Advent is a season of waiting—waiting for the birth of Jesus at as well as waiting for his return. One of the goals of Advent is to allow space to slow down and remember the true purpose for celebrating Christ’s birth. It is also a perfect time to capture a teachable moment with children. Here are three simple ways to slow down and reengage your family with the true purpose of Advent.
Capture the sacred in how you count time
The Christmas season can easily become busy and filled with fun holiday activities. Take this season captive in how you count time by hanging an Advent calendar on the wall or lighting Advent candles each week. This blog post describes how to make a simple Advent wreath with your children.
Another simple way to capture the sacred is to repeat a blessing with children. In his book The Manger is Empty, Walter Wangerin writes: “God is coming! All the element we swim in, this existence, echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it?” Based on this quote, I have the simple phrase “God is coming! Can’t you feel it?” on a post-it note in my calendar as a reminder of how to capture the sacred in my daily activities. With children, you can easily utilize that simple phrase as a blessing to say over them as they walk out the front door, or when you tuck them in bed at night. Ask your child to repeat the blessing back to you as a reminder of the anticipation we feel in awaiting Christ’s birth.
Wonder together about the season
Open-ended “I wonder…” questions provide children space to engage in the biblical story from their own perspective and experiences. Take some time each week to read part of the nativity story and wonder what it might have been like to be one of the characters. Just like we are waiting for Christ’s birth, many in the Christmas story waited too, so wonder what it was like for Mary to wait for her baby to be born or what emotions Simeon felt when he held baby Jesus after waiting years to see the Messiah.
Another way to wonder during the season of Advent is through play. Play is a primary way children learn, because as they play they make meaning of their experiences. A simple way for children to play and wonder is to let them play with an inexpensive nativity set. Let them set the nativity up, allowing them space to act the story out. Ask them to retell the story to you and take this time as an opportunity to wonder more about the story. What was it like to lay a baby in the manger? What do you think the shepherds did when they saw angels in the sky?
Intentionally make this season part of your family’s faith journey
It is easy to let the Christmas season become busy or filled with the worldly aspects of the holiday. Be intentional about Advent as a faith-forming season. Utilize certain traditions like the Jesse Tree or other special holiday devotionals that you can share together as a family. These Advent devotionals use a simple Share, Read, Talk, Pray, Bless format and work well with or without an Advent wreath. By engaging in these traditions in your home, you are purposefully engaging in faith-forming activities, reminding you and your family of Christ’s coming both in the past and in the future.
If you are looking for more ways to engage a child’s faith during the season of Advent, check out these ideas that include music, photography, prayer, books, service projects, and more.
Mimi Larson is Faith Formation Ministries’ Children's Ministry Catalyzer. If you have questions about nurturing a child’s faith or other children’s ministry issues, contact Mimi at [email protected].