It didn’t take me long to realize that the wait is better. December 26th would hit, and so would the let-down. I had waited all year for that one day, expecting it to be the best day ever! and it would already be over. I had another 365 days to wait for the next best day ever!
I couldn’t keep expecting joy only on that one day each year. I needed more of it. Something had to change.
That’s when I realized that living in anticipation of that day could be wonderful. It is the difference between experiencing Christmas day and experiencing the Christmas season. It is small little joy-filled experiences as we anticipate everything we’ve been waiting for: Santa Claus parades; decorating a Christmas tree; watching neighbourhoods light up with twinkling Christmas lights; quietly sipping tea in front of the lit tree, wrapped in a blanket; Christmas carols; holiday baking; opening a little cardboard door every day; choosing the perfect gift for someone you love…
Advent is the choice to look and see the small, beautiful lights amidst the dark night while we wait for the morning to come.Advent is the choice to look and see the small, beautiful lights amidst the dark night while we wait for the morning to come. Click To Tweet
For some, Advent is a set period of time on a church calendar. For others, it is a box covered in numbers and filled with chocolate. Advent can be religious or spiritual or not at all. For me, it is one of those times when the truth of God becomes more palpable.
In the foreword to Kris Camealy’s Advent reader, Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, Kimberlee Conway Ireton writes this:
The saints of the Celtic tradition of Christianity often spoke of “thin places” of the year. It is a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ. We remember and celebrate His incarnation, the thinnest of all places ever–Very God in human flesh! And we look forward and celebrate His promised return, when the veil between earth and heaven will be forever parted and we will see the Kingdom of Heaven in all its fullness. Indeed, we will dwell there.
This is what Advent is–this two-fold gaze forward and back, celebrating and anticipating our Lord’s coming…
When I read that a year ago, I felt like the idea of a “thin place” finally put how I felt about Advent into words. It is where the burdens of life are invited to become a little less and the truth of heaven has room to become a little bit more. Through it, in anticipation for Christmas or Jesus’ birth or Santa coming, or however we choose to perceive Christmas, we purposefully enter into an experience that we often try to unsuccessfully avoid at other times of the year: a time of darkness, a time of uncertainty, a time of waiting.
Having recently gone through a period of uncertainty and darkness, I remember how it was the little things that kept me going as I waited for the big thing to be resolved. Like small twinkling Christmas lights we pass as we drive through dark streets, small little answered prayers and bits of honest love where what rekindled my hope. That is Advent. That is waiting in expectant hope. That is how we allow these thin places to teach us how heaven can permeate days beyond this season.
I have come to understand that more than taking my children to see Santa or picking out the perfect presents, my job as a mother is to help my children experience the beauty of the season leading up to Christmas. For our family, it isn’t about the one day, it is about the whole season. And maybe, this will give them just a small dose of understanding for those dark times when they will need to find the strength to wait in expectant hope.
The Best Advent Resources for Your Family
Each year I reconsider how we can best enter into Advent as a family. We always have our Advent calendars. The kids get the chocolate ones, and I have a tea one. But I crave something more than that. And each year, I have to balance my desire to do it all with the call to let more go and focus on what matters during this season. As we draw close to December 1st and the first Sunday of Advent, perhaps these resources can help you and your family enter into the expectant hope of this season.
Advent Resources for the Whole Family
Truth in the Tinsel
This has been our favourite family Advent resource for the last handful of years. For the first 24 days of December, there is a daily Bible reading that helps the whole family enter into the birth of Jesus, a kid-friendly reflection, and an ornament craft that will let your kids enter into what really matters in a hands-on, interactive way. For younger kids, (or families who need to save time) there is an option to get printable ornaments that can be coloured instead of crafted. We have a small Christmas tree for all the kids’ ornament crafts, and my boys loved filling it up with their Truth in the Tinsel crafts!
Purchase the e-book and printable ornaments (and more fun stuff). (affiliate link)
The Wonder of the Greatest Gift
This year, after realizing I currently can’t commit to doing daily crafts with my kids, we’re going to be doing this gorgeous advent calendar/Jesse tree/family advent reader together. The Wonder of the Greatest Gift was created by Ann Voskamp and when you get it in your hands, it will absolutely make your jaw drop. Open it and watch the tree stand up. From December 1st to 25th, read from the small little love-storybook that tells of Christ’s family tree, and discover how you are part of it too. Then, open up the Advent Calendar window and find a biblical ornament to decorate the pop-up tree with. This isn’t just beautifully designed, it is well constructed too, meant to be a family tradition that will last years.
Purchase The Wonder of the Greatest Gift. (affiliate link)
The Jesus Storybook Bible Reading Plan
If your family has any children’s Bible, let it be this one. The Jesus Storybook Bible is beautiful to look at and beautiful to read. Honestly, whether you choose to use this for Advent or not, you will want this book on your bookshelf and in your kids’ hands. After this Bible was published, people began to realize that there are exactly 24 stories leading up to the birth of Jesus. It worked perfectly for Advent! So, the author and team who created the bible created a free printable Advent calendar with printable cards (that can be turned into ornaments) to make this experience a little more hands-on and interactive.
Purchase The Jesus Storybook Bible (affiliate link)
Make & Play Nativity
While this option isn’t a direct Advent experience, I cannot help but think it could very easily be turned into one. I found this Make & Play Nativity “book” in our local drugstore for only a few dollars and was immediately drawn to it. The illustrations are super cute, the people in the nativity scene are diverse (Mary and Joseph are brown and there is a shepherd woman to add to the scene). As I researched the Nosy Crow publisher, I discovered this is a small publishing house that prioritizes using sustainable resources.
While there are only 20 punch-out figures in this set, there are some songs and craft activities at the back of the book. I am considering creating an Advent calendar or paper chain that will lead the family to set up one figure each day for 20 days and add one craft a week.
Purchase the Make & Play Nativity book by Nosy Crow and Joey Chou (affiliate link)
One really beautiful part of this season is that it is about giving more than receiving. That’s why my sister created the annual Give Joy Challenge. There are four weeks of challenges and each family is encouraged to decide which challenges work best for them. Each week have a different theme allowing your family to spread joy to friends, family, community, and service providers.
If you choose to participate, use the hashtag #givejoy2017 to connect with others doing the same thing.
Advent Resources for You
While I know there are lots of wonderful Advent material for adults, here are the ones I love and can personally recommend.
The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp
This is a great Advent reader to read through alone as your family is working through The Wonder of the Greatest Gift (see above). However, both are really beautiful alone too. The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas is a new take on the Jesse tree idea for adults. And, since it is written by Ann Voskamp, you know it is going to help you step away from the busyness of the season and sink into the real reason. As a bonus, when you purchase the book, you get an access code to download corresponding printable ornaments that go along with each of the 25 readings.
If you want an Advent option to do with a group, this is a great choice, as there is also an option to get four corresponding videos for a weekly group discussion.
Purchase The Greatest Gift Advent reader. (affiliate link)
Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy
This Advent reader probably provided one of the best Advent experiences ever for me. Learn to see what God is doing when you’re waiting for Him to do something. This is an ideal book for anyone going through something difficult, however, it is incredibly beneficial for all of us who live through the highs and lows of life. I cannot recommend this reader enough. It is beautiful and heart-grabbing.
Purchase Come, Lord Jesus Advent Reader. (affiliate link)
She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth Advent 2017: Joy to the World
She Reads Truth is my favourite way to enter into God’s word on a daily basis. It is easy, accessible, beautiful, and (mostly) free. It is an online community committed to helping women open their Bibles. Their upcoming reading plan, starting on Monday is called Joy to the World. You can access it daily by checking out shereadstruth.com. Subscribe if you would like it in your inbox. There is also a beautiful app where you can access the reading plan, but while the app is free, the reading plan will cost a couple of bucks to access this way.
What’s lovely about this plan is that there will also be a He Reads Truth version of this plan! Visit hereadstruth.com to check it out. The readings each day will be the same, but the reflections are likely to be written for the different audiences.