November 13, 2007

Simple Advent Fun for the Family

The season of Advent is a joyous occassion for the family! Advent is a time of anticipation, of longing and of waiting for the birth of the Messiah, Christ who came to earth for us.  Celebrated the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, Advent this year officially begins on Sunday, November 28th.

An Advent calendar is a special way to mark this passing of time and can be a practical tool to teach little ones (and big ones!) about the Christmas story and the true 'reason for the season'.  This calendar usually counts down the 24 days before December 25th, but can be adjusted by a day to begin December 1st if wanted.

Last year I chose a simple method to celebrate our family traditions, and to prioritize the many ideas of how to influence our children with the meaning of Christmas ~ a calendar of envelopes!  Each morning from December 1st, at our devotional time we opened one envelope that first focused on giving or sharing, and then sometimes on an activity or craft to be completed that day.  I opted for mostly quick & easy ideas and other days had more time or effort required.  Practical and fun, this idea is easy to duplicate!

First, the supplies needed ::

24 or 25 envelopes of any color or size

same number of index cards or cardstock pieces to fit envelopes

clothespins (mini ones can be found inexpesively at crafting stores)

any type of sturdy string, rope or way to hang envelopes

number stickers if desired, or simply write in pen or marker

Because we used our calendar as a teaching tool, our ideas included the focus on giving generously of ourselves just as Christ did.  We wanted our children (then ages 4, 7 and 11) to know that giving didn't always require purchasing an item, but could be something we already had.  Along the way, we also incorporated various family traditions such as reading the Christmas story or making gingerbread cookies as activities for fun.  One each index card, you can include both a giving focus and an activity or craft, or simply one or the other; whatever is best and easiest for you.

 Some ideas that worked for us ::

~ prayed for those who may feel alone this season, may Jesus be near to them

~given the gift of a smile

~given the gift of a hug

~written notes of appreciation (or draw a picture) for someone in our family or church

~shared a special something with a family member

~shared the gift of a Christmas carol with someone—over the phone, at home or somewhere else

~made a treat for those in our community who serve us; example~the lady who delivers our mail, our librarians, those who service our cars

~chosen items for families around the world through the gift catalogs of World Vision & Gospel for Asia

~ snuggled up in PJs and read Christmas books together

~ given the gift of laughter by telling jokes

~ painted wooden ornaments to give to family, friends or teachers

 ~ gone out to eat as a family (a treat for us!) and given an extra tip to our waitress or waiter

~ given the gift of our time by making a ‘coupon’ to serve another

~ given a gift to the birds outdoors by making pinecone birdfeeders for the winter ahead

~ surprised a neighbor with flowers on their doorstep

~ made lots of gingerbread cookies for ourselves and to share

~ read and acted out the Christmas story from Luke 2

The list can go on, be creative!  The key is to keep it practical, especially if there are little ones involved, and to included ideas that perhaps your family is already doing and a few you would like to try.

Advent is a time of celebration, not stress.  A time to remember the gift of Christ's coming and to share of ourselves.  Keep it simple and enjoy...
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