One of the things I love the most about Christmas is the simple element of ANTICIPATION. It’s never just about the one day. Christmas lasts for at least an entire month in our house (and an entire season in most retail stores these days!).
As parents, my husband and I have always worked hard to try to build this sense of anticipation in our children during the month of December. We want them to understand why we celebrate Christmas (the birth of Jesus our Savior). But we also want it to go deeper than a surface understanding- we want to create opportunities for our kids to marvel at the magnitude of God’s love for us shown through the many, intricate details involved in the miracle of Christ’s birth.
This is exactly what ADVENT is: “a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming.” (thank you Wikipedia for the wonderful definition!)
This truly is such a beautiful concept!
However, Christmastime also happens to be one of the busiest seasons that most of us have all year. While we want to ensure that our kids are truly experiencing the season to the fullest and focusing wholeheartedly on the birth of Christ, we are ALWAYS short on time and energy. It has taken us a few years to figure out a good “Advent rhythm” for our family, but it seems we have found one. And it involves several types of resources that are fun for the kids and make life easier and more convenient for us as parents.
(After years of trying to accomplish several different beautiful and magical DIY versions of family Advent calendars I found on Pinterest, I finally acknowledged this fact: in this crazy busy season, I am a buy-it-instead-of-make-it kind of mom. Neither good nor bad. Just a fact. If you are in that same boat, then this post is for you!)
Here are several resources we use to help foster this sense of anticipation and “expectant waiting” in our children during December (without making us want to pull our hair out with all of the time and prep work others might involve):
1. Advent Calendars
The first way we do this is to provide each of our four kiddos with their own personal Advent calendar. Every year the calendars are different but they are always something fun or silly. Some years we’ve gotten them the simple chocolate calendars. Other years, they have had the advent calendars with toys, games, etc. Regardless of the theme, opening the daily window of their advent calendars is a highly anticipated event each night! While this is not a “spiritual” activity, it drives home the concept of anticipation so they can relate when we read stories in the Bible about God’s people waiting expectantly for the promised Messiah.
Below you’ll find links to calendars we’ve either bought in the past or similar items, grouped into several categories.
Advent Calendars with Candy:
Advent Calendars for Younger Kids:
Advent Calendars for Older Kids:
Advent Calendars with Arts and Crafts:
2. Jesse Tree Advent Set
Last year, we bought a Jesse tree advent set that included a daily family devotional guide, as well as a metal “tree” and ornaments to be hung each day that coordinated with the daily devotional. Each day of the devotional included scripture references that we had our big kids look up and read to the family, as well as a brief summary, a question to discuss, and a simple prayer. It made having a family devotional time super easy and quick enough to hold the kids’ attention.
The version we bought is currently sold out, but here is a similar choice:
3. Family Advent Devotional
This year we are adding a third advent activity to keep things fresh: the Family Advent Bundle from The Daily Grace Co., which includes a family devotional and activity book, a coloring and activity book, advent ornaments, and advent candle cards.
Here is the description from their site:
The Family Advent Bundle includes:
The Story of the Bible From A-Z Kids and Family Devotional and Activity Book that traces the story of the Bible for kids and families. It shows how every part of the Bible’s story points to Jesus!
The Story of The Bible From A-Z Coloring and Activity Book – This book contains black and white illustrations to match the kids and family devotional for kids to color, as well as a picture frame each day for them to draw a photo of that days story. This is a great way to help little ones pay attention as they listen to the story, or to have space to reflect on what they have learned.
A-Z Advent ornaments. Our A-Z Advent ornaments are the perfect addition to the kids and family devotional. They coordinate with the study and provide a fun activity to hang an ornament on the tree each day during Advent!
Flameless Advent Candle Cards. This set of interactive Advent candle cards helps you teach your family all about the tradition of Advent candles. Little ones can even color in the flame to “light” each candle…and Mom and Dad will love that no actual fire is required!
It is entirely possible that this will be too much to try to squeeze in this year. If so, we can easily push the Daily Grace Co. family devotional to January, as it might lend itself to any season better than most Advent studies.
As a pastor’s wife, I am often asked how families should celebrate Christmas: “What Christmas traditions should we have as a family? Are we supposed to celebrate Advent? How do we address the Santa thing?”
As a mom of four, I am also frequently asked questions like, “How many gifts do we give to each kid? Is there a system we should use for gift-giving? How do we create family traditions in the midst of so much chaos during the busyness of December and amongst a household of rowdy children?”
These are all great questions that I have absolutely no business answering for other families! I am not a type-A, super organized mama. I am also not a biblical authority or even always the model for parental discipleship.
But I am a mom who deeply desires for her children to know and experience the love of God in real and tangible ways, despite how busy and exhausting life often feels. And I’d be willing to bet that if you’re reading this, then you are too.
You certainly don’t have to use any of the same resources that we’re using this year- there are so many great resources out there! My encouragement though is to find at least one Advent resource for your family to try this year. I think you will be amazed at the depth and excitement it will add to your December!
Here are a few more resources that are on my list for the future (some just for my personal reading / quiet time and others for a family Advent option):
If you have other favorite advent resources or traditions, leave a link or description in the comments.
Praying for a very merry Christmas season, full of anticipation for all of our families!