Born out of a desire to make the most out of every Christmas season, one of our most favorite holiday traditions is to celebrate Advent. I love how popular this has become in recent years, with buckets of craftiness on Pinterest and links to free studies, videos, devotionals galore. With all of these resources, it's really easy to observe Advent and to use this time to teach our children about the adoration of the indwelling of Christ.
Here are a few links, in case you're searching for some Advent resources to use or tweak for your people. It is NOT too late to observe Advent.
- John Piper's Good News of Great Joy devotional (what we are using this year)
- She Reads Truth: Emmanuel (also available through YouVersion Bible app, along with other options in Advent reading plans)
- Ann Voskamp's Advent video devotions
- Reading plan created using the Jesus Storybook Bible, our all-time favorite Bible for our kids.
Every night we turn off every light in the house, gather our children around the table, light the entirely correct number of candles, and share Scripture and a focus thought from the Piper study on Matt's Kindle. The kids are quiet and still and in absolute awe of the great spiritual truths we so expertly pour into their hungry minds.
Um, no. That's a load of hogwash, and anybody with little kids knows it.
It's more like this:
We rush and threaten the kids just to even get them to the table, then light the candles (saying a silent prayer that the fickle smoke alarm doesn't go off and ruin the whole thing). If we are lucky the kids actually have clothes on, though sometimes they are wearing zip-up jammies that are unzipped and dangling off their shoulders like a cape. The big kids fuss and fight over who is sitting where, and typically end up piled on top of The Captain's and my lap...where they wiggle and elbow us to certain bruises. If we do get them to sit on the bench together, they punch each other like the minions from Despicable Me. Sweet Love is enamored with the candles but since she can't exactly tell us that yet, she just yells a lot and dive-bombs off our laps straight into the flames. She wants to bite those candles so badly, and we'll mark it a success that none have teeth prints quite yet. Pearl always sneaks a princess Barbie to the table and at some point the doll's hair gets dangerously close to the flickering candles. Sassafras is obsessed with blowing out the candles and sometimes jumps the gun...which may or may not require a relighting of the prematurely extinguished candle. Sometimes we fumble through the translation of the night's text to a level basic enough for them to get. We are interrupted no less than seventygajillion times, usually with someone hollering for food or drink and , as an added bonus, occasionally with a mouth already full of yogurt. They answer every single question with "JESUS!!!!" Which is great, unless the question is "What are some things that can distract us from the real meaning of Christmas?"
Some nights, I tell you, it feels like an epic failure. Like we're wasting our breath. It feels like no matter what we try, we are doing it all wrong. Some nights we are fulfilled and know that our children were as well, but others...we are just tired of literally wrestling our kids at the table of Advent (or the family Bible studies we do any other part of the year).
I'm no expert, as we're only six years in to this wild shock of a ride as parents, but on the whole I think this mess of ours, this reality of our Advent, is okay. Some nights are meant for quiet and still reflections, and others are made for rolling around the table laughing hysterically at one another's antics.
All are made for perfect grace, that which comes from understanding that kids are kids...while also understanding that Christ is the God of Creation, come to Earth in the most humble of forms and all for our great good.