Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent on the Road - our favorite holiday tradition

One of our favorite holiday traditions is Advent.

"What is Advent?"

Advent means coming.  It is a time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas which, sorry to say, is not Santa, presents, or spritz cookies.  (my husband loves spritz cookies during the Christmas season)

Christmas is about the birth of Christ.  For about a month before December 25th, people all over the world celebrate Advent with many different traditions.  Do a search on the word Advent and you will get tons of information on it.  

I want to share how our family celebrates Advent and I want to invite you to join us.
(for my daughter's article on this subject go to our website)

Most people start celebrating Advent four Sundays before Christmas.  Many churches do a special ceremony on Sunday to help people focus what it was like before the messiah came.  It is a time of reflection and preparation for each individual as we remember the amazing gift sent to earth for us.  Some years we start it on time, other years we are very late.  This year we had family coming to visit so we decided to start about two weeks early.  That way, if we miss nights we can still finish Christmas Eve or Day.

Our family starts the night with Christmas carols.  We usually only sing the first verse of the songs and sing them over and over again so the young children can learn them faster.  The little ones tend to get discouraged if they don't know any of the songs or only a few.  So, night after night we sing a few of the exact same songs and then add a few others to it.  As the children get older we add more songs and a few verses.  We even sing the songs through out the year so the younger children can learn them by Advent.

After the songs, our oldest son read the scripture verse that goes with that particular night.  Focus on the Family has a great schedule for this.  

We found a great booklet on their website this year.  It is called Knowing Him By Name.  It is a great addition to our Advent tradition.  We just downloaded it and printed it up.  It has activities included along with the scripture reading from the New Testament.  We don't do all the activities, only the ones we have time for.

At this point we try to remember to light the candles.  If we light them too early they burn out way before Christmas.  One year our Advent Log even started on fire!  So, they only burn for part of the evening's festivities.

Daddy then gets the Advent book and reads a chapter.  This year we are reading Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent .  It is a story about a boy that deceives his family and ends up on a terrible and exciting adventure that eventually ends well even though there is drama, blood, a few scary parts, and swords - the end is amazing and wonderful.

This book is part of a series that we cycle through.  Each year we read one in the set.  There are links below where you can purchase the books and other resources we use.

While Daddy reads, the kids get one Christmas cookie, usually Spritz, to enjoy during the wild and suspenseful chapter of the night.  Check out our website for the recipe.

Kids of all ages, which we have, sit on the edge of their seats to hear what is going to happen each night.  

After the chapter is done, we try to remember to blow out the candles and then we pass around the prayer card bucket.  We have cards with the names of friends and loved ones to pray for.  When we have a house, we put in the Christmas cards we received and prayed for those people.  My grandma always said she sent her card in November so she could get lots of prayer.  This year we put pictures on the index cards along with the name of the person.  Then I laminated them to help them last.  Our kids love seeing the names and faces of who they are praying for.  We don't get many Christmas cards since we went on the road.  I guess we are hard to track down!

This prayer time is so special.  We pick around three cards each.  We do a talk/prayer time.  What I mean is that we talk to the kids about the person they chose to pray for.  We tell them their needs and problems that they might pray for them.  This helps the kids learn more about our loved ones as well as how to pray effectively for each other.  My five year old is quite a prayer warrior.  She has been praying for each of us this Advent season.  We like to say, "She reads our mail."  She will pray for us in such a sweet pure way and also isn't embarrassed to mention our sins and shortcomings.  She prayed the other night for Daddy to not be so crazy - he does drive pretty wild on his ATV!

One of my other children is more shy during prayer time.  We do not scold or correct during this time.  Any prayer offered is acceptable as long as it is said with love and respect.  No matter how short and sweet the prayer is, it is perfect.

Lastly, we take turns who gets to blow out the candles.  It is either boys or girls.  If it is boys night, one son gets to light them and the others get to blow them out.  Same thing on girls night.

Advent is our favorite holiday tradition all year.  We all look forward to and can hardly wait to start and are sad when it ends.

Please join us this year and every year and make your holiday season more special and memorable for the entire family.

Even though Advent started last week, jump in and start now.  Just double up a few nights and you will be caught up, or go a week over and take your time.  One year we didn't finish until the end of January because we had so many good distractions!

There are no set rules - just make it your own.

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