A Season of Anticipation

Christmas. It has always been a season I anticipated. My eyes soak in the beauty, I listen as my heart gets lost in the songs, and I delight in all the pleasing aromas. There is no other time of year that brings about such a “merry” feeling for me. Nostalgia is at its peak and I revel in all the old and new traditions I now get to share with my own family. Traditions that I hope they will remember even when they are grown; traditions that will always leave them in anticipation of the specialness that is Christmas.

Here at my house we love to bake. We sing everything from “Frosty the Snowman” to “Silent Night” and snuggle with a warm blanket while we watch all my childhood favorite Christmas TV specials. Our family loves to read Christmas books, and of course, decorate as much of the house as we possibly can. We soak up as much of this magical month of Christmas as possible. This year, as we go about enjoying all the beauty and sipping hot chocolate while singing about mistletoe and holly, I want to make sure we don’t miss it…that we don’t miss Him.

Celebrating Advent for the First Time

So, to best prepare our hearts for this season, I decided we would participate in Advent. I have never done Advent before, so trying to decide where to begin and how to move forward with planning was a little daunting. There are so many ways to participate in Advent–millions of ideas on Pinterest and gobs of calendars out there, even the ever-popular edible kind. Where to begin?

Thankfully, some very sweet friends shared their Advent family traditions and pointed me in the right direction. I didn’t want just another “fun” activity that my children might remember more than the words I read…yet I wanted something that would be special.  For our Advent activities, I wanted to do something that would lead us to embrace and fully immerse our hearts in the wonder of a God who loved a sinful and broken world enough to send it a Rescuer, a Rescuer who was born in a lowly manger and who now reigns seated at the right hand of God.

I wanted us to revel in the wonderment of this story of rescue that began in a faraway garden. And I wanted us to approach in great anticipation as we get closer and closer to the morning where we celebrate the birth of He who loved us, He who came to earth to save us, and He whose death and resurrection makes us new…makes us His.

Christmas is Something that Happens in the Heart

As the years go by, I am slowly learning that Christmas is something that happens in the heart. I have found that it is less and less about what is happening on the outside–Christmas jingles on the radio, a “Happy Holidays” greeting rather than “Merry Christmas,” or a hyper-focused fascination on a red-suited jolly man who makes an annual appearance to those who have “been good.”

When we start to let those things be our Christmas experience, then we ourselves have lost true focus. I want my family and myself to experience the fullness of Christmas, no matter what the world around us is saying about it. Christmas is not about the world or how they choose to celebrate (or choose not to celebrate). It’s about our hearts rejoicing in His. Christmas is our own special Hallelujah moment. It is we whose hearts have drunk full from the cup of truth, grace, and mercy; it is us reveling in awestruck wonder of the moment where our own rescue began.

So this Christmas season, enjoy your hot chocolate while cuddled on a warm sofa watching your favorite snowman or red-nosed reindeer on TV.  Enjoy all the magical traditions you and your family share. This Christmas season, I would also invite you to enjoy Him. I invite you to open your hearts and let the full reality of grace upon grace envelop you…capture you…awe you…humble you…and to let His story bring you even closer to His heart.

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Advent Ideas

So, maybe you are where I was and are not sure where to begin. Maybe you have already done a few things and want just a little bit more, or maybe you just want some fresh ideas. Perfect! I will gladly share some Advent ideas that dear friends shared with me.

1.  Bartholomew’s Passage: A Family’s Story for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide.
  • This is an engaging book that follows a young boy named Bartholomew as he travels across Israel in search of his family. We will see how even being held captive through slavery will not stop him from reaching Bethlehem…and it will be just in time for a special birth. There are readings for each day of the Advent season; it is a family story and devotional that aids in preparing your family’s heart for the miracle of Christmas.
  • It lets you know every week which candles to light and there is a daily reminder before each day’s reading to light the candle.
  •  We plan on reading this book as a family every evening. 
2.  Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp.

“In the beginning is when the greatest story ever begins. The story of Christmas begins in the very beginning–because Christmas is about Jesus and Jesus’ love, which has been looking to hold you close since the very beginning of time.” – Excerpt from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas.

  • From Christianbook.com: “Trace the epic pageantry of humankind from Adam to the Messiah! Revealing God’s unconditional love for us all, Voskamp’s guide will help your family recapture the sacredness of the Advent season. Each day, you and your children will read a Scripture passage, engage with an easy-to-understand devotion, and participate in suggested activities. Beautifully illustrated. Families with kids ages 3 to 18 will love celebrating Christ together!”
  • I plan on doing this with my children every morning, as we prepare our hearts daily for the joy and expectation of His birth.
  • Here is a link to free coloring pages and printable tree ornaments to go along with the daily readings.
3.  The Jesus StoryBook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones.

“Every story whispers his name. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation–and at the center of their own story too!” – Christianbook.com

  • Here is a suggested Advent plan for The Jesus StoryBook Bible from FreeHomeschoolDeals.com.
  • I plan on using this, especially with my little one- and two-year-olds. Although my almost six-year-old will enjoy it, this one will be closest to my little ones’ level.
4.  Aside from reading:
  • I plan to play this album that a friend recently shared with me: Waiting Songs by Rain for Roots.

    From website: “These songs are about making time for waiting. The King is coming and He is already here. So we practice listening, quieting ourselves, celebrating, whispering good news, and yelling shouts of joy. In the Rain for Roots family, we practice most of all by singing to ourselves, to each other, and to our children about true things. He is coming–the Joy of Every Longing Heart. Our longing hearts. Grown-ups and children; we are the same in this. Through these songs, may God call us closer into conversation with Himself while we wait and hope with expectation. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”

    • It will be perfect background music while we are playing, doing school, baking, or even while in the car. (There is also an instrumental only version.)
5.  Then, if you are looking for a fun game to do, you should try The Christmas Star From Afar.  It might make a great alternative to the Elf on the Shelf.

Here is a snippet from the website: “It encourages children to go on a hunt for their Star, similar to that of the Wise Men. Everyday the Star is hidden and the children participate in a fun hide-and-seek game to locate it. Once they have found their Star they move all Three Wise Men to its location. On Christmas morning the Three Wise Men reach their final destination when the Star is found at the stable with the newborn baby Jesus. The activity book includes a wooden Star, a full wooden nativity scene that matches the artwork of the book, and optional scripture to use throughout the month.”

  • This is available on Amazon or at your local Mardel store.

I hope you have found some helpful tips and/or ideas for your Advent season. I pray that the joy and anticipation found in our Lord and Savior overflows this Christmas season for you. May you experience the overwhelming love from the One who reached down with grace and mercy and provided a rescue—a rescue that began with a baby lying in a simple manger.

All for His glory,

Melissa W.

(Chronicles of a Keeper)

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