Advent is the season of preparation and anticipation of the Christ Child.  Christmas is the day we celebrate that God became Emmanuel and lived among us.  At most churches, youth ministers have less responsibilities during the Advent season, so stop all the hustle and bustle and have take advantage of Advent.  Here are five “musts” to having an advantageous advent.

5. Spend Time Outside of Church with Youth

Don’t steal your own holiday season by creating programs over Christmas break!  Resist creating the New Year’s Eve Watch or lock-in.  Use the lack of regular programming to allow yourself to take advantage of Advent and do some things that YOU want to do.  But you can also take advantage of the fact that December 28-30 and January 2-3, most of your youth do not have much to do in the day.  Send out the word that you are headed to the movies.  Meet them at the mall for lunch.  Don’t arrange drivers, worry about attendance, or turn it into a full youth event.  Make it spontaneous and enjoy being present with your youth and they will enjoy being present with you.

4. Stay Focused

You may not have enough days off to fully enjoy #3, so take advantage of this time when you don’t have programming stresses.  The holiday season offers plenty of distractions that can keep you from being productive during your time in the office.  If you are going to be in the office stay focus and that advantage of Advent by working on getting things organized for next semester.  The temptation is to put it off until January, but a good work ethic the last two weeks in December can take the stress out of the New Year.

3. Take Time Off

Since you probably don’t have any major programming over Christmas and New Year’s, you need to take time off.  You give so much the rest of the year.  Take time to be present with family to spend time with friends.  Read a book.  Go to the movies.  Let your mind and body experience the peace of Christ!

2. Participate

One of my favorite things about not being in charge of the Hanging of the Greens Service or the Christmas concert or the Christmas Eve service is that I can take advantage of Advent and participate fully in worship.  I’ve been in youth ministry long enough to know how to do this at my church.  If this is hard for you, then go with friends (not a youth event) to the Walk through Bethlehem or to a Christmas concert at another church.  Give generously.  Serve others.  Participate by receiving and giving the presence of Christ!

1. Anticipate

Unfortunately, our world anticipates the arrival of Santa Claus.  I’m not a Santa hater, but I prefer to anticipate Jesus.  My wife and I do a lot of redirecting at our house.  We use an Advent calendar instead of an elf to help our children anticipate the arrival of Christ. We read the scriptures and encourage our children and ourselves to listen for the secret of Christ in the scriptures.  We play with our nativity sets (I saw Mary driving Jesus to school in our Little People bus the other day).  We try and surprise those we love and those in need with gifts that remind us of the surprising way God choose to love the world.  So anticipate, the coming of Christ and take advantage of Advent.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a King is given …