Preparing For Advent - Part 3
by Mike Littleton
One of the greatest joys our family has had in observing Advent is the creation of our own traditions. (By “traditions” I don’t mean stiff religious practices that never change, but rather a seasonal rhythm our whole family looks forward to). Every year we look forward to the Advent season. For our kiddos, this season always contains elements they look forward to every year, but also some elements of surprise.
With this post, I simply want to share with you the basics of how we observe Advent, some of the devotions our family has used for the Advent season, as well as some of the fun things we mix into the season.
How We Observe Advent
The way we observe Advent doesn’t change much from year to year, but as I’ve said, it’s something our family looks forward to. Here’s how it works.
Every night during the Advent season the whole family gathers together on the couch for our Advent devotion time. This time always begins with lighting candles. We light the number of candles that correspond to the number of days we are into Advent. After lighting candles, we’ll then move into reading our devotional. For the past couple of years, we’ve used Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration Of Christmas. After reading the devotion for the evening, we’ll have some discussion about what we just read (question are provided in Voskamp’s book) and then we’ll usually sing a Christmas song or two.
After all of this comes everyone’s favorite part. Snuffing the candles. Our kiddos rotate every night with who gets to snuff out the candles. After this, we’ll pray and send the kids off to bed.
What I just described is the most basic and simple way we’ll go through an evening. But everything I mentioned is variable, moveable, and changeable. The two things we try sticking the hardest to are lighting and snuffing the candles and reading our particular devotion for the evening. (If we miss a night we’ll read two the next night. If we miss more than one night–because it happens–we might just skip ahead and not worry about what we missed).
Here are a few other things we like to do.
Stay up late watching a Christmas movie.
Make hot chocolate, jump in the car, and drive around to see Christmas lights.
Make Christmas cookies.
Read other Christmas stories.
Sit by the fire and listen to Christmas music.
The possibilities really are endless. We like to surprise our kids with an Advent activity or two every year. For example, we might put them to bed and then make hot cocoa and go look at Christmas lights. (We move quickly so as to not let them fall asleep).
Our overall hope and purpose with observing Advent is to be reminded, as a family, who Christmas is really about. In everything we do, we make an effort to teach our kids about Jesus and the reality that if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be doing any of these things. Christmas really is about the gift we’ve received in the humble incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Gospel-centered Advent devotionals can be especially helpful during the Advent season. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of great ones to choose from on the market–especially for families with little children. But here’s a short list of some of the ones we’ve worked through and enjoyed as a family.
This devotional is especially great if you have little kiddos. The stories are short, well written, and beautifully illustrated.
Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul Tripp
This is the devotional we plan to work through this year. We might couple it with some reading fro Voskamp’s book as our children now range from 1-9 years of age.
I have only read parts of this devotional. It’s a bit headier and not the greatest for a family devotional time with only little kiddos. However, it’s great for adults.
God Is In The Manager: Reflection On Advent And Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Our church worked through this devotional together a couple years ago. I loved it and it seemed well received by everyone else as well. As with all of Bonhoeffer’s writing, much deep thinking is required.
Some final thoughts
First, don’t neglect the Bible. We usually try to read the story of Jesus’s birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Second, don’t underestimate what your children are absorbing and learning. Many of your evenings will feel unfruitful and perhaps like a waste of time. But stick with it and know that your kiddos are really smart and they’re learning something about the Savior of the world.
May you be richly blessed this Advent season, seeing and savoring Jesus more deeply than you ever have before.