Advent is here. Over the past few years, this season has become my most anticipated and adored of the year. A time to let go of the constant pressures of the world and focus on the baby King, and the returning Lord.
Advent is a season of remembering the waiting that God’s people experienced before the first coming of the Messiah, and of reflecting on our waiting for Jesus’s second advent and the redemption of our bodies.
Advent is a time to point our families and those around us to the coming of Jesus – in the past, at the nativity, and in the future, at the closure of this world.
I’ve written about Advent and Christmas a lot: here and here and here and here and here. You see, I think the truths we celebrate at this time of year are so significant – so significant – that I want to talk about them to anyone who will listen. That means you, dear readers.
Sometimes, Advent can feel a bit overwhelming. The lights, the noise, the adverts, the invitations, the family arguments… and we wonder what in the world are we doing all this for? All this spending, and striving, and small-talk.
But here’s the thing. Only Jesus matters.
Trees are nothing. Feasts are nothing. Lights are nothing. Music is nothing. Only Christ matters. (Noel Piper, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, p. 88).
My hope is for a simple Advent and Christmas, focused on Christ. I want to convey the message of rest in Christ to my family.
Advent is meant to be a joy, not a burden.
Who says we need to do all the things, buy all the gifts, spend all the money, go to all the parties or events or Christmas markets?
Christmas is so much more than the day that Santa comes. Christmas is the day that we celebrate that the Lord has come. That’s why I don’t want a Christmas which focuses on what we are getting, what we are striving for… I want a Christmas which focuses on Jesus, on what we already have.
The only thing that matters at this time of year is the little baby in the manger and the hope, the swelling, certain, pulse-quickening hope of Jesus’s return.
This year, I will still be shopping for food and gifts and decorations, I will be making things and baking cakes and preparing special meals, but I will also be taking time to slow. Time to think about the for-all-time truths of Advent and Christmas.
In our family, we’ll be using a few resources to help us along the way:
- The Jesus Storybook Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones) for early morning Bible reading – a free reading plan for Advent is available along with a few printable resources; we have printed the little cards ready to stick up on our dining room door each day.
- Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (by Ann Voskamp) for mid-morning devotion – with colouring sheets to do later in the day.
- Our homemade Advent alphabet – Sophie and Matthew were so excited to see the envelopes up this morning, and seeing them opened one by one will build their excitement and anticipation of the big Christmas celebration on 25th December.
- I printed off a calendar for the month of December and put on it our plans for the month and gathered a big list of ideas of activities for Advent, from various sources around the internet, so that each day we can do something intentional to celebrate the season or demonstrate the love of Jesus to the community around us.
- We’ve also purchased a wooden nativity scene for the children to play with.
I’ll again be reading The Greatest Gift (by Ann Voskamp) – it has inspired me two years running and I am so excited to read it again – but there are other Advent devotionals out there, such as Come Let Us Adore Him (by Paul Tripp), and some by Timothy Keller and Tim Chester.
There’s no need to be a perfectionist. This is something I have to remind myself every day. Jesus = Christmas. Sharing him with our children and our family and our community and our church is the best joy at this time of year.
I can’t wait. Advent is here! He is here!
More ideas and resources
Articles which have helped me prepare for Advent this year:
- The Advent Conspiracy – thoughts about countering the consumerism of Christmas, and resources for churches and families.
- Risen Motherhood podcast – podcasts and resource list for Advent.
- http://adrielbooker.com/family-advent-activities-christmas-countdown-fun/ – big old list of activities and ideas for the Christmas season.
- http://www.smellingcoffee.com/2012/11/keeping-christ-as-christmas-2012-advent-ideas.html – more ideas for a Christ-centred Advent
Ideas which we are not using this year but might in the future:
- Paper-chain advent calendar – make a chain with 25 rings, write an activity on each one, and take one chain off per day – the children can see the chain getting smaller which builds their sense of anticipation.
- Paper-chain prayer garland – as above, but write a name on each chain and pray for that person when you take the chain off.
- Advent wreath – five candles, for hope, peace, joy, love, and the light of the world, to light each Sunday before Christmas Day and on Christmas Day itself. ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ‘ (The Bible, book of John, chapter 8 verse 12). I like this one with jam jars (which also comes with free printable labels).
- Use an advent calendar to tell the Christmas story – put a figurine or a scripture in each pocket so the Christmas story unfurls little by little.