Over the years of having children, we have used the same old wooden window frame to display our homemade family advent calendar. What started out as a piece of junk sitting outside of a friend’s garage, has become a discipleship tool in our home as we share, year after year, the coming of the Christ-child, the prophecy fulfilled. Something discarded and abandoned has become something set apart. Curiously, I wonder, whose house did this window frame once belong, who lived there and what was their story? And did they ever know that their old window pane would one day become a family heirloom that would, year after year, become something almost sacred as it housed the story of a baby’s birth from creation to His visitation? What wonder!
Back in the days when we lived in our first and only purchased home, on a half acre lot with chickens and a garden that was overwhelmingly large for what we could manage, I had painted this frame snow white and hung soft red ribbon. With folded pockets made of fancy Christmas paper and a library stamp for the dates, I enjoyed creating our own family advent tradition. And when its not an Advent calendar, that dear old wooden frame holds pages of our favorite hymns. Through the years I have used different family devotions for the readings and this year I’m doing something a little bit different.
A year ago, I was trying to find a set of readings that would connect more easily with our kids. When I saw that Sally Lloyd Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible had a set of printable cards and matching stories and reading set up for an Advent devotional of sorts, I thought this would fit us so well. Our children have heard these stories since our eldest was a year old, its been used in all their Sunday school classes and we still read it to them to this day. Doing Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible would be such a familiar way to continue to reach the hearts of our children with the gospel story through the advent season (there’s a series of readings for Lent too!)
One of the reasons why we love to do Advent readings as a family is because it is an intentional time of discipleship for our kids. Its a unique season of the year and the kids can’t wait for the frame to be transformed. Taking turns, the children pull out a reading to share with the family. And if I’m super organized (which I’m not always), I may have an activity in the pocket for each day to do as well (making a gingerbread house, christmas play doh, watching a Christmas movie, reading a Christmas book, drinking hot cocoa, driving around to see Christmas lights, etc). Its Dec 1, the first day of our readings and I don’t have activities on the board… yet. Real life in the midst of great ideals! I may or may not get to that list this year, and its okay.
The daily reading through the gospel story is an intentional way of focusing our children’s eyes on the gospel, that their Creator loved them so much that He set in motion a rescue plan for their own souls. This is one way parents can be intentional this season in creating their own family traditions that mean so much to them and their children as they grow up. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it won’t be. Most years, we have missed many of the readings, sometimes opening up 2 or 3 of them at once or skipping ahead to the day we are on. The point is not to be perfect at it, but to be intentional.
Today I set up the Advent calendar with my littlest excitedly bouncing around me wanting me to take a picture of the gingerbread house. As he settled down for his nap, I sat down with my Kindergartner to read library books by our hobbit-sized Christmas tree, filled with special ornaments we carry through the years, many now broken so its a little more sparse and enjoying the cozy Christmas quiet while the older two were finishing up at school. Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
My encouragement is to find your own Advent tradition for your family that will become a special heirloom and memory for your children through the years. If you are not the creative type, there are many on Etsy and other markets that you can easily purchase. Your kids will not remember the days that you missed some readings, and they will not remember that it wasn’t perfect. They will just know that it was theirs and they learned about Jesus, and family, and tradition, and love. And by God’s grace, they will take that same message with them into their families when they are older. From generation to generation, let the mighty acts of God be proclaimed!
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Christmas books are being pulled out of the library book basket daily while Mama recovers from a cold…
Our real live hobbit-sized Christmas tree is up, and just perfect for this Tolkien-loving family. Decorated with our favorite decorations… the ones that haven’t broken yet, plus the homemade ones which I cherish!
One of my favorite ornaments each year is this little guy…
And a nativity scene that is just perfect for my littlest hobbit…
Blessed Advent to you!