How To Actually Practice Advent {Plus an Invitation!}

How To Actually Practice Advent {Plus an Invitation!}

So I’m a bit of an Advent junkie. Name an Advent book, tool or experience that’s come out in the last ten years and I probably have it.  In our multiple moves over the years as we purged our belongings again and again into 50 lb. tubs and suitcases, I always, always made space to keep my Advent treasures. 

I love Christmas and I long for the spiritual journey of Advent to center my heart in the Christmas season. In a global transitory life, there are many traditions we can’t hold on to. But Advent is one we don’t have to let go of when we pack our bags and cross borders. It’s also a tradition that, praise Jesus, won’t have to be canceled, masked, or socially distant this year. That’s the beauty of Advent.       

We’re so excited to announce that the Velvet Ashes community is going to go on an Advent journey together this Christmas season with the brand new book Shadow and Light by Tsh Oxenreider.  Wednesday we’re going to have a special interview with this best selling author, and let me tell you, you’re in for a treat. Tsh is one of us, friends. She has lived and served overseas herself. She gets us. And she’s thrilled for us to experience this Advent journey.  

For over ten years I’ve been trying all the Advent things. Let me share with you some of the things I’ve learned, and why we think that Shadow and Light is going to be a wonderful fit for us as a community this year. 

Keep it simple. Ten years ago, I was so gung-ho about Advent I threw myself into a plan that involved making a Christmas ornament with my small children every single day of advent. Bless my zealous little heart.  Some of you love doing all the crafty things with young children. I discovered the year that I did Advent ornaments that I am not one of you. 

The Christmas season has enough to-do’s. Advent should feel restful and centering, not something involving a grand plan that peters out half way through December because you can’t keep it up. That’s what we love about Shadow and Light. It’s simple. Each day is just two pages. Read a short reading. Pray a Psalm. Ask a question. Optionally, it gives a suggestion for an image/painting to reflect on and a song to listen to. Google an image and a song? That I can handle. 

Keep it flexible. Something the Velvet Ashes team loves about Shadow and Light is how flexible it is. First, it’s available in Kindle, which we know will be the only option for many of you. And second, it’s flexible with time. This Advent book can literally take you five minutes a day. Or you can extend it with the additional readings, reflection images, songs, and journaling. 

It’s also flexible in that it can be done as a family or alone. I’ve often put the expectation on myself over the years to do something with my family every day of Advent. With multiple children of a wide span of ages, this proves very challenging to do this. An illustrated Advent picture book was loved by some of my children and loathed by others.

I’m looking forward to doing Shadow and Light with my family this year. I’m realistic enough now to know that some days we will have to read through it quickly. And some days I envision us sitting and sipping hot cocoa while we have long conversations sparked by the questions asked in readings. I know my artsy kid will love looking up the paintings, and my little one will insist on pushing play for the songs. 

I might even make it a weekly thing for a special Advent family time, and then the other six days I’ll enjoy alone in my room with my hot tea. The point is it’s flexible for all of these options.

Keep the main thing the main thing. We’ve all had a doozy of a year. Most Christmases we’re probably tempted to be like Martha, running around doing all the many things. Perhaps this year, more than any before, we’re learning the truth that only one thing is needed. Let Advent be the thing that ushers you to sit at the feet of the baby Savior this Christmas.

Let’s circle around the manger together, friends. There won’t be a canceled Velvet Ashes Christmas party this year. We’ll keep doing what we always do, which is to create sacred spaces of celebration here in our little corner of the internet. This is where we meet. This is where we’ll journey together this Advent.  

Here at Velvet Ashes each week of December will be the week’s theme from Shadow and Light. Join us on the blog as we walk toward Christmas together. Share your Advent journey with us in the comments and on social media with the hashtag #VelvetAshesAdvent.

Don’t miss our interview with Tsh Oxenreider this week!  

And in the comments, we’d love to hear:

What Advent treasures have you toted across the world? 

I have a wooden hand carved Chinese nativity set that will always be one of my most prized possessions. I also have a cheap felt Christmas tree with 25 numbered pockets. Each day you move a wooden candy cane to the next pocket. It’s nothing beautiful, but it’s been with us across the years and the oceans. It’s among the things we keep. 

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann November 16, 2020

    I’m really looking forward to reading this in community! 🙂

  2. Carolyn Stoker November 20, 2020

    I think this is a great idea and can’t wait to begin. I too love Advent and we have added bells to a fabric wall hanging tree each day for years as well as lighting the candles on an Advent wreath. This year the wall hanging tree is in California (waiting for out retirement – as we had planned to be in with our families over the holidays) but I can always do Advent candles and sing carols which is part of our family tradition. I love the idea of reading together this book.

    1. Danielle Wheeler November 20, 2020

      I’m so glad you’re joining us, Carolyn! And bells on a fabric tree – what a great idea! Also, I empathize with you over canceled plans to be with family over the holidays. Our family Thanksgiving was canceled yesterday. So hard. I love your attitude of focusing on what you CAN do. I look forward to hearing your insights this Advent.

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