Advent is officially one week away. How are you feeling about it? Will this be the year you are finally able to slow down and enjoy this season of preparation? Grow Christians tries every November to ready our community to do just that. While preachers remind us each year that Advent is supposed to be a season of stillness, the reality is that our December schedules are anything but calm and quiet. In my family we intentionally finish Christmas shopping prior to the First Sunday of Advent, but we still have all the end of year recitals, class parties and pageants that keep our lives frenzied.
The past few years I’ve been so grateful for Grow Christians and the resources provided to help our family stay focused on Advent. I’m delighted to do the same today.
There are all sorts of Advent calendars. My mother-in-law can be counted on to buy the cardboard ones with chocolate tucked behind little flaps. My husband and I buy the kids Lego versions every year. There’s also an Advent calendar with tiny jam jars revealed each day that my beloved husband purchased for our family. I can’t say that any of these actually prepare us for Advent though. So, I wanted to offer additional calendar options that will nourish your whole household’s spirit.
The first calendar that always comes to my mind is Forward Movement’s “Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent” poster illustrated by Jay Sidebotham. We have fortunately always attended churches that order these calendars in bulk, so acquiring one hasn’t been an issue. We bring it home on the First Sunday of Advent, tape it to our fridge and then take turns coloring and fulfilling the daily prompt.
If you didn’t get a “Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent” calendar, don’t fear! We have you covered. Or rather Thomas Mousin and Merry Watters have you covered with their free printable Advent calendar featuring daily Scripture readings and actions.
The Episcopal Church has also created a calendar this year that offers daily suggestions for living into the Way of Love practices: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest. You can print the free Way of Love Advent Calendar here.
Family Spiritual Practices
We introduced the Jesse Tree into our house five years ago. The Jesse Tree is named after King David’s father and the idea comes from Isaiah who tells us “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch she’ll grow out of his roots.” The Jesse Tree is essentially Jesus’ family tree told through pictures. Every night after we light our Advent wreath, we read a story about one of the people in Jesus’ ancestry. It’s not a tradition I was raised observing, but my children love it. They especially fell for it when I found the Proverbial Homemaker’s Lego challenge version with scripture readings and building prompts for each day. A digital file is available for purchase here. It includes everything you need, including ornaments that you can cut out to hang on your Jesse Tree. This is a great way to draw younger children into the spirit of Advent using biblical stories and images.
Last year I invited my children to join me in the #AdventWord photo-a-day challenge and we had so much fun. We prayed the word over breakfast and looked for a visual representation of the word throughout the day. Sarah Stonesifer has a Grow Christians post coming up on Tuesday about observing #AdventWord as a family so be on the lookout!
Last Advent Rachel Jones issued an invitation for our Grow Christians community to contribute to the 2018 Forward Movement Advent meditation book. You responded whole-heartedly and many of your submissions are featured in O Wisdom: Advent Devotions on the Names of Jesus. This book includes written meditations, art, poems, and photos to help you more fully embrace Jesus’ presence among us now and await his coming in glory. You may purchase it HERE and use it throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
Have you heard of the Kindness Elves? They popped up five years ago when Elf on the Shelf really gained full momentum as a way to reclaim the season of Advent. I know I won’t have the creativity to welcome a Kindness Elf into our home, but our family can choose a person to honor each day of Advent. My goal is for us to select 23 people to pray for and celebrate as we prepare for Christmas. Public servants, teachers, newly elected members of Congress, sick family members, elderly parishioners – so many people to lift up and recognize.
Lectionary and Liturgical Observances
Every day during Advent our family strives to share one meal around the same table, so we can light the Advent wreath and pray. We have used a variety of liturgies over the years, each year it seems to evolve as our young children became readers. If you don’t have your own booklet, there are many to be found online. United Methodist pastor Rosanna Anderson wrote this version that would work well for families with younger children and shorter attention spans.
Last year I adapted another United Methodist Discipleship Ministries resource to better suit our family’s needs. Below is a pdf that you can adapt further yourself.
Your family might also join families from across Latin America observing Las Posadas (Spanish for The Inns) the week before Christmas. Las Posadas celebrates Mary and Joseph’s uncertain journey to find a safe refuge where Jesus might be born. To help your family, neighborhood or church observe Las Posadas this year, Forward Movement has a free digital download in the online store that provides practical suggestions on how to do so. This resource is available in Spanish and English, and you can learn more about it from Grow Christians contributor Hugo Olaiz HERE.
December is a month full of feast days, both well-known and lesser known. We will feature several of them on Grow Christians, but I also invite you discover your own unique ways of observing the occasions (and then share it with us!). Here’s what’s on the lectionary horizon:
- December 6: Nicholas of Myrna (Saint Nicholas!)
- December 13: Lucy of Syracuse
- December 21: Saint Thomas the Apostle
- December 25: The Nativity of our Lord
- December 26: Saint Stephen
- December 27: Saint John
- December 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents
There are so many ways to nourish your family’s faith during Advent that will enrich the experience of Christmas.
What are your family’s traditions during this season of expectation?
What new spiritual practices do you hope to add this year?