Monday, November 18, 2013

Advent is Approaching

If you know me, you undoubtedly are aware that my favorite time of year is rapidly approaching.  I have planned out our advent season and am eagerly anticipating the joy it brings to our family, the way it slows our life down and just allows us to savor each day, each moment, each little thing as we anticipate the coming of Christmas and are reminded of God's precious gift to us.

Yesterday, our pastor had me share some of our experiences re. Advent.  While it is a PLEASURE to share, it is also a risk.  Our Advent may not work for others and I think it is wonderful, but I never want others to feel theirs should look the same.  I am fully aware that the joy I get out of planning a "theme" every day would just ADD stress to other's season, simply because their personality is different.

Still, I feel strongly that Christmas needs to be reclaimed.  Christmas should not be about consumerism and getting our kids every little thing they are told they need through the gobs of comercials interupting their childish shows.  Christmas shoudln't be stressful and busy, it should reflect joy and peace.

Our church has decided to participate in The Advent Conspiracy.  AWESOMENESS.  But we need to be going against the grain in our homes too.  Our children learn most about God from watching us.  They learn about our belief systems through what we do and say.  We can deeply impact the way our children celebrate this season their entire lives, by showing them NOW what is should REALLY look like.

So I implore anyone reading this today, to take a minute NOW to really think about what God is calling your family too.  He is a personal God.  Our Advents should NOT all look the same.  He has crafted each of us differently for a purpose and he can use our gifts and talents in our homes in ways that glorify him.  The internet is FILLED with ideas on Advent.  Take a minute and be intentional about your season.  What will you do to refuse our culture's definition of consumer Christmas and make it about Jesus- about life, freedom and giving our ourselves?

Here are just a few of the resources out there that do the work for you;)  Use them, use them for inspiration, use them as a starting board to making Advent a time of expectation and joy for your family.  Be honest with yourself about what you can finish will, don't worry about what others are doing.  Think about who you are, what your family dynamic and schedule is and make choices- little or big, to make Advent about Jesus, Joy, Family, Togetherness not "give me, give me, give me".

1)The Advent Book
Advent Book
This is simple and focus all on the Christmas story.  It is beautifully illustrated and my very favorite part of all is that it ends on Christmas day with John 3:16.  Jesus was born to be our Savior, to be our Sacrifice.

2)  The Jesse Tree
The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ. It tells the story of God's salvation plan, beginning with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." 
Each day of Advent a homemade ornament is added to a separate smaller tree designated the Jesse Tree or family Christmas tree. These symbolic ornaments can each represent a prophecy foretelling of Christ.
There are MANY variations of this both in book form and on the internet.  Some include ornaments, others just readings.  Here is one that is freeand gives you both

(Also, if you sign up, you can print Ann VosKamps for free.  She has now published her Jesse Tree devotional, but If you follow this link, you can still access her devotions free via old blog posts.

3) Truth in the Tinsel
-and ebook with a reading and ornament to make every day.  It is good for SMALL Children.

4)Thriving Family offers a free Advent Calendar every year.  This years is an Adventures in Odyssey Theme!

5) Jotham's Journey
-An amazing story that follows a ten year old boy through some exciting adventures on his way to find Jesus in Bethlehem.  The same author followed up this book with Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels.  These books are great for elementary age kids.

6)  Wrap 24 Christmas Books and open one a day throughout Advent and read it as a family.  You can check our library books to make this free;) or borrow.  Here is a list from my friend Amy to get you started.

7)  Wrap a Birthday Present for Jesus
            Wrap and empty box and put a slit at the top.  Place it in the center of the table or another prominent location.  All month family members can put in change and dollars.  You could designate all change that month goes into the box or have children do extra chores to earn money to put in the box.  On Christmas you could give this special offering from your family either to the church, other ministry, or person(s) in need (remember Jesus said when we do things for others in need, it is like doing it to Him!).

9)  Give your kids a hand on nativity set and only get it out at Christmas.  Little People and Veggie Tales both them!

10) Make Christmas Cookies Symbolic!
-An ANGEL brought the glorious news to the shepherds that a Savior had been born.  Wise men followed a bright STAR to the manger where Jesus lay.  They brought precious gifts much like the gifts we put under our TREE.  The best gift of all that day was Jesus.  God sent his only son that whoever accepts Him and trusts him with their HEART will have everlasting life and go to heaven.  Let the BELLS ring out this holiday season as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday and God’s greatest gift to us!
(Poem Written by Summar Corrigan)

11)Simple Acts of Kindness Advent
-Just google that phrase.  There are many blogs with samples of how to do this with your family.  I have incorporated some into our Advent and will do more as time goes on!

12) Activity Advent- My thing;)  Feel free to peruse my archives from December 2011 and December 2012 .    Google this or enter it in pinterest- LOTS of ideas are our there!!!

Here is my plan for this year, for space reasons I have not included my write ups for each day.  If you would like to use any of this and want the write ups I will put in my box to tie in these activities to Advent/ Jesus, let me know.  Some days I have more creative write ups than other- it is always a work in progress.

1)  Advent Day ONE!  Open Advent Book and Nativity, Set out Manger and Decorate Christmas Tree
2)  Learn about Christmas in Haiti
3)  Get out our Christmas Books.
4)  Shop for and Mail packages to our World Vision Children.  Give Christian his World Vision child.
5)  Christmas Bath
6)  Saint Nicholas Day- (Blessing Bags for Homeless?)
7)  Polar Express Train in Elmhurst
8)  Gingerbread Day
9)  Window Cling Day
10)  Snowflake/Snow day (this year will include snowman lunch)
11)  Animal Day
12)  Candy Cane Day  (this year will be snowman play dough instead of candy canes at each mean as Chloe is now off Red Dye)
13)  Christmas Movie Night
14)  Christmas Cookie
15)  Bethlehem Dinner
16)  Paint our own wrapping paper
17)  Ava's Christmas Program
18)  Toy Purge
19)  Holiday Dance Party
20)  Pajama Ride
21)  Winter Solstice-  Zoo Lights
22)  Cuneo Lights Display in Vernon Hills
23)  Wisemen day/ Starry Night- look at stars, make stars
24)  Candlelight Night
25)  CHRISTMAS!!!!

Start thinking/dreaming/planning.  Make Advent special for your family.  Refuse to go to bed on Christmas day thinking, "do my kids even get that Christmas is about Jesus?  Do I?"  You still have time.  It doesn't have to be stressful.  Start small, but start!

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