I’m not really crafty or artistic. I don’t love buying carefully selected gifts. I don’t love carving out big chunks of time to spend with my family. I just want to get my to-do list finished. And during the holidays, that list is impossibly long. Consequently, I just don’t feel like I’m great at Advent.
I’m really glad that our church celebrates Advent, even if I’m not the best at celebrating or being intentional with holidays. In fact, I’m glad that our church celebrates Advent because I’m not good at celebrating and being intentional with holidays. The beginning of Advent always makes me realize, “Oh no, I haven’t done anything yet to prepare for Christmas! If I don’t act soon, our family will get so caught up in presents, parties and activities that we won’t focus on Jesus at all!”
The simple increase in Christ-centered Christmas language at church presses me to be intentional in how we as a family should celebrate and prepare. And that is a huge grace, because at the end of Christmas day, I want to have more than a pile of torn wrapping paper and a phone full of photos. I want Christmas to be a milestone in my family. I want it to be full of traditions that point us to God’s faithfulness to keep His promises and save His people.
Each year, my wife and I try to be more intentional with Advent. We’ve gone through several Advent guides for families with varying success. But this past Christmas, we started something that I think we will repeat. Last year we downloaded a free copy of “A Jesus Advent Celebration” by Ann Voskamp. The PDF includes 27 family devotionals and corresponding paper ornaments to cut out and hang on a tree each day (typically called a Jesse Tree). We printed the PDF, cut out the cards and started doing the devotionals with our 3-year-old after our 9-month-old twins went to bed.
After the first few nights, we realized that we would have to alter our plan because the devotional content was just too difficult and complex for our daughter’s age and attention span . We decided to stay with the Voskamp storyline but supplement with the Jesus Storybook Bible narratives. We would read the narrative, find the matching ornament, and then I would pick little Katie up so she could hang the ornament on our tree. It ended up being a great system we all loved.
I can’t say that we crushed the whole Advent deal last year and did a devotional every night, but I can say that we tried hard and got most of the readings in. Some days we did multiple stories or did our devotional in the mornings rather than just before bed. This time of year is rarely clean and easy, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all hope of being intentional. Our new Advent tradition offered a place to start and a pattern to build on as our children grow.
Christmas is more than a time for building memories; it is a time for keeping alive the significance of Advent for our children and our children’s children. Do you have a plan for nurturing the message of Christ as the central theme of your family’s Christmas? Take a step today toward redeeming the holiday season by choosing and using an Advent tool that will serve your family well.