Advent is Coming! (Or, How You Can Create an Intentional Christmas Season)

Advent is Coming! (Or, How You Can Create an Intentional Christmas Season)

Christmas is literally right around the corner. It is so close you will feel like you slept for two nights and then BAM! You’re opening presents.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Once mid-November hits, I feel like Christmas is upon us in a flash. Amidst the busyness of December – shopping, events, parties and preparation – it feels like there is barely time to enjoy the season. 

I have always loved Christmas, but Advent is a relatively new phenomenon for me. Aside from eating chocolates for the entire month of December, I didn’t grow up in a tradition that placed a lot of weight on the Advent season. Christmas – yes. The anticipation leading up to through intentionally celebrating Advent – not so much. 

In recent years though, I have discovered the beauty of celebrating Advent. Put quite simply, Advent means “coming.” It is a Latin word that has been used to describe the month leading up to Christmas, and is a season that was originally placed on Christian calendars so we could reflect on and prepare for the true meaning of Christmas. Many churches celebrate Advent through lighting candles each Sunday in December, while others follow particular readings and liturgies.

While the church I’m a part of doesn’t necessarily do those things, I still celebrate Advent. I try to take time all throughout the month of December to intentionally remember and prepare for the true meaning of Christmas. After all, beyond all the commercialism and celebrations, Christmas is truly about one thing – Christ. When we think about the beauty of this holiday – that the glorious Son of God left heaven to become a baby in a mother’s womb, and then be born so helplessly and humbly – it should cause us to pause, to meditate, to reflect, to assess where we are and what we’re doing with this season. 

I believe that Advent can be intentional and beautiful with a little or lot of prep work. I am someone who loves holidays and planning and all the things that go with it, so I tend to go a little (understatement!) overboard when it comes to things like this. However, I want to share some ideas with you in this post that I hope can help you and your family celebrate this season of Advent and keep Jesus at the center of this Christmas season.

Advent Book Calendar

Andrew & I are readers and I hope that Levi will be one too someday. This year, instead of doing a traditional Advent calendar (with chocolates or figurines or any of the gazillion things you can now get), I created an Advent calendar of books. 

Some of these books are fun (I couldn’t resist a few Rudolph and Santa stories), but most of them focus on the true meaning of Christmas. The plan is to open one each night before bed and read it together during December. I hope this will keep us centred on Jesus -and provide some well-needed quiet and family time during this month.

PS: This doesn’t have to be expensive! I got lots of these books at yard sales, our local thrift store, on clearance racks & as gifts. Any Christmas themed books in our house get put away after December. I hope to be able to reuse these for a number of years, and substitute out a couple “baby” ones for older ones as Levi grows! 

Shepherd on the Search

Confession time: I hate Elf on the Shelf.
There, I said it.
I love looking at other people’s antics on Facebook during the month of December (including my hilarious mom-in-law, who becomes “Elfie”), but I never want to own an Elf for as long as I live.

So, I was surprised by how much I love the idea of Shepherd on the Search. Our shepherd is named Terry, and while I was a bit overzealous trying to make this work for a 7-month old last year, I’m actually really excited about hiding the shepherd for Levi each day this year. The storybook that goes along with the shepherd is beautiful, and there are daily adventures on their website that you can do with your family. I’m not sure if we will do them all, but they are intended to keep you and your little ones focused on Jesus during the season.

Advent Devotionals

I was first introduced to Advent through a Bible reading plan from She Reads Truth. Reading Scripture passages and devotionals each day that were designed to keep me focused on Jesus and building anticipation for His arrival on Christmas Day changed the way I approached the Christmas season. And I’m not just saying that. Now, I look forward to the Advent devotional I’ll use each year.

The truth is – there are so many amazing Advent devotionals out there – that I haven’t yet settled on one for this year. I have always loved the plans from She Reads Truth, and Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is one of the most life-changing and beautifully written devotionals I have ever read. So, I’m still looking at options for this year, but here are a few I’m considering:

Reverse Advent Calendar

I’ve seen this idea floating around on Facebook, and I love it! Essentially, the idea is that instead of opening a gift or chocolate each day, you place a gift in a basket for someone else. Most of the calendars I’ve seen are simple food bank items, but they could also be toiletries, items for a family in need, gently used toys and books, etc. What a great way to practice giving during this season and keep our eyes on the Greatest Gift – which is Jesus! 

The Jesse Tree

I think the Jesse Tree is one of the most beautiful traditions I’ve stumbled across. I was introduced to it by Ann Voskamp. Essentially, you place a tree of some sort inside your home, and each day read a Scripture passage and hang an ornament that corresponds with someone in Jesus’ family line. While we won’t have our own Jesse Tree this year (again, I’m trying not to go overboard with a gazillion traditions), we are working through the Jesse Tree for the next six weeks in our Children’s Ministry!

If you’re interested, you can download the preschool curriculum here or the elementary curriculum here. Plus, here’s the guide we’re giving families! 

These are some of my ideas, and I’d love to hear yours! 
One of the things I’m doing this Advent season is creating a Facebook group. Each day there will be a simple challenge to keep Jesus at the center of your life and the life of your family (if you have kiddos). These groups have been fantastic, and I’d love for you to join me! Here’s the link. 

PS. I did create a  free downloadable Advent guide last year, with resources and 24 days of carols for your family to work through!  You can download that just by clicking here!

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