“…he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'” Luke 8:8
Christmas is such an exciting time in our home, as I’m sure it is in yours too. We want to seize this exciting time to tell our children over and over again about Jesus. To praise His name, to speak of our love, to tell His story. It naturally provides even more opportunities than our normal days. I’m praying for my whole family (including myself) to have ears to hear as we reflect and prepare and celebrate Jesus’ birth. I find that planning some advent activities helps our intentions become reality.
Here’s how we’re doing it this year.
1. Advent Candles and Wreath. As you probably know, Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas. Growing up my family lit candles and read scripture in preparation of Christmas every year, and it’s a tradition my husband and I are happy to continue with our littles. In the past, we’ve used various books – all good. This year we’re using the Kids Read Truth Advent Cards from She Reads Truth. One card for each day. Each card has a Bible verse and three questions for different age ranges. This has been very helpful for us to include all of our children (ages 11, 9, 7, 5, and 2) with little effort on our part. Because the cards are simple, we don’t feel stuck to a script and can really lead or follow where the conversation goes. I also like their modern design. Because they’re so good looking, after we’ve read them, we clip them to twine hanging in our dining room. The pictures on the front serve as reminders of what we’ve already read.
2. Bartholomew’s Journey. My in-laws gave us this book a few years back, but we just never got started with it. But this year it fits our family rhythm perfectly. We read this during our read-aloud time in our school day, and I can tell you my children are excitedly following along. I haven’t read to the end, so the anticipation is there for me too. This book addresses hard topics like war and slavery, so please screen before introducing to your family. So far, I’ve really appreciated how it puts us in the mind frame of the Jewish people looking for the Messiah.
For other Christmas read-alouds, I love this short list. (scroll down to find the Christmas section)
3. Advent Calendar. We have a wooden advent calendar with doors that we bought early in our marriage, I think around the time our first son was born. In the past, this box has held little trinkets, candies, and fun family ideas. As my kids have grown, I continue to use those ideas, but also add in acts of service and kindness. I also put some of our regular traditions in there, so they aren’t forgotten and aren’t in addition to more activities.
This year my parents gifted us The Shepherd’s Treasure, and I’ve taken the time to combine it with our existing advent box calendar. I wouldn’t say I was looking to add an elf on the shelf type activity to our traditions, but I can see the value add and my littles are already thrilled with him. (Note: The point of The Shepherd’s Treasure is to point children to Jesus during the Christmas season -think the shepherds from the Bible who went and told everyone of Jesus’ birth- and has nothing to do with their own behaviors. He could be the perfect new tradition to start with younger ones.) My favorite part is the scripture cards that accompanied him and we read daily. I’ve tied these in with our advent calendar ideas and I think it’s going to be a great reinforcement for the season. I love all the creative and mess ideas mamas plan, but I’ll probably stick to hiding him in silly but clean and easy places.
If you’re curious, I’ll share some of our more unique Advent activity ideas:
Make & deliver neighbor gifts. We made these yummy treats this year. In the past, simple ornaments like these and edible wreaths.
Pay the library late fee of a stranger. (Still in works with our local library about how that can work, but they’re excited and want to help us make it happen.)
Write letters and pray for the children we sponsor.
Film our nativity story reenactment.
Shop for toys to donate to our church nursery. We’re a church plant and some new toys are needed.
Make and deliver surprise snow balls to friends.
Serve a family member today.
Have a restful school day. This is assigned a specific day, but really we might be sneaking a bunch of these in for December. I can’t be the only one to lose motivation during December, right?
Beyond that, we’ll visit Christmas lights, create cards for grandparents, watch our favorite Christmas movies, and more.
I realize I’m sharing this late, but if you want to get started, there is still time! 15, 10, or 5 days of Advent focus would be great. If your family does special Advent activities or tries any of these, I’d love to hear about it from you.