent is the forty-day liturgical season of fasting and prayer before Easter.The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where, according to the Bible, he endured temptation by Satan. 

The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and sacrifice—for the observation of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, as celebrated during Holy Week.

Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter”, a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

The color of Lent is purple, a sign of penance and prayer.

Lambdin Lent traditions

We normally begin our Lentan observance on Ash Wednesday.  We have a devotional service that includes Dan putting ashes on each of our foreheads. Ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes). They also remind us of our mortality (“Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19) and thus of the day when we will stand before God and be judged. To prepare well for the day we die, we must die now to sin and rise to new life in Christ. Being marked with ashes at the beginning of Lent is a visual reminder that we need to prepare ourselves for that day that we will all die.

We share with our girls the importance of this Lenten season as a time to spend in self reflection, repentance, in drawing closer to the Lord and in sacrifice.

As a family we have chosen to continue a family tradition that I grew up doing called – the “sacrificial meal”.  Every Wednesday night during Lent, we have a meal that consists of only three things:

  1. Rice
  2. Pretzels
  3. Water

We give up our normal full meal that includes a wide variety of food – meat, vegetables, breads, salads and sometimes dessert – and use the money we save to give to the poor and hungry in our community.  We also share with the girls that a large portion of the world lives on rice and water (and many have no clean water!). We have so much to be thankful for!

Ok so I know many of you are wondering…why pretzels?

The pretzel has its origins as an official food of Lent.

According to pretzel maker Snyder’s of Hanover, a young monk in the early 600s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. To remind his brother monks that Lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms, mimicking the then popular prayer position of folding one’s arms over each other on the chest. The bread was then baked as a soft bread, just like the big soft pretzels one can find today.

Because these breads were shaped into the form of crossed arms, they were called bracellae, the Latin word for “little arms.” From this word, the Germans derived the word bretzel which has since mutated to the familiar word pretzel.

Tonight the girls and I, who are at the beach house, had our weekly Wednesday sacrificial meal.

I spent some time teaching them again about Lent and its purpose. I shared with them the reason for our sacrificial meal and the symbolism behind the pretzels. We spontaneously began singing some worship songs and then closed with a time of prayer asking the Lord to help us to focus on service and sacrifice as well as spending more time in His Word and prayer during this Lenten season so that we might become more like Him.

I pray that you too will look for ways to observe Lent with your family and that your faith will be renewed and refreshed during this season!

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Filed under Church Calendar Traditions, Easter Season, Family Traditions