In my first Advent season working in children’s ministry, I brought new meaning to the word busy. Not wanting to miss a single memory with my kids, who were 1 and 3, I said yes to everything, desperate to treasure the years when my kids were little. In my eagerness not to miss out on anything, I missed out on the actual meaning of Advent: waiting.
I was convicted of that reality a year later as I heard children’s ministry expert Scottie May speak about Advent, reminding me that what is meant to be a season of waiting is usually filled so full of activities and to-dos that we don’t have a chance to feel like we’re waiting. Since that talk, my family has been more intentional about what we say yes and no to throughout our Advent season, striving to create more opportunities to experience waiting, expectancy, and hope.
Here are five things that have helped us experience Advent in a more meaningful way, including something to read, listen to, do, or watch—something for everyone!
Book: Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Willems: I love how waiting is approached in this wonderful book from Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie” series. It conveys the difficulty of waiting as well as the full range of emotions we often experience when waiting. And I love how the end shows that the surprise was clearly worth the wait. It’s not an Advent book by definition, but it beautifully portrays the process of waiting for the promised Savior.
Music: Waiting Songs by Rain for Roots: I love how the beautiful music in this album helps children process the meaning of waiting. The music laments the difficulty of waiting, invites Christ’s presence in the midst of waiting, celebrates Jesus’s birth, and finds fun ways to tell Christmas Bible stories (particularly Zechariah’s inability to speak!), all using language and melodies beautiful and simple enough to engage children of all ages.
Practice: One way for families to experience waiting is simply to spend time waiting together. In our house, we do this before we read our Advent devotional each evening, pausing to breathe and wait together to hear God’s Big Story. This practice is incorporated into the wonderful Advent resource: Jesse Tree: God’s Big Advent Story. Or you can include the practice in any family devotional time simply by pausing for a few minutes or seconds, depending on the age of your child.
Video: Advent in 2 Minutes: If you have older children, consider watching this video together as a way to think through the meaning of Advent as a family. After you watch it, ask your kids what stuck out to them, and if there are any ways you can adjust your holiday season to better reflect the meaning of Advent.
Podcast: We Wonder: Advent is a wonderful podcast for children of all ages that has two Christmas seasons available. The 2020 season has especially helpful descriptions of Advent as a season of waiting, using the imagery of being in darkness and waiting for the light of Christ.
It has been so meaningful for our family to adjust our Advent season, saying yes to only the most important things, and using our extra time to experience waiting with some of these resources. I hope that they bless your family as well!
For more Advent resources, see the Advent section of Family Faith Formation toolkit.