We love Christmas. And Christmas is best celebrated in little increments, that bolster our anticipation of the big day. After all, advent means “the coming”. We celebrate the birth of our Lord, but even as we do, we
identify with the Jews who waited for their Messiah with longing. Advent is a time to examine our longings. Our long wait for the return of Christ, to set all things right, mirrors the wait we celebrate. So to help our children understand the true meaning of Christmas, the bigger picture of Christ and his church, the celebration of advent is important.
We always enjoy our advent calendar, but truly this is more of a countdown than a contemplation or observance. To observe a season of reflection and longing we have to turn to God’s word. There are some great resources for this. When my dolls were 1 to 4 years old I used a lovely board book, High Chair Devotions with them. Although not made anymore, there are lots of used copies floating around the internet (credit them being built so sturdily). Our favorite was The First Christmas. My
dolls memorized the poems and finger plays and loved them. When they were older we tried a number of interesting devotionals out there, but settled upon Arnold Ytreeide’s series for advent. It starts with Jotham’s Journey (see the affiliate link below).
|Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent|
He even has an excellent book for Lent or the days leading up to Easter, Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter. It is fun to light a candle during evening devotions. My favorite is the Days of Advent Candle with Christmas Theme, since we light the symbolic purple candles in the wreath at church.
Music can also be a helpful tool. It has tremendous power over our thoughts and feelings. We can use it to focus our minds on what we wish to mull over. There are some beautiful hymns of longing, such as O Come, O come Emmanuel, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming and the entire first half of Handel’s Messiah.
We choose a project each year to help us focus on others instead of ourselves. Some years have helped pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child, shopped for Angel Tree gifts, and given time and money to other causes close to our heart, like adoption. We spend time making gifts instead of shopping. And we pray for the families that send us Christmas cards.
There is an abundance of heart-warming Christmas literature out there that focuses on virtue, contentment, and generosity. We love to read short stories like The Gift of the Magi, The Miraculous Staircase, Our Lady’s Juggler, Christmas Every Day, or My Christmas Miracle from Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book, as well as every single story in The Candle in the Forest and Other Christmas Stories Children Love.
The idea is not to pack the season with activities that wear us out, but to be intentional about what we choose to do. Does it fit with our purposes to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the coming of Christ? Symbolically of our salvation in this Christmas season and literally as we long for His return?
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”
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