Don’t look now but Advent is just around the corner.
More precisely put, this Monday is December 1st.
With Thanksgiving this week, the usual fullness of the weekend, and then the start of the Christmas season sneaking up on us, I already feel like the days are fast and full, despite my intentional plans not to let us get too busy.
But, we have every reason to let ourselves relax and slow down and let go of whatever pressure we are putting on ourselves.
That’s the beauty of the true Advent season. We can REST.
Advent is not about a new treat or a special activity or creating a new picture-perfect memory everyday. It’s not about gift lists or parties with friends or tracking down the one must-have toy of the year.
Don’t get me wrong. Those things aren’t bad. They just are not the heart. And if that is all you do, you have missed out. Settled for a lesser joy.
Advent is slowing down and remembering. Preparing our hearts to celebrate the day Jesus became God with us.
Let this season be a time that nurtures peace in our homes.
Let it be a season in which we take heart in the midst of our struggles and weaknesses because HOPE has come.
Let us not rush by the miracle of God taking on flesh and dwelling among us.
Let us not be too distracted that we forget to fill up on joy and pleasures that will last far after the gifts are opened and the last holiday feast is shared.
Friends, God has come. The long-awaited Savior was born. Darkness and death have been defeated. Grace and hope are free to all. This is what we celebrate. REJOICE!!!
Here are some ideas to help us not to miss the true advent season. But remember, this should be primarily a season of rest and remembering. Not of doing and distracting. So consider these ideas to be just that. Ideas that you take and use as you are able to fit them into your life and your family. Use them as springboards. Just don’t feel like you have to do it all this year! Make small changes every year that will carry over to the next.
4 ideas to help you not miss the true Advent season:
The Jesse Tree is a plan to walk through the Bible to see how everything is pointing to the promise of a Savior. There are 25 days (starting December 1st) and 25 corresponding Bible texts and ornaments to represent each text.
It’s a really intentional way of remembering Christ everyday and developing a better appreciation for the great anticipation of His coming. Adults and kids alike learn to find Jesus more fully in the Old Testament as well as see afresh the world’s desperate need for the hope and help found in Christ.
- My friend Anna‘s Jesse Tree Pinterest board is full of ideas for making each ornament
- How to use the Jesus Storybook Bible for each day’s devotional (with a printable reading plan)
- My Pinterest board with ideas for displaying ornaments
- The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas
- Children’s printable coloring page Jesse Tree ornaments from A Holy Experience
- Lego Jesse Tree Challenge: We have never done this and I am quite certain we will not consistently do every one, but it could be a lot of fun to do sporadically!
- More Jesse Tree study resources and printable coloring page ornaments from Confessions of a Homeschooler
- A sewing pattern to make a Jesse Tree Pocket Wall Hanger
A simple way to illustrate the picture of the Light of the world coming into darkness is through candles. Set up a simple centerpiece with 5 candles on a table.
The first Sunday of the month (or maybe even on November 30th this year), sit together as a family at the table with the candles in the center. Do not light any candles but sit in the dark. Talk to your kids about how the world was dark and without hope before Christ came.
The second Sunday, light one candle. Then each following Sunday, light one more candle. As you light more candles, the light becomes brighter, hope is getting nearer. On Christmas light every candle and talk about Christ’s birth and coming as the Light of the world. (Read Isaiah 9:2, John 8:12)
Listening to music during the day and singing special hymns and songs to your kids is another great way to teach them the truths of Christmas. It’s also a great way to keep our hearts and minds full of the true joy of the season.
I love Charlie Brown’s Christmas and The Nutcracker soundtrack and they are regulars at our house. Along with those, though, I try to play plenty of Christmas hymns and songs full of meaning. I’ll share a few of my favorites below and I’d love to know some of yours too!
- Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God. Honestly, this is probably one of the best, most Biblical Christmas albums I’ve ever heard. Not to mention, all his music is great too.
- Indelible Grace’s Your King Has Come. This group has been a favorite of ours since college. They take classic hymns and set them to new music. Their Christmas album is definitely worth checking out.
- Red Mountain Church’s Silent Night. Similar to Indelible Grace, Red Mountain Church joins hymns with great music.
Twinkling lights? Check.
Candles smelling of cinnamon apples and spruce pines? Check.
Stocking hung by the chimney with care? Check.
Another idea to help you and your family remember the true advent season is to add elements into your traditional holiday decor that bring the attention back to Jesus.
It can be hard for kids (and adults) to hear the message that Christmas is all about Jesus, but then only see decorations and whatnot that fill their homes with pictures of a certain jolly, bearded man dressed up in red velour, mischievous elves, and winter wonderlands. Instead of, or in addition to, these types of decorations, begin collecting items that point to Christ– His coming, His work on earth, and who He is.
- Names of Jesus ornaments: Make simple ornaments with different names for Jesus with which to trim your tree. Again, another idea that is great for kids and adults alike to remember Jesus in the Advent season. (I can thank our pastor’s wife at our old church for this idea. I used simple wooden shapes, scrapbook paper, and modge podge for ours).
- Little People Christmas Story Nativity: This nativity comes out every year and is left out on a tabletop where the kids can play with it and remember the Christmas story as much as they want. (Admittedly, there is also a fair share of arguing over whether to put the angel or the donkey on the top of the stable too).
- Felt Nativity Pattern: another (less expensive) idea to help your kids interact more with the Christmas story.
A few more good reads on the season:
And for added measure, here are a few things I’ve read recently or had pinned from previous years that has encouraged and helped me in preparing for Advent and Christmas.
- We Are That Family’s Advent Roundup. I really appreciate Kristin’s honestly about how the point isn’t perfectly keeping up with a plan or scheduled activity. The point is trying and doing it together.
- More ideas to keep Christ at the center of the season on Keeper of the Home
- Thoughts on keeping the Christmas season simple from The Art of Simple
- Free Advent e-book from Desiring God
“Again, I say, REJOICE!”