I’ll never forget eight December’s ago when I had my youngest child seven weeks early.
Gifts weren’t bought or wrapped, stockings weren’t hung with care.
I wasn’t prepared.
That year changed Christmas for me. Most of my adult life, I had overdone Christmas-bought too many gifts, spent too much money, focused on the temporal and not the eternal. But that year, I had to let so much go and focus all my energy and strength on what really mattered.
Christmas has never been the same. It’s the year we prayed for a miracle and got it. It’s the year we gave and received the Greatest Gift. It’s the year we finally understood Advent.
Advent is a special time in December. With all the commercialism, busy activities and full calendars, it’s the best way to keep Christ in Christmas. Advent is preparing our hearts for Christmas.
There are so many way to celebrate this time with your family. We’ve done it well, we’ve done it hurried. We’ve skipped days and some years, we haven’t missed one. And some years, we’ve laughed, cried and fought our way to Dec. 25. The point is we try.
There’s still plenty of time to prepare for a memorable Advent season with your family. Here are some of our favorite resources (there are a couple of affiliate links in this post):
1. Cradle to Cross Wooden Countdown Wreath: Activity
Every year no matter how else we count down to Christmas, we always set out our beautiful wooden wreath and light our candles and move the small wooden Holy family through the layers of the wreath until they are home. I love this tradition (even though my kids usually fight over who gets to light the candles or I catch them dipping their fingers in the wax.) It’s a beautiful tradition. It also comes with an extra wooden ring and a wooden Jesus carrying the cross to countdown the Lenten season to Easter.
2. Truth in the Tinsel: For Little Hands
I’m a big fan of this little ebook for preschool to elementary-aged kids. It’s affordable, easy to download and fun to complete with your kids. You get 24 days of Scripture reading, ornament crafts, talking points and extension activities. Plus fun printables and templates!
3. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
Christmas is about tradition. I can’t wait to walk through Ann’s newest book with my family. This book is a gorgeous heirloom to pass down with vivid, full-color illustrations, downloadable ornaments, questions and answers to engage your family and moving scenes from the Bible, this book is a gift your whole family can unwrap each day leading up to Christmas.
4. Advent Tabletop Devotional: A Simple Daily Reflection
For years, I have kept one of Dayspring’s tabletop Advent devotionals on the table. Because let’s face it: the best laid plans during a busy Christmas season can get lost in the hustle and bustle. Each day has a short Scripture and thoughtful reminder to keep Jesus in the season. And if you order it soon, you can get it FREE with any $50 purchase at Dayspring with code: PREPARE50 (P.S. Dayspring just added 8 more favorite items to their rock bottom Early Black Friday Markdown Items).
5. Kindness Elf: Daily Countdown in Action
I’m excited to introduce this idea to my youngest this year. We’ve never done the Elf on the Shelf, but I like this twist that suggests a daily practical reminder to be kind to others. Our Kindness Elf (I just got a little stuffed one) will show up at the door on Dec. 1 with a letter to remember that Christmas is about Jesus and for others. Each day the elf (I’ve roped my two older kids into managing this) will have a kindness suggestion like “Make cookies for the postman” or “Write your sponsored child a letter.” I think it will be fun and will keep the focus on what matters.
Because of your recommendation, Ann Voskamp’s book is ready and waiting to go!
Man, I really want the Cradle to Cross Wreath, but it’s sold out! Hopefully it will be back in stock soon!
Sara K. says
This is a great list!
I am planning to introduce a Kindness Elf this year as well. My daughter has asked periodically why the Elf on the Shelf doesn’t visit our house. I don’t like the focus that puts on the material/Santa side of Christmas.
I am so excited to do the Kindness Elf with all the wonderful activities to bless others this year! And I think my daughter will be excited too 🙂
I like the kindness elf idea, I’m tucking that away for the future. Elf on the Shelf will not be making an appearance at our house and if my kids ask why I can say he’s afraid of cats (we have 3). In reality Elf on the Shelf is just plain creepy.
Amy P says
The advent series by Arnold ytreeide has been part of our family tradition for several years.
My girlfriend told me yesterday about her friend who wouldn’t put the wise men in the nativity scene until the last night. Instead, every night she would “hide” them somewhere in the house (elf on the shelf style). She would tell her kids that they were “following the star” and trying to find Jesus. Then, on the night before Christmas, they would find their way to the manger.
We move the Kings closer and closer to the manger, but they don’t arrive until Epiphany on Jan. 6. I like the hiding and finding suggestion.
Mary Hampton (aka RefreshMom) says
I totally understand about a change in plans sifting things down to the most important. Two years ago we were about to move across the country, but had a two month gap between moving out of our home and getting to our new one. When we left our home, I wasn’t sure where we’d be spending Christmas, so everything was packed into storage. I thought I’d kept our advent tradition (Advent Nativitree) where I could access it, but it had gone to the moving company already. The boys didn’t care that we wouldn’t have our tree with the ornaments they’d made over the years, but they did want to be sure we’d do “The Christmas House” as they called it.
It took some scrambling, but I was able to put together a back-up version of our tradition that walks us through the biblical Christmas story one ornament at time during Advent. The upside is that they each now have their own heirloom advent calendar and a set of Nativitree ornaments. And I was glad to know that when all the typical Christmas trappings were taken away, the walk to the Nativity was the part that matters most, even to my little boys.
These are some wonderful suggestions! I’m going to tuck them into my “memory chest” for when I have grandkids! My hubby and I do have a little Advent cabin. Each day of the month, we open a little door and remove a new forest creature to add to the outside. It suits our mountain home! But, I always take the time to remember that the one who made all those precious creatures is also The One who brought salvation to our world. Precious Jesus, how thankful I am for Him!
Jenni DeWitt says
I wanted to start an advent tradition last year, but it didn’t happen. Thanks for these suggestions. I better get the ball going, or it won’t happen for another year! Such a great way to take time every day to keep Christ in Christmas.
Thank you for these suggestions. I got Ann Voskamp’s book “The Greatest Gift” last year, and can’t wait to start reading it again this Advent. We make a Thanksgiving tree using her beautiful printables, then I repurpose the branches for a Jesse Tree. It’s wonderful to have the daily reminder of the true reason for Advent.
Enjoyed reading your post with all these great ideas to keep Christ the center of Christmas. I wrote a blog post earlier this week about this very topic. Check it out if you have a moment. God bless and keep on writing to encourage others! http://reststopforthesoul.com/2014/11/19/4-reasons-why-im-not-celebrating-christmas/