Advent! (With A Very Special Guest)
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Y'all, I finally talked my momma into making an appearance! My earliest Christmas memories include cutting our tree, making holiday treats for our neighbors, helping Dad hang outdoor lights... and doing Advent devotions around our table wreath, with only flickering candlelight. Over time we learned to sit still and listen better (sorry Mom) and I appreciate the work she did to instill traditions and memories in her seven kids. Advent is still one of her favorite things, and one day I hope we can publish something together. *hint hint*
Christmas....the most wonderful time of the year. Or so I think. I have always loved Christmas. As a child, it was about the anticipation of all things Christmas -- the tree, the presents, the food, the family gatherings, the Christmas story being read...and did I mention the presents? As I began to have children of my own, a desire formed in my heart. I longed for my children to not only love the traditions but also see beyond them to the true message of Christmas: Christ.
I had two goals. I wanted us to focus on the significance of Christmas and to make sweet memories through traditions. (Just so you know...you can make not-so-sweet ones...like when you make them sit tight while you pour gobs of information into their little tanks.)
Enter Advent devotions.
Traditionally, Advent starts the sixth Sunday before Christmas, which is November 29th this year. Advent means “coming,” and is a time to anticipate the celebration of the coming of Christ at His birth and at His return.
Advent is such a rich opportunity to take the truths we teach throughout the year and present them in a special and memorable way.
Advent is a time to survey God’s story.
In our home, we start in eternity past and end with eternity future. On our journey we emphasize the wonder of Christ coming to earth as a baby. I want us to marvel anew over the truth of Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, limitless in power, knowledge, and wisdom being born in a manger as a tiny, helpless baby. My goal is to look beyond -- to the cross and His return as a conquering King.
I want us to remember that all of the traditions we love...feasting, giving of gifts, caroling, and more can be purposeful expressions of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of Christ sent to rescue us from the penalty of our sins. I am reminded of how the Jews in the book of Esther celebrated their rescue in similar ways. Or the way the shepherds, angels, and even Anna and Simeon in the temple rejoiced and praised God for His promised deliverer. Advent can be a time to contemplate and help our children learn to contemplate the true meaning of Christmas. A time to cultivate a deepening affection for Christ. A time for our hearts to overflow in thanksgiving as we bake Christmas cookies, sip warm cider, sing Christmas carols and enjoy twinkle lights.
So how do you get started?
The main thing to remember is your goal: to create traditions that build memories while directing your family’s attention to Christ at Christmas.
As with most things, less is more...build faithfully little by little, with joyful attentiveness to hearts and minds. Be patient with yourself. If you are like me, you are a busy mama with many demands on your time. Give yourself room to try things, fail, and try again. There are so many “good” things out there, to the point that we often feel like failures if we are not doing it all, being it all, and owning it all.
Relax. We are all different. Our families are all different. One size does not fit all.
I would hide under the bed if someone told me I had to sew my own advent ornaments, but that might be your thing. Pick something that you think you can be excited about and will actually do. Then try it. I often make a post-game analysis after Christmas, making notes of the things that worked and things I wish I had done differently or better.
We have used many different resources over the years. I even “rough-wrote” my own devotions that we used for several years, but while I drug my feet to get them polished other people actually wrote and published very similar devotions. My favorite and the one we used last year is from The Daily Grace Co. It consists of advent devotions, cards, and tree ornaments that can be used with a purchased or DIY advent wreath. I love that the focus is Immanuel or God with us from Eden to Eternity.
- Deirdre Johnson
Caroline: Well ... maybe it's time we resurrected those devotions!
Without further ado, here's a little shopping inspiration and some products that Mom and I both love in our homes.
The Daily Grace Co has advent devotions for the whole family, complete with thoughtful ornaments, coloring cards, and a rhyming children's book with whimsical illustrations.
I just ordered their Hymns for Advent 5-week study, and can't wait to get it! Right now they have wonderful Black Friday sales, (30%-80% off!) so click HERE to shop now! I earn a commission when you shop these links, so thank you for supporting me in this way!
Also, their home decor is hugely discounted today!
Caroline: Once we learned to sit still (ahem) we enjoyed the nightly ritual of only candle and tree lights, reading devotions, singing, and moving our little nativity around the room as they gradually moved toward "Bethlehem" (the mantel) and the story started falling into place. You can easily make a wreath with taper candles, a metal candleholder ring, and greenery, or buy one from Etsy!
Deirdre: The Advent Wreath and devotions are some of my sweetest memories. There is something so precious about gathering around the table, lit with candles, and taking a few minutes to think on Christ and the Christmas story. Helping little ones (and big ones) think about what it might have been like in Bethlehem approaching Christ's birth. A stand out memory is when I was 9 months pregnant and begin to contemplate what it must have been like for Mary to travel to Bethlehem. Even the possibility that it would have been on a donkey made me appreciate her even more.
About the Book: Dylan loves his family's yearly vacation to Holiday and wishes it could last all year. When he finds a flyer asking if he'd like to keep Holiday, he encounters a bigger and better Holiday than the one his family has always visited; he also learns that entering it requires the Founder's authorization. Thus begins Dylan's quest to meet the one of whom people keep saying: "You can't find the Founder; he finds you./He's not just the Founder, he's the Finder too."
Deirdre: I love that it's an allegory for children and adults. It's precious to me because it's about how the Lord works in each of our lives to bring us to Him
self. No two stories are the same.
Caroline: Such a simple, childlike depiction of the power and tender love of our salvation. I love that it's a Christmas story with traces of the poetry of Narnia.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition?