We are quickly approaching my absolute favorite time of the year. Thursday morning, turkeys will begin roasting in ovens and filling houses with the smells of home. More than any place on earth, Thanksgiving smells like home to me. Even living far away, I was pleased to realize that I could fill my house with the fragrance of Thanksgiving if I baked a couple pies and stuck a brined turkey in the oven.
But the awesomeness doesn’t end there. I love that Thanksgiving ushers us into the season of Advent, which is derived from the Latin word for “coming”, and that is precisely what we do during December– we wait for Jesus to come.
There are many things I’d love to say to mommies during this time of the year, and most of them were already typed out by Jen Hatmaker, so you can check out her thoughts on the Christmas Conundrum. I read this when I had a four-year-old, three-year-old, and one-year-old, and it felt like a breath of fresh air. I felt like she whispered to my soul, You can celebrate Christ without all the drama and stress, mama.
I encourage you to take time each day during the month of December to retreat into the depths of your heart and look at Jesus. I would argue that it is the most important thing you can do for your family– more important than cleaning the guest room or baking twelve different desserts. If we aren’t treasuring Christ during Christmas, how can we expect our children to?
There are some spectacular resources to help us get into the Word during Advent. If you’d prefer not to use another book, just start with the Christmas accounts in the Gospels. Read John and watch Jesus’ life on earth. Look at the Psalms and start praying as you see the heart cries of the psalmists. It doesn’t matter what you choose, just get yourself in the Word during Advent if you want to get the most our of your Christmas this year! Here are some other suggestions:
- She Reads Truth does an Advent devotional. They post new material during the weekdays and then give you time to catch up and work on Scripture memory during the weekends. You can read the Scripture passages and devotionals free each day through email or on their webpage, or you can pay a small free to get the devotional on the She Reads Truth app. Bonus: they have beautiful free lock screen downloads of their weekly verses!
- Make Room for Advent Naptime Diaries has put out an Advent calendar for five years now. This year they compiled devotionals from 25 different women into a beautiful devotional for December. You can still order, but it might not arrive until after December 1, which is perfectly fine because it’s not dated! 🙂 Their site at Make Room for Advent will also be full of extra videos and resources during the Advent season.
- The Expected One by Scott James I picked this up at Lifeway the other day for $5. It’s a small book and looks like a great way to refocus my heart each day before Christmas.
- The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp I read through this book last Advent season and I enjoyed it. I know some people don’t prefer her writing, but if you like her poetic style, I think you’ll enjoy reading The Greatest Gift during December.
If you start searching for Advent traditions for your family, you will find yourself on rabbit trail after rabbit trail on the interwebs, because ideas we lack not. There are a million things you could do to celebrate Jesus next month, and all of them seem like great ideas. Keeping that in mind, I would suggest you choose your way to watch for Jesus’ coming and stick with it. You don’t have to do all the great ideas you pin on Pinterest, I promise. Especially if you have many small children, kiss it simple, dear one, so you can enjoy this most enjoyable of seasons.
In years past, I have loved reading The Advent Book during our family worship each evening in December. Each day during the month, your little ones open a new door in this beautiful keepsake book. Each door reveals another part of the Christmas story (straight from the Bible), so by December 25, my kids can recite the Christmas story by heart. It’s easy and lovely and perfect for kids of all ages.
We have also done a Jesse Tree a few times. A Jesse Tree comes from the verse in Isaiah about a branch coming from the stump of Jesse (spoiler alert: it’s Jesus). Each day you look at the family tree of Jesus, usually adding ornaments of symbols to a tree. You will find different resources using different sets of stories, but the point is the same– all the Old Testament stories are looking forward to Jesus coming. I love the chronological aspect here– seeing how all of the Bible is pointing to Jesus is an excellent way to read and examine Scripture with our kids. You can purchase beautiful hand-made Jesse Tree ornaments to use on Etsy, or Ann Voskamp has a set that you can get free if you purchase her book, The Greatest Gift. Her book for families is called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and although I’ve never used it, it seems like a very popular option for parents (as proven by its #1 rating on Amazon!) You can also download free printable Jesse Tree ornaments and hang them with twine, or if you are a handy sort of woman, you could make your own set of Jesse Tree ornaments using felt. A Jesse Tree can be used for any age, but is probably a little more suited to elementary aged children since some of the Bible passages can be lengthy!
I have not used Truth in the Tinsel, but it’s been around for a few years now and I’ve heard great things from parents who have used it with their preschoolers. The premise is that you read a passage from the Bible and then do a hands-on activity with your children to reinforce what they heard. Truth in the Tinsel is for families with pre-schoolers and early elementary ages.
I have also heard of using The Jesus Storybook Bible throughout Advent. You can download and print a free Advent calendar (with corresponding readings from The Jesus Storybook Bible) from FaithGateway. You could use The Jesus Storybook Bible for children (and adults) of all ages, it’s written in absolutely beautiful prose and the illustrations are impeccable.
Just the other day I came across this new Advent tradition called Star from Afar. It’s adorable. (Think Elf on the Shelf, but not creepy.) Each day you hide the star and your children search for it. When they find it, they place the Wisemen with the star until December 25 when the star lands at the nativity scene. Star from Afar seems suited to younger children, toddlers to early elementary ages.