This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.
This past week, Karate Kid (11) came home from youth group bemused. The lesson had been on Advent, and he told me with surprise that none of the other kids in his group had seemed to know what it was at all! It had never occurred to him that not everyone observes Advent and the seasons of the church year. I explained to him that many just aren’t aware of what it is and why it’s done. I wasn’t. The church I was brought up in didn’t recognize the traditional church year beyond Christmas and Easter. It wasn’t until I was a young mom with a toddler trying to establish my own family traditions that I began to learn about the liturgical year and how it can enrich our faith and be a wonderful teaching tool.
|Our Advent calendar|
For years we also did a Jesse Tree that I made out of felt. It finally gave out several years ago, so we’ve graduated to using a small live tree and ornaments we’ve printed out and mounted on cardstock from one of the several versions available online. A Jesse Tree is similar to the Advent calendar, but focuses on telling the story of redemption beginning in Genesis and tracing Jesus’ lineage. Ornaments representing different stories and people in Jesus’ family tree are hung each day. I love this concept because it really helps children (and adults!) connect all these events and see the one thread that holds them all together, instead of seeing them as isolated stories with a moral or lesson.
|A recent Jesse Tree|
We’ve also loved reading through Jotham’s Journey and it’s two sequels, Tabitha’s Travels and Bartholomew’s Passage. These books each tell the fictional adventures of a child who is somehow related to Christ’s birth. They’re broken up into readings for each night during Advent, with a special devotional section to read each Sunday evening after the story. We rotate through the books, reading one each year, and the kids never tire of hearing them again!
|Our copy of Jotham is on loan to another family right now, so we’ll read Tabitha this year.|
Lest you’re overwhelmed by all of this, let me assure you that we don’t do it all every year! With a husband who works retail and other holiday activities we’re involved in, our schedule just doesn’t allow for fitting everything in. Sometimes we have to double up days on our story reading (especially during Nutcracker week!). We often have to reschedule Saint Nicholas Day by a few days, working around our community’s Nutcracker performance and Dad’s schedule. Depending on when Hanukkah falls, we sometimes do the same with it…and sometimes it’s a one day celebration rather than observing all eight days. There have even been years when Hanukkah has been skipped altogether!
The point is not to be legalistic about it or stress your family out trying to do it all, but to make it work for your family! I think many families are like I was…simply uninformed and unaware. I’m so thankful that now there is such a wealth of resources, both online and in print, that make wonderful tools to help us take advantage of the wonderful opportunity these seasons offer us to enrich our family’s faith.
Here are some of my favorite resources for the Advent season:
- Good News of Great Joy Free Advent eBook
- Family Ideas For Advent
- An Introduction to Advent
- Are You Ready For Advent?
- Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation
- Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions For Advent by Nancy Guthrie
- Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime by Mark Roberts
- Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, and Bartholomew’s Passage by Arnold Ytreeide
- The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel
- A Jesus Advent Celebration Jesse Tree Journey by Ann Voskamp (FREE download, and absolutely gorgeous!)
- The Jesse Tree
Saint Nicholas Day
General Resources on Celebrating the Church Year
- Celebrating the Christian Year by Martha Zimmerman (sadly this is out of print but I am holding out hope that it will be available again soon!)
- Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper
- Introduction to the Christian Year by Mark Roberts