The holiday season can be so busy, sometimes out of control busy, but in our family, we are striving for the complete opposite. We want this time of year to be focused on creating family memories, having quiet reflections, and celebrating meaningful traditions.
The main way we have refocused the month of December around Jesus and the miracle of Christmas is through Advent. Advent is marked by the 25 days, or four Sundays, before Christmas. It is defined as a time of “coming into place, view, or being; arrival”. Advent is simply taking time each day, starting December 1, to prepare for Christmas.
Here are some ideas for advent…
A Jesse Tree is a celebration of Jesus’ genealogy, taking time through Advent to review the stories found in the Old and New Testament. A Jesse Tree doesn’t have to be super complicated, it can be simple and fun. The best way to create a Jesse Tree with young children is to make ornaments that correspond with a story from the Bible. Austin Stone Community Church has recently released free ornaments that correspond with their daily devotional. Ann Voskamp has also released free coloring sheets/ornaments on her website that correspond with her book Unwrapping The Greatest Gift. Our Jesse Tree is a 4-foot, pre-lit tree from Michaels. It is in our son’s room. This year we plan to have him put this ornament on the tree as we read the corresponding story each night.
There are so many Advent calendars available all over town. Some of my favorites are at Trader Joe’s (only $1) and Target. Some come pre-filled with candy, others are empty and can be filled with any item you choose.
We have a personal calendar that was made for us by a local artist from Dripping Springs, FreshHoney. This board hangs in our kitchen and is a part of our evening meal through December. We open one envelope at dinner time and add another ornament to our Jesse Tree. Our ornaments have different names of God printed on them. We have a discussion about how Jesus is El Shaddi, God Almighty.
A Book a Day
My son loves this one the most because he gets to unwrap a present every morning! We have started collecting Christmas books for Advent, some are serious and some are really funny! Starting December 1st, we unwrap one book and read it throughout the day. Since we haven’t collected 25 books yet I actually check-out a large portion of the books from the library. It’s fun to get them at the library because then I can try out new books and see which ones I want to buy and add to our collection. If you check out books from the library for this activity you may have to renew them once or check them out for the last two weeks of Advent. This can be a fun and free Advent tradition!
The first book we unwrap is actually our Advent book mentioned below, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. We open this one first because it’s unlike the rest, we read it every day.
Personal or Family Devotion
There are some wonderful devotions available for Advent and many are free online! No matter if the devotion is 5 minutes or an hour, it is key to set aside time during Advent for personal reflection and prayer. We enjoy The Greatest Gift, Jesus Story Book Bible, Unwrapping The Greatest Gift, Watch for the Light, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus , and The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.
This is our simplest tradition but we look forward to it with so much joy! Each evening, before bed time, we read part of the nativity story to our son and bring out one more piece of the setting. We use this nativity and a script written by Noel Piper that can be found here. There are also smilier stories with printouts available on Pinterest.