Editor’s Note: This year (2016), Advent starts on Sunday, November 27!
I love celebrating Christmas, and I love almost every Christmas tradition I’ve ever met. But once I had children of my own, I realized the idea of Santa Claus was eclipsing the joyous miracle of Jesus’ arrival among us. This made me feel decidedly Scrooge-like.
Now, strange as it may seem, scowling and fuming about “too much Santa Claus” did little to restore the joy of Christmas to our home. So after some thoughtful discussion with my wife, I figured out what was giving Santa the edge in our children’s minds: anticipation.
I wanted us to think about Jesus and the nativity, but I had not provided a sense of his pending arrival. Meanwhile, everywhere we went, my kids were told Santa was on his way. Fortunately, I had a couple thousand years of church tradition to back me up, if only I knew how to draw on it. It was time to learn about Advent.
This involved a lot of bumbling around, especially in my efforts to make our anticipatory traditions kid-friendly. But now I’m excited to share with you my two favorite ideas!
First, I’m a fan of daily readings that gradually tell the story of God’s plan from Creation to Christ. And I’m a huge fan of Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible, which both tells the grand story, and hints at how each chapter fits within God’s larger plan. With just a little nudge, the Storybook Bible makes a great Advent reader! I’ve drawn up a reading guide to make it easy, and written a few supplementary readings to fill out the Advent calendar.
Second, (and this may be your kids’ favorite part): Advent Christmas tree ornaments! My talented friend, Melissa Ellen Fink (www.MelissaEllensLoft.com) has painted twenty-five beautiful, original scenes to accompany the readings—one each day. She has also made an easy tutorial to walk you through printing them, cutting them out, and assembling them to hang on your tree.
You can download the Family Advent Art and Reading Guide from Story Warren. It includes the reading guide, the printable sheet of Christmas ornaments, and Melissa’s craft tutorial.
May you have a blessed Advent. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
From the Bible: Isaiah 53:5-12, a bit of a preview of the end of the story.
With a heart for writing about adventure, small woodland creatures, and what happens when you realize there are no ordinary places, he is the author of A Year in the Big Old Garden, a short story collection for children 4-10.
He occasionally blogs at jamesdwitmer.com or @jamesdwitmer, spends his free time digging in the garden with his wife, and is pleasantly surprised to find that loving his family makes meaningful change in the world.