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Advent Gatherings: anticipation through life in community

It was 5:00 pm this past Sunday evening, and our home was filled with the delicious aroma of chicken taco soup, simmering away in both crockpots on my kitchen counter.

We had apple cider ready to heat up and a jug of eggnog in the fridge. Our Advent wreath graced the center of our large circular dining table, complete with four candles yet to be lit.

It was our first Advent Gathering of the year, and the anticipation was thick in the air. We had no idea whether to expect five people or 25.

We love Advent, but it can be such a busy, fleeting time of year, ripe with all the craziness that the holiday season brings. And so, a few years ago, we started looking for ways that our family could observe the Advent season in a more intentional manner.

We also love offering hospitality and opening our home to both friends and strangers – and so an annual tradition was born.

We’ve hosted Advent Gatherings for a few years now, and though they look different every time, there are a few elements that remain the same. We make two giant pots of soup or stew – something simple and hearty – and we provide a few beverages. We ask the people that are coming to bring everything else: finger foods, appetizers, wine, desserts.

We set a start time of 5:00pm, but people show up gradually. Many of them are families just like us, with small children, and getting anywhere on time is a challenge. So we wait and we mingle and we laugh, and we anticipate.

Eventually we all gather together around the Advent wreath, and my husband passes out the handouts for the evening. We’re no experts, but we’ve raided the interwebs and cobbled together a sort of liturgy that includes a reading from the Bible, an Advent hymn, and a prayer. At some point we light the candle in the wreath, and we sing together, and we pray, and we anticipate.

This year for the first time, we’re also offering simple winter crafts for the children. We love and value each child that comes to our Advent Gatherings, and we want them to feel that they are not simply tagging along with their parents, but that there is something here that is just for them.

A simple craft seemed like an easy yet meaningful way to let them know that they are important. We hope that eventually, the children will come to love these gatherings as much as we do, and that Advent will become a season that they greatly anticipate, too.

Advent Gatherings happen in our home each Sunday evening of the Advent season. Although there are moments that I have second thoughts about all the effort and work that goes into these gatherings, the truth is that I love them so very much.

I love sharing a meal with friends. I love opening our home and our hearts to people, and sharing our lives with others, and making space for others to do the same. I love gathering around the Advent wreath together, and meditating on the coming of a little baby that was born some 2000 years ago, and what that might mean for us today. Observing Advent means living in anticipation, and what better way to anticipate than through life in community?

Do you have any unique or atypical Advent traditions?

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  1. Steph

    This is such a great idea! I love the thought of anticipating in community. We’re still discovering our Advent traditions. Growing up neither mine nor my husband’s family did much for Advent but we’re enjoying being more intentional about it.

  2. Johanna

    This is a great idea. We’re keeping it really simple this year with a baby due any day, so it’s just a simple advent for our family. But we love our simple traditions!

  3. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    This sounds lovely. We’ve always done smaller, family (just us or extended) gatherings for Sundays in Advent, but I’ve been thinking about structures and community so much this autumn that this idea sounds exactly right.

    Thanks for sharing, Katie!

  4. Anne

    Would you share your sort of liturgy that includes a reading from the Bible, an Advent hymn, and a prayer?

  5. JBA

    Chicken taco soup! Would you share your recipe? I’m all about the food!

  6. Tiffany our co

    I love this, Katie. It really fits our desire to build community in our neighborhood and seems a bit simpler than doing something each day in December. I will definitely be doing something similar next year.

  7. Lisa

    Oh my goodness, I love this idea! What a beautiful new tradition to start.

  8. Tsh

    Katie, I love this idea! Next time we’re in Austin, we’ll invite ourselves over to your house for one of your gatherings. 🙂

  9. Alissa

    One of our friends invited our family to a weeknight dinner to share their evening advent reading. Nothing fancy, just gathering to eat and share our evening reading/activity. I think they’re doing the Advent Event and we’re doing Truth in the Tinsel, but it doesn’t matter. I just love that our kids will get to experience advent with others – community is powerful!

  10. Ashley R

    We serve in East Asia, and we have done the exact same thing during our Advent seasons there. We miss the liturgical worship of our home church while we are there, so we open our homes on Sunday evenings and invite teammates and local friends to join us for snacks, hot drinks, a craft or coloring sheet for the little ones, and a small liturgy around our Advent wreath. I usually choose one of our children’s Christmas books to read, and everyone (adults and children) love that part. It’s been an incredible ministry opportunity, just opening our home and our traditions to those around us. The scripture and story in the liturgy speaks for itself. We don’t have to manufacture some sort of Christmas “outreach.” Hospitality and liturgy and communion around a table are the most genuine sort of ministry we can do.

  11. Bonnie

    Even though I have been in church my whole life, I know next to nothing about Advent. And I had gathered it started on Dec. 1 each year, but just this year I’m hearing that it always starts on a Sunday.

    I love the idea, though, and it seems like it would foster spending more time and attention being focused on the Reason for the Season, which my soul is longing for.

    Any suggestions on books etc. to help me learn more about this?

  12. Franziska

    Love this tradition. What a wonderful idea to put the emphasis on Advent instead of jumping right to Christmas!
    As a child, we would gather each evening of Advent as a family, light a candle, sing, and read. We always had special Advent stories and sometimes we had friends or family join us. We are reading Charlie & Noel this year with our children and they are loving it. We also have an advent spiral that we gather around for our nightly circle and move the candle one more step 🙂 (

  13. rebecca

    Love this! What a special tradition.

  14. Meredith Cox

    So glad you all are still doing this! We loved getting to be a part of it!

  15. Betsy

    I’m just now seeing this, and I’m so glad I did. What a wonderful idea. I would love to try it next year. I’d definitely have to rethink other December activities to do this every Sunday, but I love celebrating advent, and this is a great community building idea.

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