Advent: With Kids, Personal, and in Community

I have come to treasure this season of reflection so much.  It causes me to linger at the cross a bit longer than my hectic life sometimes allows.  It is during this time that my longings seem all the more real and painful.  It is during this time that what this world has to offer seems all the more vain and empty.  It is during this time I can easily miss the point of my salvation and why Jesus came.  So adopting this tradition, that dates back to the fourth century, has truly made a difference as I seek to worship the Lord with my life during the holiday season.
Advent is nothing more than a time of reflection.  It means “coming” or “arrival”.  It starts on the 28th this year (four Sundays before Christmas).  Jon and I have not brought any traditions to our home, in terms of how to celebrate Christmas.  So it has taken us a few years to figure it out.  In my search for meaningful traditions and ones I can actually do,  I landed at this Advent tradition.  It can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be.  Last year, I did it with the kids (Jon was gone a lot) and of course, I had my own devotions.  We had a wreath with one candle, our wedding unity candle.  This year, we are ready for the wreath and the four purple candles (purple representing loyalty). If this tradition only last but a few years, I won’t mind.  Better a few years than not at all, is how I see it.
So, here’s what I’ve found that’s practical and yet rich of Jesus.

Advent with kids:

I don’t know about your kids, but with mine if I try doing something too elaborate they loose interest, so I’ve learned to keep things short. Visuals are key as well.  If they see what you’re trying to say they will make the connection much easier. Calendars are great for this sort of thing.  Our kids know the reason for the season, but there are so many things competing against it that I don’t freak out if it takes them a few years to look pass the gifts.  They, like me, can loose heart quite easily.  So a daily reminder of why we set aside this holiday and why it is special helps them and us to gear our thoughts and hearts toward the Manger.  But above all, kids need to see our tender love and affection for Jesus lived out. One cannot impart the emotion, the love, and the devotion, if one doesn’t first have it. So play your music, sing to Jesus, and rejoice because he came!

Last year we started counting the days to Christmas with the Advent Calendar our good friends, Ryan and Betsy, gave us.  Brief nuggets of truth every night is just what the doctor ordered. It filled them with eagerness and awe as they heard the events leading up to Jesus’ birth.  My heart rejoiced so many times as they would look at the sky looking for The Star…praises and prayers were silently uttered.  Of course, they would get side tracked with presents coming from all directions; Sammo would still point at Christmas lights and shout with joy “Christmas!”.  But at the end of the day, we paused for a little while longer and looked back and forward…

For personal communion with the Lord during the season I cannot recommend enough Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross by Nancy Guthrie.  It’s a short book, with daily readings. These are essays written by old and contemporary writers like: John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, Tim Keller, Jonathan Edwards, just to name a few. I have found my emotions and my senses stirred up by this book. The Word and this book have helped my longings find their way back to Jesus.

In community:
This year in our Community Group we will attempt to have an Advent devotion together for the next four weeks. It will consist of Bible reading, Christmas songs, and prayer. For Yonder Breaks a New and Glorious Morn is our guide in this new endeavor as a Community Group. I am confident that as we seek to draw our hearts nearer the cross our affections for the Lord and each other will also grow.
May the Light of the world fulfilled your longings as you gaze upon upon the manger, the cross, and his second coming, this holiday season.
By Esme

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