Are you and your family observing Advent from now until Christmas? I grew up in a home where God and Jesus were very much a part of our lives, but Advent wasn’t something we participated in. We just weren’t aware of it. Some church denominations focus greatly on Advent and others don’t. Mine didn’t back then. However, as my daily life has been blessed by friendships from various denominational backgrounds, so has my walk with Jesus and one thing I’ve picked up from these friends is the observance of Advent.
The word “Advent” simply means “coming” or “arrival.” As we prepare for Christmas – in the house cleaning, decorating, cooking, shopping and gift wrapping, Advent observances help us prepare for the coming of CHRISTmas. Although Advent is observed in various ways, and on various days, the main point of Advent is the intentional daily setting of our hearts and minds on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to earth the first time as a baby born in a manger. We joyfully celebrate His birth each Christmas season. But Jesus didn’t stay a baby. He grew up to become a Man – a Man who gave His life for ours and paid the death penalty for the sins you and I commit. Death could not hold Him, and He became the Victor over sin and death: the Giver of new life He provided for us. At Christmas time, we celebrate the advent of Jesus’ coming to earth as a Man.
But that’s not all we should celebrate. These celebrations of Jesus’ gifts to us while on earth ought to cause us to anticipate His next advent as well, because soon, He will come again. Except this next time, He won’t come as a baby in a manger. He’ll come as a Judge and The Triumphant KING of all kings and LORD of all lords (Rev. 19:11 & 16)!
In many churches, Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In our household, the celebration of Advent often begins the Monday after Thanksgiving or on December 1st. From that point on, as our household’s “tone-setter,” I seek to offer something extra for the family to help them keep their focus on Jesus during the upcoming fun and festive days.
There are practically a gazillion Advent ideas out there in cyber space and in book stores. In fact, if you follow my Pinterest boards, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Advent ideas. Many Advent ideas you may find have nothing to do specifically with Jesus – they focus only on counting down the days until Christmas. For a true Jesus-Advent celebration, we can take those cute Advent wreaths, boxes, or banners, and fill them with things that point to the coming of Jesus – not just the coming of Santa.
What can we put in these little Advent boxes, envelopes, drawers, or pockets?
Some people put candy in each one. Or money. Or a fun activity for the day. (This site has some good ideas for that.)
But in order to use Advent as a focus toward Jesus, we also include either a scripture verse/passage as part of the Christmas story (For Scripture verse ideas, see this wonderful list below, provided by the36thavenue.com.)
Or tuck in a Name of Jesus inside of those Advent pockets, boxes, or envelopes.
Our family has used the Names of Jesus in various ways at Christmas. I’ll usually choose 25 favorite names, or let the family contribute to choosing the 25. Then each name and reference is written on a small strip of paper. I’ll tuck it in whatever calender we are using, and if there’s room, I’ll include a little candy or something.
Or: How about putting a letter of the alphabet in each pocket/drawer? Whatever letter is drawn out for that day, have everyone list things they know and love about God and Jesus that begin with that letter... or a Scripture verse with a key word begining with that letter… or list things begining with that letter for which they are thankful. Just a thought I’m kickin’ around… 😉
As James 1:5 promises, if we lack wisdom, we can ask God, and He will give it to us! So ask Him what He would like for you to put in your advent envelopes and boxes this year. He will show you. It’s a promise! 🙂
Advent Ornaments with the Names of Jesus on Them
Several years ago I made a set of ornaments with the names of Jesus on them. We used them in the mantle greenery – but then I saw an idea of using them as an Advent activity. We placed the ornaments in a beautiful bowl and each day we drew out one ornament, read about that Name from Scripture, then hung it on the lighted mantle greenery. It was a special way to begin each day as a family.
Use glass or plastic Christmas ball ornaments and gold/silver/white paint pens. Write a name of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit on each ornament and let it dry. Decorate as much or little as you desire. String pretty ribbon through the top and you’ll have your own set of Advent ornaments to use year after year. 🙂
The Jesse Tree
A Jesse Tree is either a banner, poster, or a regular tree decorated with symbols that retell the story of mankind and the redemptive hope we have in Jesus Christ. Its name comes from Isaiah 11:1: “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (HCSB)
By reading the specific scriptures and adding a specific ornament to the tree each day of Advent, the Jesse Tree is a way to connect the Advent season with the faithfulness of God to His people – thousands of years ago, as well as today.
The ornaments don’t need to be elaborate. They can be drawn or copied onto a sheet of paper, colored, cut out, and placed on the tree. If you have children in your home, this would be a great activity for them. The Jesse Tree is primarily a teaching tool, so don’t worry about being so formal with it. Most people draw a tree on a poster board, hang it on a door or the refrigerator, and attach the paper ornaments with glue or tape. I usually use a tiny table-sized Christmas tree that fits on a plant stand as our Jesse Tree.
Ann Voskamp, of the blog “A Holy Experience” and the book One Thousand Gifts, and The Broken Way has a beautiful Advent devotional book called The Greatest Gift, with printable (or purchasable) Advent ornaments. She also offers a wonderful and beautiful – both in word and art – Jesse Tree devotional e-book. It’s called “A Jesus Advent Celebration.” You can get the FREE PDF version here. It contains beautifully drawn ornaments that are ready to cut and use.
You know, from now until the new year, the days will become more hectic as they tick by. So it will be imperative for us to be intentional on keeping our focus set on Jesus each day. If we don’t, we’ll look back on this season and realize that we missed the most important Thing. Let’s decide today to do whatever it takes to not just Keep Jesus Christ in Christmas, but to Keep Jesus Christ AS Christmas this year. More ideas for keeping our hearts and homes stayed on Jesus during these days can be found in my e-book, Keeping Christ AS Christmas.
Blessings of the Lord upon each of you, my friends, as we begin to look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ – celebrating Him as a baby, and awaiting His return as KING! Advent is here~
E-book by Jennifer: Keeping Christ AS Christmas: Preparing hearts, households, and homes for PEACE this Christmas season. Click here for more details, and “like”the Keeping Christ AS Christmas facebook page to share YOUR ideas on keeping Jesus as the Center of the Christmas season.
PS: Don’t want to miss another Smelling Coffee blog post? Just enter your address below.
(Be sure to check your inbox for a note from me and to verify your email address.) No spam, I promise… Only encouraging words of Faith, Family, Food, Fun, and Living Life brewed in the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place. 🙂