In all the busyness of the season which includes shopping, wrapping, decorating, entertaining, baking and on and on, advent is our reminder of the very specific reason we celebrate Christmas. It marks the beginning of our expectant waiting and preparation.
My own kids are sure to remind me to pick up the traditional advent calendar with the groceries. Each little perforated slot holds in it one cheap chocolate that somehow never loses its appeal. There is something special about a countdown no matter how simple the tool used to assist with the task. In hindsight I only wish I had been a little more creative.
Maybe you are looking for creative or impactful ways to celebrate Advent this year. Here are 3 ideas that I hope will prompt you to consider what you do while you wait and how you are preparing your heart this Christmas.
1. Popsicle Stick Prayers
This is one of my favourite ideas, recently adopted as tradition in my family after being shared by another Awana family last year.
As a family, we begin each mealtime with a time of prayer. We wanted to ensure that this wasn't just a time of thanking God for all the 'things' we have in our life but also a time to consider friends, family, church, our community and experiences that we have had or hope to have. In all of these things we teach our kids to pray for God’s kingdom to come.
After asking our circle of friends and family for their prayer requests and after considering our own, we were able to fill many popsicle sticks with a wide variety of prayers. Each stick represents a hope, a burden, a situation or a person that is on our hearts. At dinner we each pull a stick and pray. In this way we take the time to consider the people and situations in our lives as we bring them before God. During Advent it would be easy for the kids to focus on the gifts they are about to receive. While there is nothing wrong with being thankful for the things we have, this tradition helps us to remember that God wants us to bring everything to him in prayer.
2. Make your own Advent calendar
Try making your own Advent calendar that holds activities rather than chocolate. Of course there is nothing wrong with chocolate, but little packages or envelopes holding activities might serve to prepare your mind rather than just your pallet. Activities might include a family prayer walk around the neighbourhood or a christmas movie night. If you want to include treats try glow in the dark sticks for a glow in the dark bubble bath or a christmas book and microwave popcorn. This can get as creative as you have time for and the envelopes can range from being focused on quality family time together right up to really focusing your hearts on Jesus.
3. Celebrating Advent by serving others
What about creating your own version of the 12 days of Christmas as a memorable way to serve others. While technically the 12 days of Christmas begins on December 25 and spans the 12 days between the birth of Christ and the visit of the 3 wise men, there is no reason it cannot be adapted. It might go something like this…
On the first day of Advent as a family we will give 1 meal to a neighbour
On the second day of Advent as a family we will give 2 bags of noodles
On the third day of Advent as a family we will give 3 boxes of stuffing
On the fourth day of Advent as a family we will give 4 batches of cookies
On the fifth day of Advent as a family we will give 5 cans of cranberry sauce
On the sixth day of Advent as a family we will give 6 boxes of cereal
On the seventh day of Advent as a family we will give 7 cans of vegetables
And so on…
You can likely be more creative than I am. Have some fun with this.
Of course we know that there is more to Christmas than chocolates and gifts but in the excitement and busyness of the season it is easy to forget to be intentional about preparing our hearts. My prayer is that each of you find some intentional way to prepare your heart for Jesus this Advent season.