Advent Resources for Families

Like many parents, the end of Thanksgiving week has meant thinking about Christmas. I’ve lost track of the number of fellow moms I’ve talked to on the hunt for ways to help their children prepare for Christ’s birth by celebrating something called Advent. Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” It’s an opportunity to reflect not just on the humble birth of Christ but also on the wait of His return in glory.  It’s a reminder that we live in between the comings of Christ–the already, but the not yet.  During this season, we are reminded that waiting, longing, and angst are very much a part of the Christian life. Just as God’s people and prophets groaned and ached for the Messiah hundreds of years ago, we too groan and ache for Christ to return and make everything sad come untrue.

Advent was an important part of my childhood and has become one our family’s favorite time of year. Because I’ve fielded many requests for resources as both a children’s ministry director and as a mom, I thought I would pull together a few encouragements along with a list of practical ideas and favorite things to help. First, three encouragements.

  1. To Say “Yes,” You Have to Say “No”
    For our family, celebrating advent is just as much about what we say, “no” to as what we say, “yes” too. This became all the more real to us the December we had a two year-old and newborn triplets in the NICU. You can hear more by watching this short video. While we aren’t living between the hospital and our home this advent, life still feels overwhelming and full. That means that sometimes we have to say, “no” to good things so that we can say “yes” to what we think matters more given the constraints we’re facing. For our family, we have one simple goal for our children in the month of December—to prepare them to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with excitement and anticipation. If we’re struggling with what to say yes and no to, we go back to this goal and make our final evaluation. Every family has different needs, bandwidths, and abilities to do things. Our nos and yeses will likely be different than yours. Regardless, there is still a lot of value in thinking through them, particularly if you’re in a season where normal life feels hard or overwhelming.
  2. Doing something is better than nothing.
    As Christian parents, we are the primary spiritual caregivers to our children. This is meant to be an encouragement but sometimes it can feel overwhelming, particularly if we feel inadequate or lacking in our own knowledge or abilities. Instead of comparing or worrying about whether or not you’re able to do something perfectly, maybe the best question is, “What is the next step I can take?” Maybe it’s attending Family Christmas Celebration or Christmas Eve services for the first time. Maybe it’s a weekly devotional. Maybe it’s a daily reading and discussion. Maybe it’s one picture book or one song. Give yourself permission for your next step to be different than others. Just do the next right thing. If you miss a day or a week or fall short of your goal, don’t give up or stop. Something is always better than nothing.
  3. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
    Especially for young children. If you have toddlers or preschoolers at home, you don’t have to come up with something spectacularly creative. Something as simple as reading the same nativity account from a children’s Bible and acting it out with a kid-friendly nativity set can do more than you think. When our son was two, we committed to doing this daily (read: as often as we could) and by the end we had a little guy who knew the story extremely well and couldn’t wait to make Jesus’ birthday cake.

One Time Activities That Pack a Punch

  • Family Christmas Celebration—Hear the Christmas story and worship with other families on Wednesday, December 4 at 6:30 p.m. All families who attend will receive a matching game designed to help your family remember and reflect on Christ’s birth.
  • Christmas Eve Service—choose one of five services to attend together as a family on December 23 and 24.
  • Look at Christmas Lights and Connect the Dots—Drive around and look at Christmas lights. When you return home, read “The Light of the Whole World” from The Jesus Storybook Bible on pages 184-190 or John 1:1-9 and John 8:12. Talk about what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World.
  • Birthday Party for Jesus—Bake and decorate a cake together. Read the Christmas story and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
  • Serve as a Family—Bake cookies and make a card for an elderly friend, make kits for our homeless neighbors, adopt a family and shop for gifts together. Look for ways to serve that encourage your kids to notice the needs of others the way that Jesus did and give sacrificially.

Weekly Devotionals or Activities 

  • Advent Candles—Setup five candles in a prominent place of your home. Each week of Advent, light a candle symbolizing the coming light of Christ. On Christmas Day, light the fifth or Christ candle together.
  • Every Good and Perfect Gift—My family will be doing this free weekly devotional together with a few adaptations this year. Instead of using the sticker page at the end, we’ve created our own T-Chart on butcher paper to write and draw on. (See photograph below.)
  • Rachel Tiemeyer wrote a series of blog posts giving practical ideas to teach and review the Christmas story with toddlers and preschoolers. You can read the three parts here for weekly ideas. Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.

Daily Devotionals or Activities 

  • We Wonder Podcast–This daily advent podcast could be a great way to prepare everyone’s hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. Listen on the drive to or from school, on the way to practice or an activity, or as an after dinner or before bed time of listening, thinking, and praying. New episodes will release daily beginning December 1, but there are several out already to help parents prepare.
  • Truth in the Tinsel—A daily devotional that ends with the opportunity for children to create an ornament that tells the Christmas story. My friend Rachel Johnson loved doing this with her children.
  • Advent Calendar—Use one of these advent calendar ideas. In addition to candy, tuck one verse of Luke 2:1-24 into each of the pockets. Read and discuss the verse each day. Tape the verses together and read the story in its entirety on Christmas day.
  • Jesus Storybook Bible Daily Devotional—Read one story daily using the free plan and devotional. The download includes printable ornaments, a countdown calendar, and a Spotify playlist.
  • Jesse Tree/Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

Books, Music, and Resources To Help

For Mom and Dad’s Hearts

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