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Read Part 1 of How to Create Advent Traditions that Bring Your Family Closer to Each Other and to Christ
As I shared in part 1, there are 3 ways that our family creates Advent traditions that bring us closer to each other and to Christ.
After sharing with you some of the devotion resources we have used (and why we do it), I promised a super fun post with great ideas for focusing on fellowship and ministry during the Advent season.
Well, here it is!
I am so super excited to share with you all how our family has created some truly amazing memories during Advent by sharing together in devotions, fellowship and ministry.
Also, don't forget to grab your FREE Advent Planning Pages at the end of this post! As an Advent gift to all of you, I've also created a FREE printable Advent Charades game! (Click on images at end of post to print.)
Now back to the post...........
You've all heard of The 12 Days of Christmas, right? Well, how would your kiddos like it if you celebrated The 24 Days of Advent?
Six years ago I decided to incorporate a different activity, ministry, gift or other surprise for each of the 24 Days of Advent and our family LOVES it! It has truly become the highlight of the holiday season. Here's how we do it.
As I mentioned in myprevious post, we use a Jesse Tree and Jesse Tree devotional to study God's word together and prepare our hearts during Advent. (If you want to read more about the Jesse Tree, you can HERE.) We begin with a bare tree and, as we read a devotion each night, our children take turns hanging an ornament on the tree that corresponds with the devotion.
Remember my John the Baptist? Isn't he cute?
Next to the Jesse Tree is a pile of wrapped "gifts". They are numbered 1-24, one for each night of Advent.
Now, I say "gifts", but these are not gifts in the sense that I am buying toys or other things for my children. They are gifts to us as a family to encourage us to love one another and to love others.
Like all of you, we are a very busy family. I use our Advent gifts as a way to encourage us to slow down and enjoy one another. Favorite storybooks, games and ministry are ways for us to purposefully plan to slow down during Advent and enjoy our relationships.
If you're wondering why there is an Eiffel Tower on our Jesse Tree.....sometimes I like to get a little creative with the ornaments. This one happens to represent Habakkuk 2:1 "I will stand like a guard to watch and place myself at the tower....."
The child who hangs the ornament on the tree, then gets to open the corresponding "gift". Some of the gifts may be as simple as a favorite Christmas story book that we snuggle on the couch and read that night. Other times it will be an envelope with a letter encouraging us to "remember those in chains." We then spend a few minutes praying for the persecuted church. Each year looks a little different depending on illness, busyness, etc., but there are some traditions that are the same year after year...like popping popcorn and watching The Nativity Story on the eve before Christmas Eve. Or attending a candlelight service on Christmas Eve with Grandma and Grandpa.
This idea of making Advent a treasured family tradition can be as simple or elaborate as you want. It shouldn't stress Mom out. The point is to bring your family together during Advent for the purpose of discipling and loving your little ones. (And, as you'll see below, to encourage them to love others.)
There are many ways to accomplish this and it will look different in every home. Listed below are many of the ideas that we have used over the years. Why not just start with one or two and build from there?
Family Game Night
This one has become a family favorite and we include this tradition in some form or another every year. I have two children whose birthdays happen to fall during Advent. One year we had family game night on each of their birthdays and that child got to pick out the game. Other times I have wrapped up an old family favorite game and placed it under the Jesse Tree to be opened on the designated day.
There is just something exciting about unwrapping a "gift", even if it is a used game that has been on our shelf for several years. All of the kids lean in to see what is being unwrapped. I think it's the feeling of, "What does mom have planned for us tonight?"
Some years, depending on our budget, I will surprise them with a brand new game. Here are some of our all-time favorites!
Another twist on family game night is to invite some friends over. Last year we had some dear friends over for homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee and games. It was a super fun time!
Speaking of super fun family game nights.....don't leave without printing your FREE Advent Charades game at the bottom of this post!
Classic Christmas Movies and Books
Another fun family tradition we have during Advent is to wrap up each of our growing collection of Christmas movies and books and place them under the Jesse Tree. Do you know that feeling you get when you bring out the Christmas decorations and look through all the ornaments with delight, as if they were long-lost friends? That's the feeling the kids get when they unwrap a family favorite Christmas movie or an old Christmas storybook. The younger children will exclaim, "Oh, I remember that one!".
Every year on the night before Christmas eve, without exception, we watch The Nativity Story. As soon as our devotion is over and someone grabs the gift under the tree, the kids all shout, "We know what that one is!"
These things may seem trite or silly, but to me they are precious traditions that bind our family together.
This is a new Christmas movie I can't WAIT to add to our collection this year. Here's a funny story: Last year, one of our gifts under the Jesse Tree was an envelope with a letter inside that said, "Get into your jammies and pop some popcorn because tonight we're going to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas!" We all scrambled around for the next hour getting shower and snacks. Finally we sat down with our popcorn and turned on Amazon to stream the movie. Guess what? It hadn't been released to DVD yet and wasn't available. Way to go mom!!
Well, we won't have that problem this year because it's on Amazon and available for FREE to Prime members! ( I double-checked:-)
Here's a list of our favorite Christmas movies and books. I've included links when possible.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (of course!)
Frosty the Snowman
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Prancer (Just saw that this one is only $4.99, an inexpensive Advent gift!)
A Christmas Carol
The Christmas Angel
Max Lucado's The Christmas Candle (Another $4.99 DVD)
The Polar Express
The Nativity Story
Veggie Tales's Saint Nicolas
Veggie Tales's The Star of Christmas
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
The Silver Package: An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant
A Christmas Carol Storybook
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (This one is my absolute favorite! I will be reading this precious book long after my children are grown and, Lord willing, to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.)
More Family Fellowship Ideas
Advent fellowship can be as easy or elaborate as you want it to be. Just be intentional about spending time together as a family. These memories will last a lifetime!
The final aspect of our Advent traditions is family ministry. As Christians we should seek to be involved in ministry all year long, but the holidays seem to lend themselves to extra opportunities for sharing with others. There are so many lonely and hurting people and the Christmas season seems an especially difficult time for them. I am purposeful when planning our Advent activities to strive for a balance between fun and ministry. I want my children to know just how blessed they are and to enjoy serving others.
Here are some of the ways we have particpated in family ministry during Advent together:
Deliver food to a homeless shelter
Last year, we visited our local homeless shelter with good friends. Each of our families brought groceries, then we stayed awhile and visited with some of the folks staying there. Afterwards we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant. It was a great night of fellowship and ministry and beautiful memories!
Christmas carol at a local nursing home
This is a wonderful way for your children to practice speaking, singing or playing their musical instruments in front of others. The elderly absolutely LOVE to watch the young children performing! We have gone to a local nursing for many years with our homeschool co-op and performed everything from songs to magic acts to comedy. It is always very warmly received by the residents.
Write letters to servicemen and women overseas
There are so many great organizations you can use for sending letters and care packages to the men and women serving our country. I can't remember the exact organization we used, but here are some of the most popular:
Send a care package to missionaries overseas.
Is there a missionary family that your church supports? Use this Advent season to teach your children where that missionary is working and why your church supports them. Pray for them. Find their location on a map. Then put together a care package along with cards and letters of support. This is a fantastic way to get your children involved in missions and to give encouragement to a missionary family overseas during the holidays.
Deliver hot cocoa and coffee to cold Salvation Army bell ringers
Anyone can do this no matter how limited on time or resources they are! My kids absolutely LOVED it when we did this. It's as simple as driving through McDonalds and ordering a few coffees, then delivering them to some of the freezing cold Salvation Army bell ringers at your local stores. It's simple way of saying thank you to those willing to volunteer. (Also, it's fun to see the different reactions from the surprised Salvation Army volunteers!)
Clean out your closets and donate gently used toys
This is a wonderful way to encourage our children to think about kids who may not have all the blessings they themselves enjoy. Does your child have a "like new" toy that has not been played with in awhile? Or does your child just have too many toys in general? Explain to them what a toy drive is and ask if they would like to donate some of their own toys this Christmas season. You may be surprised how eager your child will be!
It is my sincerest prayer that you have been encouraged to be purposeful in planning your Advent season this year. Whether you go big or small, don't pass up this wonderful opportunity for disciplining your children and sharing the love of Christ in fellowship and ministry!
As our Advent gift to all of you, we have created this FREE Advent Charades Game. We hope it will help to solidify the Bible stories you are teaching to your kids, as well as foster some great family fun! Click on the image below to download.
Also, from now through the holiday season, we are offering our Advent Planning pages as a subscriber freebie.
Be sure to check out some of our other resources for homeschooling families!
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