To many of us, it’s so much more than a day.
And it’s more than the collective joke among our nation that “Christmas arrives earlier every year!” just because a department store decorated or black Friday sales are earlier than ever.
Yes, I do enjoy the American holiday traditions that still run deep this time of year. While it can be exhausting and ridden with consumerism, I can’t help but pause every so often in December and appreciate our society’s shared attempt at peace, tradition and meaning - but usually, it just results in dollar upon dollar being thrown at an ever-moving target.
The “more” I’m referring to is a season of expectation.
In my home, we celebrate Advent.
While it might sound too church-y or traditional, it’s actually a concept you can celebrate every day of December leading up to Christmas in your own home. Advent derives from the Latin word that simply means “coming.”
While there are liturgical (traditional) ways of practicing Advent, in our family we are less concerned about doing Advent “properly” and instead focused on simply finding ways to daily acknowledge Advent’s core truth…that Jesus is coming, and that changes everything.
These are the three essentials that help us do that: a daily reading plan, a homemade Advent log and a personalized Advent calendar. You can start with just one of the items described below and add/customize more with each passing year.
1) Daily Readings and Making a Jesse Tree
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
We do have a few Christmas-y, Santa-ish books at my house that I have picked up second-hand. They’re fun. But if you’re going to spend real dollars on any book that has to do with Christmas, buy this one (or enter the GoMomGo giveaway below!).
Here’s how Voskamp introduces her book:
“If you open these pages every day of December…and read each story of Jesus’ family tree, and you hang the ornaments from each story on a little tree of your own, you’ll have a Jesse Tree – a picture of Jesus’ own family tree! And you’ll begin the unwrapping of the greatest Gift, the most astonishing Gift that your heart really wants the most! God doesn’t cut off all the big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families and brokenhearted from His family tree – He makes families just like these perfectly His! He adopts all the messy and broken and imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart, and He gives us His family name. He gives us His absolute perfectness and makes us alive and fully free.”
Voskamp will then guide you through Advent each day, helping us further understand the perfect gift of Jesus. It is appropriate and scalable for every family member. She provides basic instructions on how to build your Jesse Tree (different than your Christmas tree) and includes a special password to the (free) Jesse Tree ornaments that your family can print out and decorate before hanging on the tree each day. Visit Ann Voskamp’s website here
2) Make an Advent Log
I grew up on an island surrounded by the waters of the Puget Sound, so we chose a piece of driftwood for our log. Drill a couple holes to fit seven tapered candles (pick up great candles at Trader Joe’s or World Market – and don’t worry about colors, pick what you like).
This is how we use it: In our home, we do Voskamp’s daily Advent reading. Then, on four of those days we light candles right before we start our reading time. Traditionally it is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, but just do whatever four nights work for your family.
The first night, we light the two outer candles, the next time we light all four outer candles, and so on. By the time you get to Christmas Eve (the day you light the center candle), you have naturally created a beautiful triangular arc with one bright candle gleaming in the middle.
I love our lit Advent log – it invites us to pause and share a rare silence as we anticipate in awe, together, how a lit candle can do so much. On her website Voskamp describes it as:
“The house fills with the scent of more and the light dances up the wall and I’m lit: It’s impossible for all the darkness in the world to smother out the light of a single candle in the hand.You can’t snuff out hope, you can’t smother out hope, you can’t stamp out hope —
because He is Coming.”
You can also sing a Christmas song during this time. Whatever you like. Remember to light your candles before the reading so they get to burn and make their shape during the 10-15 minutes it takes to have your Advent time together. We close with prayers and then blow out the candles.
3) Create a Daily Advent Calendar
For the last couple of years, we made our own daily Advent calendar, which includes Voskamp’s daily family activity, and also any local events/activities we plan to enjoy together that year. We wrote out a daily activity on separate 5x7 cards, then hole-punched them and strung a ribbon through. It hung near our mantle.
While, it has worked great, this year our oldest child is helping me make a keepsake we can display and re-use every year. And it’s SO simple. Check out the tutorial here.
I do encourage you to use her suggestion of sticky notes and to take a photo of your completed Advent calendar each year for memories. This is why: I scribble notes in the margins of each day’s sticky note about what that day was like for us that particular year…things my kids said, discovered...then I will take the sticky notes and transfer them all to our family Memory Journal later.
Here’s a link to my family’s 2014 Advent Calendar if you’re interested.
GoMomGo has partnered with William K. Jensen literary agency and Tyndale Publishers to give away TWO copies of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift!
Enter to win:
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Christy Rice is a mom to two great boys. They love to explore all that Lane County has to offer. Christy is a superstar at researching & finding awesome picks & deals for GoMomGo!