The Advent that almost wasn’t

It’s the third day of December.

Usually by this time of the year, I’ve posted my annual “Make Christmas Count” appeal, and detailed how families can really invest in their children by planting the Gospel message deep in their hearts during Advent.

It’s the third day of December, and I have no well-thought out posts or programs to share with you.

Since my kids were very little, my husband and I have made it a priority to countdown the days to Christmas and spend quality time together as a family focusing on Christ’s story every day in December. We have made precious memories each year, and it’s become a tradition all of us anticipate.

Yet since October this year, when I’ve thought about what we were going to do for December, my only reaction was stress.

Our Christmas season is action-packed, with barely any breathing room. How are we supposed to squeeze in an Advent family experience amidst school music programs, Nutcracker ballet performances and church activities? Stress, with a capital S.

Thanksgiving hit, and I knew it was make or break time. None of our previous plans really fit where we are a family this year, and especially our schedule for this December. So, were we going to do Advent or not?

As I scrambled, trying to draw up plans for an abridged program to work around our chaotic schedule, I finally just stopped. I looked up at my kids, my family, my home. I saw the sparkle in my son’s eye as he worked to hang ornaments on the tree in just the right places, and heard my daughter’s delightful glee as the Christmas lights came on.

Advent calendar boxEach child arranged, and rearranged, our many Nativity scenes that particular day. While I was looking over their progress, I noticed Jesus was missing from one of the groupings.

“Lauren, where is baby Jesus?” I asked, beginning to look around on the floor and behind the entertainment system.

My five-year-old came running over, with an excited grin.

“Don’t worry Mom! I put Jesus in the Advent calendar.”

She had tenderly placed Jesus in our Advent calendar’s Day 25 box, as the gift for us on Christmas Day.

All the planning and stress of the holiday season doesn’t make Christmas more special or bring Jesus into our celebrations. He is already there.

Advent isn’t a program to squeeze into Christmas. Advent reminds us to slow down and treasure our Savior, to celebrate that Jesus came and He is coming again.

For our family, focusing on Jesus this Christmas will be our priority. If that means adjusting some of our plans, fine. But, we are each committed to enjoying each day as it is, even if our schedules are crazy, because it’s a day to lift up Jesus together.

Family Book of AdventAfter all my stress, God reminded me of a little book my father-in-law had given me a few Christmases ago called The Family Book of Advent by Carol Garborg. Last Saturday, I picked it up and read it in one sitting, immediately knowing this simple book, with it’s applicable Biblical devotions and optional activities, was just what our family needed.

So, December 1, we all woke up early, and snuggling together under the covers we began our Christmas Countdown. When we finished our short Bible story, we went out to the living room in our pjs, put up the number of days until December 25, and jumped up and down in anticipation of Christmas and what God had in store this month for each of us. Later that night, after a full evening of dance lessons and errands, we carved out time to create Christmas wreaths. Just like a circle never ends, we can know that Jesus is always King.

The kids hold up their Advent wreaths, where we will add different names of Jesus from Scripture during the month.

The kids hold up their Advent wreaths, where we will add different names of Jesus from Scripture during the month. Of course, they wanted ribbon infused with glitter, which we will also have all over our floors the entire Christmas season!

Yesterday, Dec. 2, we had another early morning Bible study, this time curled up on the couch in our pajamas. We considered God’s promises in the Old Testament, and how God always keeps His Word. After AWANA, we wrapped a present and placed colored pictures of leaves, an angel, food and hearts inside. They remind us of the promises that God never leaves us, God sends His angels to watch over us, God feeds the birds of the air and He will take care of us too, and that nothing will ever separate us from God’s love.

Jackson and Lauren open our present filled with God's promises.

Jackson and Lauren open our present filled with God’s promises.

Today, we will have our family time this evening. No day this Advent season will be the same. I’m also not sure how blog-worthy our Christmas Countdown will be this month, though I will try to share some of our experiences. But, that’s not the point.

When we look back on these years, we aren’t going to recall the specific activities, ornate art projects or detailed decorations.

We will remember that we were together, and Jesus was there.

Journey to the Manger: Begin with God

Jackson and Lauren hold their Journey to the Manger activity books in front of our Christmas Countdown board. Each day, we match a person (or animal) to the poster.

Jackson and Lauren are thrilled to have their own activity book for our annual Christmas countdown. This year we are taking a Journey to the Manger. Each day we will meet a person (or animal) in the Christmas story.

Christmas time is here!! In the Cobb home, we want to make Christmas count by captivating our children’s hearts for Christ. That’s why we purposefully take time to celebrate Jesus throughout the month of December.

Today marks the start of the Advent season and the beginning of my family’s Journey to the Manger. Each day through December 25, we will learn about one person (or animal) and their role in the Christmas story. After our family devotion, we will enjoy activities and projects to help us better understand and remember what we have learned.

God the Father

God the Father

Christmas begins and ends in the same place: with the heart of God. The first person we met on our journey to the manger was God the Father. God is never surprised or caught off guard by what happens in our lives. Before God even created us, He knew that we would make mistakes, that there would be times we would turn away from Him and break His laws. Yet, He still loved us, and decided to make a way for us to come back to Him. God came up with a plan to send His One and Only Son to give us hope and salvation. Christmas starts with God and His great love for us.

Just as God the Father came up with a plan to give us hope, we created a plan to pray for one person each day leading up to Christmas. In a twist on the classic Christmas chain countdown, we wrote one name on each chain that we will pray for before we go to bed each night.

The kids hold their Christmas prayer chains high. Each day we will pray to our Father God for one person as we countdown to Jesus's birthday.

The kids hold their Christmas prayer chains high. Each day we will pray to our Father God for one person as we countdown to Jesus’s birthday.

 

Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.