Editor's Note: Each week of Advent, Eric D. Huntsman will share the scriptures and carols that his family uses in our celebration of Advent.
Although various traditions sometimes emphasize different Advent themes and may observe them in different orders, the first Sunday of Advent is almost always dedicated to hope because the long-prophesied birth of the Babe of Bethlehem was something that God’s prophets and people had looked forward to for ages.
On the First Sunday of Advent, we start by lighting one of the purple candles of our Advent wreath and then read passages of scripture that reflect on the theme of hope. Reading Old Testament scriptures about the hoped-for Messiah on the First Sunday of Advent helps recreate the anticipation that people felt before Jesus’ birth even as we look forward to the excitement of Christmas Eve. But reading New Testament scriptures as well as passages from the Book of Mormon also helps us focus on the hope that we have in Christ in our lives today, as well as causing us to look forward to his Second Coming.
Passages we read together as a family on the First Sunday of Advent include the following:
I suggest that after discussing that week’s theme families also consider reading each week one of the familiar parts of Luke 1 and Matthew 1 that lead up to the actual birth of Jesus. This helps set the realization of the prophecies of Jesus’ birth into the immediate context of their fulfillment, and it also adds to the excitement of the Christmas season as we join Zacharias and Elisabeth and then Mary and Joseph in their experiences.
For the first week of Advent, I recommend reading the Annunciation to Zacharias in Luke 1:5–17, focusing on how the promise of John the Baptist’s birth revolved around how he would prepare the way of the Lord.
The song almost always associated with the first Sunday of Advent is the haunting carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which focuses on how the hope of Old Testament Israel was realized in Jesus Christ, who was “God with us” (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22–23).
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Eric D. Huntsman is an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and is the author of "Good Tidings of Great Joy: An Advent Celebration of the Savior's Birth" published by Deseret Book.