I don’t know about you, but the holiday season can often become stressful. I find my mind cluttered with lists upon lists, lots of family engagements, high expectations from myself and others, and did I mention STRESS?! With all of the distractions that come with this time of year, it can be difficult to intentionally help our families prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth. I want to share a few Christ-centered activities our family has incorporated into our Advent season. Maybe pick one or two for your family to try!
At the end of November…before things get too busy…I like to sit down and come up with a plan regarding how I want to go about preparing my heart, and the hearts of my children, for Christmas.
Here are four great Advent reading plans to consider (the first three are FREE!):
▪ Advent reading plan from #notconsumed
▪ Good News of Great Joy or The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper
▪ Advent reading plan based on The Jesus Storybook Bible from Adriel Booker’s blog
▪ Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp
My kids are all young enough that we like to use The Jesus Storybook Bible for Advent so we can include our youngest family members. After I choose my reading plan, I nail down 25 activities that I feel will help my family intentionally prepare for Christmas. Then I make a paper Advent Chain out of 25 links. Each link has a Christ-honoring activity and our reading for the day. My kids absolutely LOVE being able to rip the chain’s link each day!
Here are a few ideas that could be on your Advent Chain:
December 1st we always decorate our Christmas tree. This is special for so many reasons! We love to go down memory lane as we talk about each ornament, but we also talk about all of the symbols represented by the Christmas tree. Why the star? Why the lights? Why presents? It is amazing how much this little activity imprints on our hearts, and it really helps set the tone for the season. There is a great little printable here, if you are interested in doing this yourself. I always thought it would be fun to even make that little printable into an ornament to hang on the tree. Hey! Maybe I’ll do that this year, or better yet, maybe one of you will and can make one for me too!
Another fun activity we like to do is to act out the nativity ourselves. I know, I know, some of you are cringing at the idea of putting sheets on your heads and using umbrellas as staffs for shepherds. If this is the case, maybe use a nativity set to act out the story. We have this Fisher Price Little People one (kind of like this) that we only bring out in December (stays special that way). The kids act out the Nativity story for 25 days straight with that little toy!
However, as fun as it is to put on your own Nativity, it is really worth going to see a Live Nativity, such as Bethlehem Revisited. These live nativities often have real animals, fun costumes, and a beautiful setting to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. It is a great opportunity to bring neighborhood children (and of course their parents!), and a great way to set our hearts on Truth during the holiday season. You might still be able to get tickets for Bethlehem Revisited this year. If not, plan on it in 2018.
For older kids and adults, we like to take a day to write a letter to Jesus. The purpose of these letters is to reflect on our gratitude for the One who saves, but also the One who so freely gives. We encourage the kids to thank him for the physical gifts in their lives, and to praise Him for all He has done. This has proven to be a wonderful Advent tradition…though much more time consuming that some of our other Advent days – so plan accordingly!
What kid doesn’t love a party? Especially a birthday party! Our children love to plan a birthday party for Jesus. We make decorations, bake him a cake (which is often more sprinkles and frosting than cake), and even sing the birthday song in His honor. My kids love this tradition! This year, we have decided to expand upon our idea, and each child is going to invite one friend who may not know Jesus to come to our birthday party for Jesus. I honestly think this could be super fun even as adults! Who doesn’t love a good birthday party?! So one of our chains will be preparing for the party (decorations, making invitations), and the other day will actually be the day of the celebration.
December 17th, our Advent chain will read “New Hope Christmas Celebration.” Our family really does value this fun celebration with our church body. Two of my kids will be in the Christmas Skit this year, and all four of them will get a chance to be on stage to sing Christmas carols. What a fun way to prepare our hearts!
December 25th, Christmas Day, I always write something on the chain about exchanging gifts as a reminder of our greatest Gift, and we read Luke 2:1-20 or Matthew 1:18-2:23 (depending on the current ages of my children!).
Admittedly, some things we do during the holiday season aren’t really found on our Advent chain, but are just part of our family traditions. These are the things that we just make part of life, and are a little more intentional with during Advent.
For example, our family LOVES to sing and listen to music… all year long! During Advent, we love to sing Christmas carols and old hymns. We have found such beauty in reflecting on the lyrics. I just love to hear my children’s voices unite in praise each day leading up to Christmas morning. This sounds a little too good to be true, so I need to clarify the picture. There is no harmony, usually my oldest is trying to pluck a few keys on the piano, and my two year old will likely fight to play a duet. It’s not perfect, but it’s so good and so worth it. A really easy way to incorporate this into your life is to find a fun Christ-centered CD to play in the car. I like Cedarmont Kids Christmas Carols for the classic traditional songs, but of course your options are endless! It is such an easy way to add a little truth to the hectic, commercialized holiday.
Another idea is to collect all of your Christmas books, checkout a bunch from the library, and create a special spot for all of them to live during the season. We have so much fun reading the different Christmas books each night, and the kids all have their favorites. Of course, some of the books are silly and fun…but many are Christ-centered and full of truth. On the morning of Christmas, our family all gathers around the Christmas tree to hear the telling of Christ’s birth, reminding one another about the greatest gift of all, and how all of our gifts under the tree pale in comparison. This is one of my very favorite traditions, and one the kids all look forward to as well. Now, truthfully, that could just be because of what comes next…but baby steps y’all, baby steps.
I feel like I could just go on forever! I am sure you have lots of fun ideas and thoughts too. Maybe our first step should be to start the conversation with our community. We don’t have to do this alone; we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Let’s share our ideas, do some fun Christ-centered activities together, invite one another into the true meaning of Christmas. Furthermore, who might you be able to invite to the birthday party for Jesus at your house this year?