Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent: Preparing for Christmas

      Are you familiar with the Advent Season? It usually starts shortly after Thanksgiving and beginning last year, we have started an Advent tradition. I was looking for something meaningful for us to do as a family, and with the busyness of the Christmas season, we can easily forget to do the more important stuff - spend some time as a family with the goal of preparing our hearts for the coming of baby Jesus.
      I honestly wasn't too familiar with Advent so I read up on it first. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and although we started a couple of days late last year, I am still glad that we did so anyway. We didn't have a rigorous or strict schedule, but we tried to carve out some time almost every night to read our Advent devotionals and some Christmas stories. You can make your own traditions if you like, like what we did - we had what we called a Prayer Jar, and will share about that in another post.
     Here are books that I purchased online to read through during Advent. We are reading them again this year (especially since we didn't finish them last year :P). If you are interested in creating your own traditions and are looking for books to read with your family, you might also like these ;)

                                                         

         The Christmas ADVENTure: Advent Devotions and Activities for Celebrating a Christ-centered Season

      What I love about this book is that it has different parts in each reading which it divides into Head, Heart and Hands. It starts with a scripture and then thoughts to ponder (Head), a prayer (Heart), and then a practical application (Hands). It suggests different activities for you to do - with no pressure of course, for you to do them. Just choose what you would like to do (I personally couldn't do all but the suggestions were pretty good and creative, and would also give the kids something to get busy with). We got the idea of having a Prayer Jar from this book - from the idea of the "Joy Jar" - where you write the things you are thankful for every day in a piece of paper and place it in the jar to be read on Christmas Day :)
       

                                                                 
           Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families (English and English Edition)        

       Another favorite book of ours for Advent is this. It has shorter readings and are divided into Think, Pray and Act. This one is good if you have small kids like ours. The readings are simple and the activities suggested are also easy and targets the heart. An example would be that as we get ready for the coming of Jesus, kids can help mom around the house and clean or pick up toys in the room. It also suggests practicing patience, using a soft voice, or obeying when asked to do something. At least when you are out of ideas, you can just take a cue from this book! :)

      Of course there is also the Advent wreath, an activity you can also do as a family. We made our own Advent wreath with candles - but it's not your usual kind. Ours was made of recycled arts and crafts materials, and they're kid friendly! I didn't want to light up any candles because I had two little kids who can easily topple them and cause a fire. Here is what our Advent wreath looked like.

We reused Natalie's birthday party decor last year (the safari leaves), and put them together to create a wreath. 
Our candles were made of colored paper with make believe paper flames (child friendly!). These four candles are supposed to represent Peace, Hope, Love and Joy - and instead of lighting the candles, we would place them into the paper cups. The jar in the middle is our Prayer Jar and we slipped in cutout letters that spell out Jesus to represent him as the center of it all.

Underneath these labeled cups we wrote our names - since there's 4 of us in the family, we assigned one each. We asked Audrey and Natalie to choose for us and it was quite a funny discussion too. They said I needed Joy the most (because I am usually stressed haha!) and daddy needs to give more Love to mommy (because again, I am stressed hahaha!). Hope goes to Audrey because she hopes we will all have a great Christmas and Peace to Natalie so she won't fight with Audrey :D With just trying to assign these cups to each family member alone, we were able to discover what we all needed the most. We also tried to reassign these 4 virtues amongst ourselves on other nights 
so we can all get a dose of each one. And you can imagine how interesting our next rounds of discussions were :)

      Today is the beginning of Advent. We actually already started reading through our books again during Thanksgiving (this time we're early!), and will do so till after Christmas (the Advent calendar extends till then). It is something that I am looking forward to each night, together with reading Christmas stories to the girls. And even if we will most likely miss some nights due to the busy season, this tradition is a good reminder of the most important reason for Christmas - the coming of Jesus.
     

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