I love traditions. Those things we do every year that just signify the season, holiday, event we are celebrating. One of my favorite, but hardest to implement, traditions is Advent.
Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, and over the past 9 years, we have been all over the map looking for good advent stuff to do as a family.
When they were really little, we did a Jesse tree with the kids. Throughout the years of doing this Jesse tree, I used this site and The Truth in the Tinsel book. Some years I printed off the ornaments and they colored them and some years we created a craft for each ornament. Then we did a 5 minute dumbed down version of each event/story leading up to the birth of Christ. I learned A TON doing this; the kids learned nothing, but they had a blast hanging things on the little tree.
Next, we did the Jesus Storybook Bible along with their Advent calendar. This was a little bit better because the kids could understand the language.
Plus, the pictures were fantastic and the verses were short. We all fell in love and understood the significance of Christmas a little bit more so we used this for a few years.
Then last year,because the kids were a bit older, we went with Ann Voskamp’s book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, which took us back to a Jesse Tree.
It wasn’t an awesome experience, but mainly because I didn’t read the stories in advance so I could paraphrase where Ann gets a bit wordy. Too many words and my kids’ eyes start to get a bit glassy! There were days that were fantastic and then there were days where the kids and the adults just sort of went through the motions, BUT overall it was a good way to keep our minds focused on why we celebrate Christmas.
This year, we started with Nancy Guthrie’s book, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, and lasted through day 5 before we abandoned ship. It just wasn’t engaging enough or thought provoking enough, and I couldn’t handle the groans or the spacing off when I tried to read it. (and I’ll be honest. I was groaning inwardly as well!) The book was well written, but my kids are in church so much, a lot of the questions were stuff they’ve heard and discussed before so they were just giving out Sunday School answers. I couldn’t get them to go any deeper with this book, and let’s be honest, I really despise Sunday School answers instead of heart felt answers so doing advent together using this book just made me angry.
The pressure to do this awesome advent thing is great, and I have pushed it with my family for years out of guilt. This year, after we failed, I took a step back and started to just pray about how to engage my family’s heart in a new way this Christmas. How do I create an environment where they understand Christmas in a deeper way? How do I help them see the birth of Jesus as a greater significance? For the first time since having kids, I thought maybe celebrating Advent just wasn’t for our family. Maybe we should just give it up?
Finally, I decided to just back off for a couple weeks and let the kids breathe a bit. Now that school is over, theater is over, basketball is about to take a break, and the shopping for others is about to begin, we are picking back up a new and revised version of advent. I’m not sure why I have felt like a failure in the past if I didn’t start on Nov. 30 and do it EVERY SINGLE DAY until Christmas, but I have. This year, I finally realized, it didn’t matter when we started or what days we did it, but just that I created a space for the Lord to work in my heart as well as my family’s heart.
So we opened up Ann Voskamp’s book again. We are reading through/paraphrasing/discussing 2-3 stories, and the kids are creating their own ornaments that symbolize what the story is representing or meaning. I’m not letting them see the ornament Ann has already provided in order to engage the kids’ minds a bit more and make them really think instead of just absorb.
I already like this better than anything we’ve done in the past, but I guess I can’t give you a true opinion about it until December 25th. How about you? How do you engage your heart in a deeper way during Christmas?