I sat down with my four year old the other day and asked her what she thought Christmas is all about. This is how the conversation followed:
A: Getting gifts!!
Me: Actually, that’s not it. Do you know whose birth we’re celebrating?
A: Jesus! But if we give gifts then we can also get gifts.
Me: We should be focused on giving to other people, even if they cannot give anything back to us. Do you know why we even give gifts?
A: Yeah, we give gifts so we can get some too.
…. obviously not catching onto anything …
Me: No, we give gifts because the three wise men brought their very best gifts to give to Jesus. So we should give our best, even when we can’t get anything in return.
A: [teasing her brother with a toy]
While it’s pretty humorous to hear a four year old processing, it also reveals reality. There is obviously a disconnect. She knows we are celebrating Jesus but still thinks it is all about getting gifts. Which is why this year we are being intentional with two main things: keeping gifts at a minimum, as much as we can control, and celebrating advent. We’ll be doing four gifts: something you want, something you need, something you wear, and something you read. We have to be just as intentional to celebrate Advent. As our church has been saying, in a busy season, we want to walk slowly to the manger.
I want to engage in this season of walking slowly to the manger with my kids. I want them [and myself!] to understand and feel the thoughts and emotions of waiting for a Savior. I want them to feel the depths of hope, longing and anticipation. To experience silence, so they may rejoice in the cry and the life from the birth of Jesus. To understand the fear Mary and Joseph must have felt as they approached Bethlehem, so they can understand the sovereignty of God. I think there is no greater way for kids to understand biblical accounts than the Jesus Storybook Bible! The subtitle explains it well: “Every story whispers his name”. If you don’t have a copy, grab yours here. While I love how Sally walks through each account, sometimes my kids get distracted or have trouble staying with the whole story. So if you’re like me and have toddlers who aren’t quite ready for the whole story, one or two verses may be more practical. Below I’ll show and explain how I’ve been engaging in the Advent season with my kids.
I know we all talk about wanting to slow down and stay focused on the reason for the season, but I’m vowing to really do it this year. And if you’re like me, you need some sort of accountability to stick with this. For me, that accountability is my Advent calendar. I see it every time I sit down to eat or walk through my dining room. The kids see it too so if I have neglected it, they will remind me! A few years back me and some friends went away for a weekend of girl time and crafting and we made these. We have each hung them differently each year and I love the versatility of them!
You may have seen the Jesus Storybook Advent reading plans, which include the story for each day leading up to Christmas. I read through each story and took a few verses (paraphrased by Sally Lloyd-Jones) that I thought captured the main point to the story. I wanted to be able to have the option of going through the whole story or just talking about the main point to create an open discussion with the kids. You can download and print your own copy by clicking the image below.
I printed mine on card stock and laminated them [yes, I have a laminator, and yes, I love it]. I cut out each day and put the story and verses in the bag. I discovered these coloring pages that go along with each story, and then the kids hang them on their tree. Oh, and I bribe them with a small piece of candy in each bag. Most times we will open the bag and read the verse and talk about what we think it means. Sometimes they’re engaged, and some times they aren’t so I try not to push it. I let them color their “ornament” while we talk, and then they attach it to their chalkboard tree we made. I made ours by cutting out triangles using chalkboard vinyl. See my DIY blog post on it here. I’ve noticed the kids are much more engaged when they have a picture to color that correlates with the story.
On another note, if you don’t have kids and are looking for an Advent devotional, our church has provided a great Advent Guide that I have loved!