I can’t believe it – the holidays are upon us. I feel as if I JUST wrote that statement for 2014! We are all aware that holidays often equal busy. That’s not earth shattering news to you. But, after being at Revive 2015 last week and focusing on stillness, I know that this year (more than EVER), I must guard my time or the “to-dos” will suck my joy.
I learned so much from the speakers and missionaries at Revive in Honduras as we discussed our Creator as our ONLY. As we learned of kairos moments – those “supreme” moments during our everyday lives in which we see Him at work or feel particularly loved (read Don’t Carpe Diem for more on kairos). We were also reminded that He wants to finish the good work that He began in us. It was so rich!
And so, I began researching and praying about Advent. This year I want to be intentional with my Savior, my time, and my kiddos. I don’t want the holidays to fly by in a flurry of shopping and gift wrap. I want to savor the moments and “be” more than I “do.” As Ann Voskamp says, “I want a Christmas that whispers Jesus.”
If you’ve followed my blog for very long – or if you know me – you will know I lack discipline in the “do something everyday” area. I am a dreamer and a starter. I am rarely a finisher. And so I know one thing: If I make my Advent “to do” complicated and grand, then I’ll drop it by December 10th. That’s the sad truth. Often I don’t finish because my dreams outrun my time. Or, I simply don’t spend enough time gazing at Jesus, so the observation of Advent or Lent or whatever becomes more pressure less wonder.
So, I ask God: What this year? I consider lots of options and create a Pinterest board, my go-to way of organizing my options. I read a post by Tsh Oxenreider because she’s the Queen of Simple and I am the Queen of Complicated. I repent of my lack of discipline while also asking God for help in choosing how I can best commune with Him this season.
Ultimately, I land on Make Room for me and Born is the King for my family. (You can read more about that below.)
But, friend, there are many, many options. And because what is best for me may not be best for you, I am sharing my “research” in hopes that you’ll find just the “thing” that speaks to you. A book or a plan or a calendar. There’s something for every length of time and every budget – including FREE. I pray whatever settles in your heart as a restful YES to gazing toward the manger and a soft NO toward frantically spending and running becomes part of your December.
Please know…I don’t intend for this list to overwhelm. I want to say “yes” to each one….they all sound so good! I simply intend for this to give options. And if you have other options I can add to my Pinterest board for safe keeping, I’d LOVE to hear them.
What is Advent?
Advent is defined as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event; the first season of the Christian church year leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays. So the season of Advent looks toward the arrival of Jesus – both his birth and return. This year Advent begins on Sunday, November 29. If you’d like to know more, this article by Tsh Oxenreider is both helpful and informative: 6 Ways to Keep Advent Simple and Special.
Advent for the Youngest
Truth in the Tinsel by Amanda White (of ohAmanda) – Each day Truth in the Tinsel will lead you through a passage of Scripture, a corresponding ornament craft, and talking points for you and your kids. If you don’t have time for the craft, Amanda offers downloadable, printable ornaments for $3.99. Truth in Tinsel also can be downloaded in Spanish and German for those of you serving in Spanish and German speaking countries who want to share Advent with others.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp – My kiddos and I used this book last year. We created a Jesse Tree using a small, 4-foot prelit tree (below) from a discount store, a red bow, and the free printable ornaments (available here with the purchase of the book). Each day we read the original scripture as well as the story/scripture in the book and discussed it. We couldn’t always do the “suggested activities,” but we often adapted them to fit our time and season of life. For one day, I purchased the kids new blankets /throws. It was inexpensive, but we still remember those blankets as “advent blankets.” Technically, this book is for 5-12 year olds, but my 12 and 15-year-old learned much and loved the illustrations. By the end, we could connect Adam and Messiah, standing in awe of the Bible as one story with one central theme: Jesus.
Advent for YOU
Make Room from Naptime Diaries – This is the Advent guide I plan to use this year. It contains the writing of dozens of women, and I like multiple perspectives. It also contains photography, which I love. However, my heart chose this one because of the focus: Make Room. My schedule has margin now, but I don’t need JUST margin, I need more room FOR HIM. The authors divided the study into five sections: retreat, expect, accept, embrace, and celebrate. Aren’t those beautiful ideas? They’re also so unlike me. I never retreat or expect. So, I am excited to see what God has for me.
I also love that Naptime Diaries is partnering with Illustrated Faith for tips on how to creatively explore Advent. I have ZERO artistic ability, but I admire the Bible art journalers and hope to learn something from their process.
The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp – I read this book intermittently last year. It corresponds to Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, which I was reading with my kiddos. Often I could give them further insight because of my reading in this book.
From the book’s description: Ann reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus — the greatest gift — through the majestic advent tradition of “The Jesse Tree,” each day featuring its own exquisite ornament highlighting the Biblical story.
Beginning with Jesse, the father of David, The Greatest Gift retraces the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day’s profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn’t blurred past you but your heart’s fully unwrapped the greatest gift you’ve always yearned for.
Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope by Louie Giglio – I’ve not read this book, but I listen to Louie each week via podcast, and he’s become one of my favorite teachers. From the book’s description: Waiting Here for You helps us anticipate rather than dread the busy season of Advent and Christmas. Life is full of waiting – we can’t escape it. We find ourselves in the middle of it every day – waiting on a prognosis to be given…a verdict to be reached…a promotion to be announced. And in these seasons of waiting anxiety, desperation and hopelessness creep in.
Waiting Here For You takes us through the advent – the season of waiting. In it we see the story of the coming of Jesus. It teaches us that waiting is the means God often uses to carry his plans in our lives. And it brings us back to the truth that our waiting is never wasted when we are waiting on God.
IF: Equip Study of Advent from the IF:Gathering – I have never participated in an IF:Gathering study, but many of the women of faith whom I admire greatly have and love them. Best of all, they’re free. You simply sign up here, and each day the scripture, devotional, a short video, and activity will be delivered to your inbox. Very convenient!
I streamed last year’s IF:Gathering, and I can tell you that those who lead this ministry will share their hearts authentically while teaching God’s word fully.
Advent for You, Your Husband, Your Family/Older Children
Born is the King from She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth– I know my kiddos probably aren’t ready to give up their Jesse tree just yet, and we may revisit some of those lessons from last year, but this year I have a 13-year-old and an almost 16-year-old, so we are going to dive into Born is the King together. Hannah and I will use She Reads Truth, and Owen will use He Reads Truth. This might be a bit “mature” for them, so I plan to discuss the reading daily. NOTE: We aren’t purchasing the $40 guide. I purchased Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him last year, and the contents was no different than the app on my phone, which costs $1.99. You can also participate online for FREE. Simply sign up when the plan becomes available, and SRT/HRT will sent the scripture and daily devo to your inbox each morning.
From She Reads Truth: Jesus Christ, the King who saves us, was born—made small, humbled, and lowly. Birth didn’t make Him our King. He already was! Our already-King became homeless so He could become our home. This scripture-rich Advent plan is presented in two parts:
In Part I (weeks 1-3), we will learn together how Jesus is the true Hero of the Old Testament—the true & better Adam, the true & better Joseph, the true & better manna, and so much more. Every story points to the birth of our King!
In Part II (week 4), we will read the Christmas narrative, viewing each part of the story through the lens of God’s Story—the redemption of His people through Jesus Christ, the Promised One, Immanuel, Messiah, King.
[This is] a journey whose one and only focus is Jesus Christ, our King. Sally-Lloyd Jones puts it perfectly: “It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby… He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.” Our prayer for you this Advent season is exactly that—through God’s grace, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of His Word—you would see the whole, beautiful picture of the gospel.
And this is my prayer for my kiddos…to see the whole, beautiful picture of the gospel.
Advent Activities, Decorations, and More
If you don’t see yourself as the read and study Advent girl, consider taking a picture each day of Advent. Each day you can take and/or post a photo inspired by the word of the day….like star, peace, angel, and joy. There’s even a hashtag for following others: #AdventPhoto
You might also make a chain, focus on the lighting of candles, create a countdown, or serve others…
I also have a few more ideas pinned on my Pinterest Advent board if you’d like to check it out!
I hope you’ll share with me how you plan to observe Advent this year! Many prayers for a restful, Jesus-awaiting, God-gazing holiday season!