Celebrating Advent with Your Children
What is Advent?
Advent is anticipating the coming of God to earth in the form of a baby. Advent celebrations began in order to help people prepare for Christmas. They also were a teaching tool for priests to explain to people who did not have a Bible they could read what the story of Christmas was all about.
A Simple Advent Plan for Families
I did not grow up celebrating Advent, but when some of my mom friends talked about celebrating this with their children, I wanted to try it with my preschoolers. Unfortunately, I couldn't find many resources that were right for my young children, so I wrote my own. It was actually one of my first articles I posted online. For those of you who don’t have a tradition in your church but would like to try celebrating Advent at home with your family, you might want to try my plan too.
1st Sunday before Christmas: Hope
Mary’s Hope and Belief in God’s Promise
- Light 1 purple candle symbolizing Hope
- Read aloud Luke 1: 26-38 which tells about the angel Gabriel going to tell Mary she would have a baby who would be the Son of God. Talk about how May had to have Hope that what the angel told her was true.
- Pray: Lord, help us to Hope in you like Mary.
- Activity: Sing a few of the familiar Christmas carols which tell the story of the baby in the manger like Silent Night, Away in a Manger, or Joy to the World.
Celebrate Advent as a Family
2nd Sunday before Christmas: Peace
Joseph had Peace about God’s Plan
- Light two purple candles - Hope and Peace
- Read aloud from Matthew 1:18-25 about Joseph learning about Mary’s having a baby and being told by the angel in a dream that this child is the son God. (Joseph had Peace God would take care of Mary and the baby)
- Pray: Lord, help us to have Peace like Joseph that you will take care of our family.
- Activity: Read together a Christmas book about the nativity.
Family Nativity Play
3rd Sunday before Christmas: Joy
Elizabeth, Mary, and John had Joy in the Baby Jesus coming
- Light two purple candles (Hope and Peace) and one rose candle to symbolize Joy.
- Read Luke 1:39-45 about Mary visiting Elizabeth. Talk about how the baby John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came in (you could also read Mary’s hymn of praise in Luke 1:46-56 for older kids).
- Pray: Lord, help us remember to have Joy because you came. We know that you care for us and came as a baby to earth so you could save us and love us.
- Activity: Act out the story of the nativity using a manger scene or stuffed animals/dolls.
Legend of the Candy Cane
4th Sunday before Christmas: Love
God loved us and sent his son to die for our sins
- Light 3 purple candles and the 1 rose candle: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love
- Read Luke 1:57-80 (or some parts of this) about the birth of John the Baptist and his father Zacharias’s prophecy that John would prepare people to hear of God’s Love by helping them to repent and ask forgiveness from their sins.
- Pray: Lord helps us to repent and be sorry for our sins. Thank you that you love us. Thank you that you sent Jesus to die for us on the cross.
- Activity: Watch Christmas movie which tells the Christmas story, or sing along with a Christmas CD.
When Love was Born
Jesus is Born!
- All Candles Lit: Usually, we wait until after our Christmas Eve service to light all of the four candles. Next, you should light the fifth candle in the middle, the white candle which represents the light of Christ.
- Read Luke 2:1-20 which tells about the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. You can also add Matthew 2: 1-12 if you want to talk about the visit of the wise men.
- Pray: Lord, we thank you for coming as the baby Jesus. We thank you that you came to the earth to be a light to us. We know you love us-us and we thank you for dying on the cross for our sins.
- Activity: Using a tape recording of the Bible story, or as one of the adults or older children reads aloud, act out the nativity scene. We enlist any visiting relatives, neighbours or even the family pets! Acting out the nativity together is a wonderful way to culminate the Christmas advent season and is one of our favorite family memories. Even if you aren’t able to do the other advent activities, you should try this one. Don’t forget to take a video of your production. It will be a wonderful family memory of advent for years to come!
Best Celebrating Advent Resource
After I had celebrated Advent using my own plan for a few years, I came across a very helpful book by Lisa Whelchel, The Adventure of Christmas. Her activities are geared towards young children and she has some fun recipes like "Cinnamon ornaments" that my kids liked making. I added many of her ideas to my own Advent celebration. I especially appreciated the way she explains how activities and traditions we already practice have a spiritual meaning behind them.
My Favorite Advent Book
Preschoolers and Advent
Some years we have time for more activities than other years. I try not to stress out about what we do or don’t do. Sometimes we miss a Sunday of advent and so we make it up on another day during the week. The most important thing to remember is that advent is celebration, and advent is worship. Every time we stop for even a moment during the season, we are inviting our children to know more clearly what Christmas is really all about.
How Candy Canes are Made
Luckily, there are a lot of wonderful children's books that help to teach children the meaning behind some of our Christmas traditions. Even if you don't do any other activity, just reading one of these every night is a great way to focus your family on Jesus at Christmas.
Some excellent ones are: Legend of the Candy Cane, The Legend of the Christmas Tree, and The Legend of the Christmas Stocking. All of these tell a good story and are great for bedtime reading. I also love collecting and reading different children's books about the birth of Jesus. We also look at The Nativity Story video (with some adult editing of scenes which are scary for my kids) and the nativity portion of the Luke movie.
However, I also made up my own plan for celebrating advent when we had small children. Little children don’t need anything complicated, and when you have small children you don’t usually have time to prepare anything lengthy. So I made this as simple as possible. We would light the candles and do the reading, discussion, prayer and activity on Saturday or Sunday. During the week, I try to fit in a couple of the other activities in the What Christmas is all About book.
Mary Did You Know
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