Have you ever formally celebrated Advent with your family? Advent is the 4 week period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christ! It encompasses both the arrival of the Christ child and His second glorious coming! (We're almost halfway through advent, though I started this post around Thanksgiving...and am just now getting around to posting it, I still wanted to recommend some resources that have really enriched this season as we anticipate the first and second coming of our Savior.)
The last several years, advent has taken a lot of planning...and even last year...about halfway through we changed our plans because it just wasn't working. But it's worth the planning and intentionality that it takes to prepare our hearts daily for the birth of Christ through Scripture readings, songs and prayer as a family. Here is my super long post from last year explaining about why we do and what we do for advent. And here is Heather's post about celebrating advent in Haiti this year.
This year, we decided to continue to keep it simple as far as our family devotionals go since we have children that are ages 2 and 3.
This is how advent has been looking for us:
We start by lighting a candle, since during this season we're waiting and watching for the coming Light...before Jesus we lived in complete darkness, unable to find our way to the Father without Him. As we turn off all of our lights except for our Christmas tree lights and the light of a candle, we shut out all the chaos and clutter around us, so we can quiet down to reflect on what really matters.
Then, in prayer, we ask our Savior to come and prepare our hearts to worship Him, inviting Him to come to teach us and give us hearts that truly long for our Emmanuel...God with us.
Next, Charlie reads the Christmas story (you can download and print it out here for your own use) and we slowly add to it from a verse to a group of verses each day. In the beginning, he'll just read a couple verses, but slowly the story begins to unfold and the kids wait to hear how he will add to the story each day. (Having two tots, we know that preschoolers LOVE repetition and enjoy being able to even chime in along with us.) We are punching out characters each day as we read about them in the story from this book that was illustrated in 1942, (the Christmas story that we're following is in there, but it's from the King James version, and we're using the NIV for our kids, so the above link is in the NIV that Charlie typed up) but you could easily do this with a nativity playset. (I love this vintage punchout set. But, I love vintage Christmas anything.)
My kids play with these everyday during December...and not just during Family Worship. These are the three that we have that reside in a basket under our tree to be played with each day:
This Little People set is the first set that I purchased for Asher on his second Christmas.
This playset that Asher calls "the skinny people" was given to us as a gift the same year I bought the Little People. This year, this is Asher's favorite set to play with.
And Charlie's parents gave us this Veggie Tales set this year. McKlayne adores and often claims this one.
Then we sing some Christmas carols and we recite the passage of the Christmas story that we're memorizing as a family: Luke 2:8-20. Asher is a sponge and puts the rest of us to shame. He's able to completely memorize a line after hearing it twice. It's kind of ridiculous. McKlayne is amazing us, too, with how much she's picking up, even when we don't really think she's listening.
And then we close in prayer...and that's it. Simple, huh? We're loving this simple schedule. No stress. No wrestling the kids to sit still. Each evening, after they put on their pj's, they are eager to assemble in the living room.
If you don't have little ones, here are some additional resources that you may find helpful:
Charlie and I enjoyed this so much last year that we're each reading through this devotional again for personal reflection. There are 22 essays in this book that draw me in to really meditate on how intricate and beautiful God's story of redemption really is. Each time I finish reading one of the excerpts from a sermon or writing, my heart is filled with wonder and amazement at the Father who wrote this story, the Son who came as a lowly babe, and the Spirit who was at work from the very beginning. Some of the authors include: George Whitefield, Martin Luther, John Piper, Tim Keller, Charles Spurgeon, J. I. Packer, John Calvin, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul.
One day when our kids are older we think we will use this free ebook of the Jesse Tree. I love how it starts at the beginning of time...showing us our need for a Savior even then....and the complete picture of God's plan for redemption and salvation through Jesus.
We're still doing our advent activities each day to countdown to Jesus' Birthday and unwrapping a book each day, like we did last year. I will be posting on the books soon to give you some updates on books that we've enjoyed or maybe not so much enjoyed since quite a few of you have been asking.
What are you doing for advent? Is this your first year to celebrate?