You guys, there are only seven more weeks until Christmas.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [That’s crazy, hysterical laughter because: OH MY GOODNESS THAT IS NOT MUCH TIME.]
Working in ministry, the pre-Christmas season takes on many additional layers.
There’s the early November “I don’t have time to prep for my family’s Christmas because there are a bajillion church things to get ready” moment.
There’s the mid-November “there is literally not enough time to do all the things” panic.
There’s the December 24th “Oh no, I forgot to buy Daryl a gift, and we have four church services this evening so I literally can’t run out to the store… but I bet he forgot too, so we’ll celebrate in early January” instant. [We literally do this every year. We are crazy romantic.]
And there’s the panic that is shared by almost all parents trying to live the Jesus way of life and teach that way to their children:
How on earth do I help my kids learn and appreciate that Christmas isn’t about consumerism, greed, and getting more stuff?
Advent is a season of waiting, watching, preparation, and holy longing. For the four weeks preceding Christmas Day, each of us is invited to quietly hope that God will keep his promise. That there really will one day be peace on earth. That love is not just a romantic ideal but a person. That what was true for shepherds and angels and wise men millennia ago just might be true for you and for me today too.
Advent is about slowing down so we can hear the still, small voice of the God who loves us enough to come down and live in our midst as one of us.
Advent is awesome.
So for any of you longing for something more by embracing something less, whether that’s less busyness or less noise or just less Christmas crazy, here are 5 Ways to Celebrate Advent as a Family.
- Candle, scripture, treat
Last year my firstborn was three and had the attention span of a goldfish. So rather than belabor a long Advent reading, we printed up a list of twenty-four Scripture verses relating to Advent.
Click here for a list of short readings specially tailored for families with young kids (i.e. short attention spans and not yet ready for phrases like “slay the wicked).
Each night at dinner or bedtime (whichever one we were all present at, since schedules can be unpredictable) we would light a candle, read a verse of Scripture, say a short prayer (“God, we thank you for _____, Amen), and then let Linc have a jellybean.
Do you know what helps a three-year-old focus? Fire followed by candy.
2. The Jesus Storybook Bible
I love this Bible. It’s beautifully illustrated, thoughtfully translated, and theologically rich.
There are also exactly twenty-one stories in the Old Testament portion. Which means, if you begin reading it at bedtime on December 1, a few days before Christmas you’ll read the nativity story. The next day you’ll read of the angels’ telling the shepherds the news. By Christmas Eve you’ll meet the wise men.
How about starting a new Advent tradition?
3. Stories of God at work
Our senior pastor once illustrated a sermon with a story I think about all the time.
“Do you know what’s made our kids’ faith come alive lately?” he asked the congregation. “When we tell them stories about our lives and the lives of people they know where God did amazing things. Suddenly the Bible isn’t just a book–it’s alive in our lives and in the lives of those we love.”
Why not schedule time this Advent to share stories of God at work? Maybe you and your spouse have a few. Invite other friends to share. Skype with long-distance family members. Ask them to answer the question: What’s one thing you’ve seen God do?
The miracles aren’t over. And I don’t just say that because I’m a pastor.
4. Advent love calendar
Fill your Advent calendar with ideas for how your kids can share the love of Jesus. Bring cookies to a neighbor, shovel a walk, buy groceries for the food pantry, invite a widower to dinner, leave the mailman a note.
Kids love activities. Make them simple, local, affordable, and (most importantly!) kid-led.
5. Do less
Don’t sign up for extra stuff during the holiday season. Pare down kids’ activities (and yours!) wherever you can. Go on more walks. Read more books. Cook more meals. Slow down for the ever-living love of all that is good and holy.
For the sake of your soul and your kids’ souls, say no to more than you say yes to during Advent.
There is so much expectation packed into the weeks preceding Christmas that it can start to feel like death-by-a-thousand-just-one more’s. You know what I mean: “Just one more Christmas pageant.” “Just one more cookie exchange.” “Just one more teacher gift.” “Just one more present to wrap.” “Just one more trip to the mall.”
If that cookie baking and pageant attending and gift buying takes the place of soul nurture, you and your kids will both suffer. If you attend every Christmas-y function, party, gathering, play, concert, gala, and dinner you might die.
Or you might start yelling at people in supermarkets, a la George Banks.
Buy less. Way, way, way less.
Light a candle and watch the flame.
Open your Bible and sit with Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth and Zechariah and Anna and Simeon and wonder at what God’s up to.
Unplug things and let your kids be just a teensy bit bored.
Because the thing about God is that he almost always works in ways that are more gradual and quieter than what we’d like. Advent is a season that will still and slow us, but we have to let it.
How are you making room for God this Advent?