Making Christmas about Christ | 8 Advent Ideas
Jamie here! It’s nearly Advent, the time of preparing for Christ’s coming. I always struggle during the Christmas season to focus on the birth of Jesus, rather than all the hoopla that starts the day after Halloween and doesn’t end until New Year’s. It’s hard to make sure the important things STAY important to my family – things like peacefulness (that’s sort of spare here this time of year), charity, and a grateful heart.
On the other hand, we all want to get swept up in the fun of gift-giving, holiday baking and twinkly decorations…. who can resist Gingerbread houses and Peppermint Mochas?
Do you have a hard time finding a balance during the Advent season? You’re not alone!
Lucky for me, I’ve learned some pretty great tricks along the way from my mom and other moms I admire to keep Advent centered on Jesus. Traditions you start this year can make a big difference in what your kids start to look forward to next year – and what they pass down to their own children later. Here are some of my favorite Advent ideas for how to keep our eyes on the Christ child:
Advent Calendars for Daily Reminders
Advent calendars are a fun and simple daily reminder of what all the excitement is really building up to. They can be little gifts to open each day, verses of scripture on paper to read, or traditional chocolate calendars. Growing up, my brother and I opened the little doors of our Advent Calendars each morning at breakfast, which was SUPER exciting – when else do you get chocolate in the morning?! Advent calendars that have a Christian theme follow the journey of Mary & Joseph on the donkey all the way to the birth. Here’s a link to some good Chocolate Advent Calendars.
Nativity Scene… without Jesus?
Why put out the whole Nativity set if Jesus isn’t arriving until Christmas Eve? My mom always brought out the manger scene and put it up without the baby Jesus, so that we would remember that we awaited His coming. We added Him to the scene on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning. The Wise Men would be travelling further off to the side of the living room, and get closer each day. On the feast of Epiphany (Jan 6) – they’d join the party.
Give Stuff Away
Nothing combats the “I want-I want” attitude better than taking stock of everything you have, and giving some of it to others. I’m so glad my family started this when I was little – it’s stuck with me as an annual time to purge and now my kids are used to it as well. Spend a couple days going through toy boxes and pulling out rarely played-with toys to give to charity. Try to give nice things that other children will really like, alongside all the Happy meal toys that have sunk to the bottom of the toy box ;) Use the time to talk with your kids about how much a little boy will love this truck or that Transformer.
Shopping for an Angel Tree child as a family, or filling boxes for Operation Christmas Child are also great ways to instill generosity in your children.
Advent wreaths date back hundreds of years to Germany and symbolize the light coming to dispel darkness. Each week another candle is lit until during the last week, all 4 candles burn brightly. Your family may want to keep an Advent wreath on the kitchen table, and each night at supper, light the candle as you say the blessing. You can find prayers for the lighting of the Advent wreath here. The ever-increasing brightness symbolizes the Jesus’ birth approaching. Here’s an Advent list of scripture to read each day that would go well with Advent Wreath time!
Caroling isn’t something that’s done as often as it was 50 years ago – but it’s still fun and singing Silent Night with family and friends makes everything more “calm & bright” Our youth group and girl scout troop spent time Christmas Caroling from door to door, in nursing homes or hospitals. The homebound, sick, or elderly are especially in need of a little cheer and hope this time of year!
Reading the Christmas Story
Lots of families I know actually have this tradition on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I say make it last a couple extra days – set aside a special time to read a bit of the Christmas Story with the family each night in the few days leading up to Christmas. It helps to build the excitement for Jesus, and not just presents!
Christmas Eve Church Services
I am a BIG fan of a good old candlelit Christmas Eve service. I’m Catholic, so as a child my family went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Leaning up against my mom in the pew, sleepy and excited, it was always so special and beautiful! O Come O Come Emmanuel remains my favorite “Christmas” song to this day, it always gives me goosebumps.
Happy Birthday Jesus!
Are your kids crazy-excited to rush to the tree on Christmas morning? Of course! They’re thinking of tearing open packages and ripping off bows. Redirect that excitement if only for a moment by wishing Jesus Happy Birthday before present time. On Christmas morning, my mom always insisted that we sing “Happy Birthday to Jesus” before we could rush from the hallway to the living room!. As a teenager, I thought it was the corniest thing ever – but it forced me to stop and remember exactly WHO this day was for
All families celebrate differently and have different special traditions – we’d LOVE to hear the traditions you share with your family!