Sunday, December 7, 2014

8 Advent Activities for Families

Photo Credit: Jamie In Bytown via Compfight cc

With all of the presents, cookies and decorations crowding our homes, it’s easy for our kids (and for us) to forget about the true meaning of Christmas.  Here are eight things our family has done over the last several years to keep Jesus in the center of our holiday.  

Kids LOVE advent calendars, a tool that helps them count down to the big day.  I’m embarrassed to admit that we actually have two (which prevents a lot of fights).  One is Santa, wreaths and reindeer, but the other is all biblical characters and imagery.  This keeps the story of Jesus' birth in front of our kids every day in December.

The Christ Nail is a nail-shaped ornament that we hang deep inside our Christmas tree because it's just for us.  It's the first thing we put on the tree every year.  It’s there to remind our family why Jesus came to earth.  There’s a verse and a reading that go with it that we read as a family before we put it on the tree and hang the rest of our ornaments.

We bought the Little People Nativity Set for our kids for our first baby and have used it every year since.  This set gives our girls the chance to interact with the characters from the Christmas story through play and imagination, while saving our glass nativity from certain destruction.  As soon as the lights are on the tree, our kids have the job of setting up the Little People on the tree skirt.  Even as our girls get older, they still love playing with those figures and reenacting the story.  

This is a fun advent set put out by Family Life.  You open a gift box every day for seven days, revealing another nativity character.  There’s a book that goes with it, with a section you read for each character.  The final box you open reveals what God truly wants for Christmas.  SPOILER ALERT: Inside the last box is a mirror revealing what God really wants for Christmas is you.

5. Read the Christmas Story
This is a simple one, but we always take time to read the Christmas story from the Bible on Christmas Eve.  Sometimes we’ve read it from a kids' storybook Bible like the Beginner's Bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible or just from the NIrV, depending on the ages of our kids.  

6. Birthday Cake for Jesus
Every Christmas we bake a birthday cake for Jesus.  Angel food, of course.  My wife frosts it with a cream cheese frosting and sprinkles coconut on top.  At lunch or dinner we put in candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  It's just a great reminder whose big day this really is.  

7. Bless Someone
We've done everything from Angel Tree gifts to special projects at church, but my favorite times have been the ones when God has just sent us someone who needs extra love at Christmas and gives us an opportunity to bless them.  The simple act of giving to those who don't expect anything from us is good for all of our souls.  

The most powerful Christmas activity we do actually happens after the holiday.  We save all of the Christmas cards we receive and store them in a basket near our dinner table.  Each night we randomly pull one out from the basket and pray for whoever sent it.  You can read more about that here.  

Keep in mind, we don't do all of these activities every year, and you probably shouldn't either. The last thing you want to do is make Christmas even busier than that it already is. But a couple of intentional traditions can go a long way to keeping your family grounded in Jesus at Christmas and in the new year to come.  

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