Chocolate is a key part of family life in our home and no less in the lead up to Christmas with homemade calendars; each pocket stuffed with a chocolate coin or snowman to be munched in the rush between breakfast and school. But each year as I rummage around the attic searching for 'the Christmas box' and three cloth calendars, I am reminded afresh that the season of Advent is a time of waiting. A time of waiting expectantly for something far more amazing than a melted chocolate coin. A time to recount how our awesome creator God so loves us, his children, that he came down to earth as a human to rescue us.
Taking time to pause and ponder on this in the busyness of family life is no small task. Where is the time between the early morning wake up and exhausting bedtime tantrums? Yet, when we carve out a moment each day to reread God's rescue plan in the lead up to Christmas, it is so worth it. Here in the Bible passages telling us of a young, pregnant Mary, of shepherds gathered out on the hills, of boastful Herod commanding his empire; we are drawn into God's audacious and merciful rescue plan. His plan to bring us, his children, back into a relationship with him, our loving God.
We may see that the familiar passages of the Christmas story are amazing. But in that moment, between the squashed peas on the floor and the demands for more Cbbeebies, between the teeth brushing and the last bedtime story, how do we actually read through the Christmas Story with our children? How do we attempt to teach and share with our children what Christmas is really about?
Below are simply some helpful suggestions, not a 'to do list'. Each family has their own pattern/routine, time in the day when they come together or when there is a quiet moment to pause. We want to encourage one another as families to be "like newborn babies, craving pure spiritual milk, so that by it we may grow up in our salvation." 1 Peter 2v.2
First, we can enjoy finding the Bible passages leading up to Christmas within our children's Bibles. Why not spend longer on these pages, teasing out questions from the illustrations or digging deeper with your Bible alongside a child's Bible. Second, we can use family devotions (see below links) specific to Christmas. Use the passages and questions for each day as a prompt to think about Christmas as a family. Third, we can get creative; drawing, singing, acting out what happened in the build up to Jesus' birth. We can build a nativity scene, talking about who is involved in the coming and arrival of baby Jesus and why. Fourth, we can decide to use the 24 days leading up to Christmas Day to pray for particular people, countries and our local community. We can pray for those who find Christmas painful, for those who will risk persecution if they are seen celebrating Jesus' birth, for those who don't yet know the gospel.
We can do all or a little of this, there is no fixed formula. Yet, what a privilege it is to be able to go back through these familiar passages in the Bible each year and see again the incredible rescue plan God performed for us by his Spirit through his Son.
Advent Calendars & family devotions:
Probably best for older children or for yourselves as a daily devotion
This looks like a fun, alternative take on the advent calendar and something that can be reused each year
This works with The Christmas Promise book (see below) and is a great one to do with little ones. It also comes in a range of other languages so might be worth buying for neighbours or school contacts for whom English isn't their first language.
We would highly recommend this for older Streatham Kids. This follows the advent tradition of the Jesse Tree and making the OT link that Jesus came from the tree of Jesse.
This is new this year from FaithinKids. There are questions pitched at different age groups, much the same as the FaithinKids podcasts.
This is a simple retelling of the Christmas story with great illustrations. It has an accompanying advent calendar (see above)
Elisa- this comes in Italian as well!
The book which works alongside the above advent calendar. I would suggest this works best for Streatham Kids rather than Tots.
I have yet to read this myself, but it looks like a lovely, clear explanation for pre-schoolers about what Christmas is really about.
In the past we have created advent calendar packs for pre-schoolers. If you would like the link to the Christmas story, broken down into 24 parts, so that you can use it for your own advent calendar or to use it as a prompt for family devotions then please do email me and I can pass it on.
Children & Families at SCC