Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent for the Little Ones

This year I was asked to contribute a devotional to our church's Advent booklet.  I was honored and a bit flabbergasted, as I still consider myself a silly child and not yet a "real" adult.  Shhhssss, don't tell my children that!  Anyway, I kept thinking of what I hope to teach my children and the following is what I came up with:

Last year, we introduced an Advent calender to our children.  At first they wanted to pull out all of the pieces and play with them, but we explained the purpose of slowly preparing the manger for Jesus while counting down the days to Christmas.  Every morning, my daughter would ask what we would add to the Advent nativity that day.  One day it was a small fuzzy lamb, once it was a wise man clad in purple and gold finery, and once it was a single shimmering star.  Each day we talked about what that particular element meant to the greater story.  It was a joy to watch their faces as the story of Jesus unfolded day by day.  On Christmas morning, when baby Jesus was laid amidst His carefully arranged surroundings, the picture was, at last, complete. 
In the “outside” world, we are bombarded during Advent: 12 more shopping days until Christmas!  Order your holiday meal now!  Get the latest must-have gift here! 
Inside the Lord’s house, we are taught something profoundly different:  Reflect, hope, prepare, love.  Learning to keep this counter-cultural perspective during the Christmas season has resulted in a deeper and more careful approach to the holidays.  I want my children to understand that we are celebrating the coming of Christ, that His love and presence in our lives is the true “gift” of the season. 

Prayer:  God of love, God of hope, hear us as we pray.  Help us to share in this Advent season, filling our hearts and communities to bursting with the joy of Your priceless gift, at Christmas and throughout the coming year.

It really was fun to write and inspired me to hunt out a more permanent Advent nativity than our paper cut-out one.  They are surprisingly hard to find!  I did finally find a beautiful (and expensive) heirloom-quality one but I could just imagine my wild monkey of a son instantly destroying it.  Maybe in a few years...

Then, I stumbled upon this set in Barnes and Noble.  It is a fold-out nativity with each day represented by a small book that tells a part of the story of Christmas.  The books also have gold thread so that they  hang on the Christmas tree after you have read them.  So each day this Advent season, we have pulled out the correct number book, read a small slice of this wonderful story, and then hung in on the tree. 

 My children are learning about Jesus's birth in manageable snippits, having fun hanging them on the tree, and learning to wait patiently for the promised "finale."  Plus, it's a great counting tool!  What a fun way for pre-schoolers to participate in Advent, thank you B&N!  Of course, it's a little late this year but if you are like me, you will snatch this little beauty up on clearance after Dec. 25th and have it waiting for next year!  One day I'll have that beautiful hand-painted nativity, but for my family right now, this is perfect.

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