It’s the first week of November – some of you have been listening to Christmas music for months (some more openly than others), while some of you are stubbornly resisting Yuletide joy until Thanksgiving 2016 is in the books. Regardless, it’s time to start planning for Advent!
Advent is a traditional celebration of Christmas. Traditionally, a candle is lit each Sunday between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, while special Scripture passages are read which focus on the beautiful meaning of Christmas.
In more recent years, Advent has evolved into a daily study or family time that focuses in very tightly on the Christmas season with the intention of preparing hearts and minds for the wealth of meaning that Christmas offers, making Christmas a season, rather than just a day.
My young family has found deep joy in celebrating this special season. We’d love to share some advent resources that we’ve found helpful, along with some additional suggestions for a meaningful Advent season.
- Journey to the Manger. Every year Focus on the Family creates a free Advent resource for families. In 2014 this was their program. It was incredible! Consisting of a large printable poster and 24 smaller characters to add to the poster as Advent progressed, Journey to the Manger walks families through each key player of the Christmas Story with Scripture passages and review questions that even toddlers can participate in. While it’s not free this year (they have a new freebie to share with us all!), Focus on the Family has made this study available inexpensively for families to enjoy.
- All the Colors of Christmas. This year, Focus on the Family is offering a new, free advent resource. It offers preselected Scripture passages, fun family activities, and some beautiful printable coloring sheets for children — or the whole family — to enjoy.
- Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. This incredibly beautiful book compiled by Ann Voskamp is essentially an exquisite children’s Bible, highlighting the most iconic stories of the Bible and pointing towards the coming of Jesus in the manger. This was our approach for Advent last Christmas. Very simple, it required little to no preparation or supplies, but yet was meaningful.
- The Jesus Storybook Bible. A similar idea, the Jesus Storybook Bible has just enough stories in this collection to read one per day in December leading up to Christmas. A favorite of our children year round, this book focuses heavily on the promise of a Rescuer and Redeemer, keeping hearts and mind constantly focused on the full meaning behind Christmas.
- She Reads Truth Family Bundle. This year, we’ve selected the Family Advent Bundle from She Reads Truth. In this bundle are special, deeper study guides for mom and dad, with some really fun story cards for the kids. We’re looking forward to seeing how this plays out with our family this year, but I love the idea of my husband and I separately studying the same passages in our own devotional time and then bringing a simplified version to our kids at dinner time or before bed. The children’s cards feature lively, colorful graphics with key Scripture passages and questions (made for several levels, which you can choose depending on the ages of your kids).
- Good News of Great Joy. Maybe your children are older, no longer live at home, or you’re simply looking for a solid individual devotional for Advent. Good News of Great Joy takes a slow walk through the Christmas Story and then spends time focusing on all of the important “whys” behind Christmas. This one is available to purchase as a hard copy, but Desiring God has made the digital copy available for free download.
- Prophecies of Jesus’ Coming and Fulfillment. Another idea is to, as a family, read an Old Testament prophecy of Jesus’ birth and the text marking the fulfillment. There are many resources available for this approach (I’m willing to bet that there’s an iPhone app out there, too!) You can find one approach to this advent program here.
As a bonus, I’m excited to recommend four Christmas albums for you to enjoy as a family! What a great way to set a festive mood and keep the truth and richness of Christmas in front of you!
- Joy – An Irish Christmas. A couple of years ago, my husband and I saw this incredible couple – Keith and Kristyn Getty – perform their Irish Christmas program. Keith and Kristyn refer to themselves as “modern hymnologists”, writers of new church music that is drenched in theology, Gospel, and soundness. And since they’re both from the lovely country of Ireland, their music has a distinct flair throughout. We love this album for the joy it brings and the truth is keeps in front of us.
- The Sounding Joy. Though this album is intended for children, it’s a favorite of all of us in our home. Simple, folksy, and easy-on-the-ears music with favorite Christmas carols and less common Christmas spirituals.
- Prepare Him Room. If you’re looking for an album that is deep and worshipful, this is a great one to add to your collection. As a half-and-half mix of traditional Christmas hymns and original songs from Sovereign Grace, this one drives the depth of the season to the heart.
- Seeds of Christmas. Our boys have enjoyed the energy of the Seeds Family Worship albums and this year they’ve added a new one to their selection. Seeds of Christmas is an EP with six Christmas songs – with lyrics taken directly from the Bible and styled for the enjoyment of children.
Leave a comment below and tell us your favorite way to prepare your heart for Christmas!
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