An unhurried approach to the season for families.
A family advent study from Caring, part one of four.
Historically, advent is entirely about anticipation, excitement and readying oneself for the coming of Jesus. Yet, during what has become the busiest and increasingly commercialized season of holidays, it doesn’t seem to matter that Christmas itself begins before Thanksgiving: we are a culture and people obsessed with all things jingle bells, but not exactly all things Jesus.
So, what are we getting wrong?
The reality is—we live, breathe and raise our families in a day and age that screams: hurry up! So, how do we counter the call to rush through the season so as to make time, space and room for Jesus the King to come?
Join me on a journey to discover how to take an unhurried approach to advent through taking—at least—an intentional 15 minutes every week with your family to check in with one another, read Scripture that relates to the advent theme and engage in listening prayer based on a prayer list you create with your family.
So before you go dashing through the snow, settle in for this four-week journey through advent with your loved ones.
Tips for an unhurried advent:
1. Choose a time a place to celebrate advent that works for everyone in your family
(I know, I know—impossible.) Juggling work and school schedules, holiday parties, cookie baking, knocking out that Christmas list and volunteering to Do Good, is a lot to juggle. But! Take the time to plan out the next four weeks so that, like everything else you manage to prioritize, observing advent as a family becomes a must-do. Set a recurring calendar event or customize an alarm on your phone. Get your stickers and markers out and let your kids get in on the planning action by making an advent calendar all their own.
2. Let it go, mama (or dad!)
Fight the urge to control exactly how your time observing advent takes shape each week. If you’ve got a big family (we have four kids under the age of 13!), chaos may frequent your doorstep more than you’d like. Being organized and prepared to lead your family in your weekly advent observance is one thing, but working to control the experience may mean you and your little one(s) miss out on the beauty of these unhurried moments together. If your time together includes glitter and glue (good grief, Charlie Brown), stuttered Scripture reading from your seven-year-old or all the sass from your preteen… let it go. Don’t lose your joy. Press through.
3. Kids don’t need religion, they need Jesus
Don’t assume your toddler doesn’t get it. Don’t assume your teenager doesn’t, either. I was amazed when, during dinner, my four-year-old shared about a dream where God met her on wooden clouds in the sky and they sat and had a “nice chat.” She carried on with such detail as I sat dumbfounded that my unassuming little girl had a personal and vivid encounter with our living God. Don’t dumb down the Gospel—it’s called Good News for a reason. Given the cultural climate of Jesus’ day, the Great Story of his coming to earth as Messiah is one of political and religious offenses, supernatural wonder and tremendous risk. This is a powerful story that packs a punch…you can handle it and your kids can, too.
Note: In this observance model, family celebrations occur weekly. Should you choose to celebrate daily, you might focus on the weekly theme/Scripture while varying your daily activities. Advent Calendars (whether homemade or store-bought) are fun ways to hold a daily observance—but be sure to pair the iconic Santa Clause chocolate hiding behind a numbered paper door with prayer, Scripture reading, dinner-time discussion questions or other activity centered around the weekly themes provided below.
Each family celebration begins with a base of 15 intentional minutes as a family. That’s nothing, right? That said, consider adding a craft or other family activity that ties in with the weekly theme. Don’t limit yourself, see how you can intentionally stretch this time together. Remember, an unhurried approach to advent requires time, planning and follow through!
Week 1: Jesus is Hope (December 1-7)
Here’s your countdown:
5. Take five
Spend five minutes checking in with everyone. Ask simple questions like: How are you feeling today? What are you looking forward to this week? What is something you’re hoping for this season? What does it feel like to want something and finally get it? Encourage everyone to share. Adapt the questions based on the age of your children, as necessary.
4. Read Scripture
Spend four minutes reading what Scripture says about the hope we find in Jesus. Talk about it.
- Hebrews 10:23-24 (ESV)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
- Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
- Philippians 1:6
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
- Romans 15:13 (ESV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
3. Do Good
Spend three minutes creating a list of ways to love God and love others this week. Then make a plan to do it! How can you share hope with someone in need this week?
2. Make a list (check it twice)
Spend two minutes in prayer. Who can you pray for that needs to know Jesus as their hope? Pray for anyone who comes to mind. No fancy words required.
1. Listen up
Spend a minute listening* for Jesus’ response to your prayer. What did he say? Who or what did he bring to mind? Who can you encourage this week by letting them know they’ve been prayed for?
*This is the perfect way to practice listening prayer with your little ones. If they want to draw a picture that comes to mind as they listen, let them. God can speak through visions and pictures, too!
Sign up for the Do Good Digest, our weekly newsletter, and stay tuned next week for part two.
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