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5 ways for religious families to celebrate Advent
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As Americans count down shopping days until Christmas and ABC Family's "25 Days of Christmas" movies, many Christian citizens are also marking the season of Advent, reading Bible passages each day and attending extra church services, preparing to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
As Americans count down shopping days until Christmas and ABC Family's "25 Days of Christmas" movies, many Christian citizens are also marking the season of Advent, reading Bible passages each day and attending extra church services, preparing to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

According to a 2011 post from Patheos, Advent can be understood as "a season of preparation for Christmas." For the four Sundays before Christmas Eve, Christian church services generally focus on the New Testament's telling of the birth story, highlighting the themes of hope, peace, joy and love.

During a busy holiday season, Advent is meant to be a reminder of the religious meaning behind popular rituals, noted Holly Scheer at The Federalist.

"Advent comes at a time when life for families is often incredibly busy and frantic. Between church Christmas pageants, school choir concerts, ever-growing shopping lists, and the assorted obligations we families with children normally face, it can be easy to forget to pause," she wrote.

Some Advent traditions are easy to recognize, such as the 25-day calendars that come in both religious and secular forms. Last week, Religion News Service shared a list of 12 popular Advent calendars, highlighting ones that held varieties of tea, chocolate and cosmetics.

Others are more personal, such as Scheer's suggestion that religious families set up home Nativity sets in stages, illustrating how Christ's birth story took place over several days.

Here are five more ways to celebrate the season of Advent with friends and family:

1. Set aside time for family Bible study

Focus on the Family has published a list of Advent readings, drawn from both the Old and New Testaments.

2. Attend an Advent event at a local church

Many churches celebrate the Advent season with extra services, including musical performances or times for quiet meditation. FaithStreet has compiled a list of churches across the country, enabling people to explore houses of worship in their area.

3. Give of your time (or baked goods!) to others

Last week, Deseret News National wrote about Giving Tuesday, a day focused on making donations to charitable organizations. But the generosity doesn't have to stop there.

The holidays are "a time of the year that people without family or friends can be incredibly lonely," Scheer wrote. "Go caroling at the nursing home (or) consider taking cookies to a shelter in your community."

4. Listen to popular Advent songs

Aleteia, a Catholic website that shares faith resources, recently posted a list of Advent-themed pop songs appropriate for Christians of all denominations. Selections included "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" by Pentatonix and "Let There Be Peace on Earth" by Harry Connick Jr.

5. Light candles and pray

As Patheos noted, one common feature of Advent church services is a circle of candles placed in an Advent wreath. Each Sunday, a new candle is lit to represent progress toward the coming of Christ. Families can buy their own Advent candles and remember the season during daily prayers.
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