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Advent is celebrated on the four Sundays before Christmas. When I was a child I went to a Lutheran church and school.
Every year it was so exciting to go to church on the first Sunday in Advent and see the beautiful Advent wreath with the five candles. Each Sunday, a new candle would be lit and the excitement would build. The final Sunday came and all four candles were burning brightly. Then it would be Christmas Day and the fifth candle, white, would shine bright with all the others. The light from all the candles would leave a glow in my heart all day long.
When my children came along, I was going to a non-denominational church that didn’t have Advent wreathes and I missed them. Then a homeschooling friend of mine, who made beautiful pottery decorations, created a pottery Advent candle stand and I restarted this lovely tradition at home. Today many churches and families have again revisited this delightful custom and Advent wreathes can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. The last time I moved, I had to downsize tremendously, so I decided to just go with the candles for the time being. On my mantel are five fat candles, just waiting for grandkids to come and visit so that we can light the appropriate number for the week and sing songs of joy for our precious Savior’s birth.
Some fun ways to celebrate Advent include:
Make a chain for all the days of Advent. This year there are 26 days, however Advent started November 30, so you really only need 23. Each day, one chain is removed. This is also a great idea to help little ones learn about time passing and counting. In addition, it’s an easy way to divert them from the constant question, “When is it Christmas?” Just send them in to count the chains. In each chain, you could print a Bible verse about Christmas and a Christmas hymn. As you remove the chain, read the verse and sing the song. If your grandchildren don’t come over every day, you can either take them down daily on your own, or save them up to take a bunch down each time they come.
My favorite way to do this was to gather the family around the Christmas tree. Most of the lights would be off, except the tree lights and a small reading light. We would take turns lighting the candle(s) on the wreath. Each day a different child would pick a Christmas song to sing, we would read a Bible passage or Bible story about Christmas, and pray together.
Christmas Tree Ornaments
We would finish by picking one of the personalized Christmas tree ornaments each night. I would tell the reason we had that Christmas ornament and discuss a spiritual meaning to the ornament as well. Some Christmas ornaments are easy to do this with. I have one with Santa kneeling at the manger and we used that to talk about St. Nicholas. Angels are also quite easy. For less obvious ones, we looked first at who had given us the ornament. I got in the habit of dating each ornament I received as a gift and writing the giver’s name on it. Even in my 30’s my memory wasn’t so great and now that I am in my 50’s I’m really grateful I did that. We would use those Christmas ornaments as an opportunity to pray for the person who gave it to us.
Other Christmas tree ornaments are of animals or foods and we would talk about how God created all things. Even the fun ones can be tied into our precious God, from Whom “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from.” (James 1:17) It’s an excellent way to teach that concept to our grandchildren.
Set out the Nativity set or sets you have, and use them as part of your Advent celebrations. One idea I’ve heard was to set up the basic Nativity set in the main room. Put the various people (Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wisemen) in different parts of the house. Baby Jesus is put up out of sight. Each day (or each time your grandkids visit), move the people a bit closer to the stable. Everyone finally makes it to the stable on Christmas Day and Baby Jesus is laid in the manger.
I love to use Family Life’s nativity set, “What God Wants for Christmas.” It comes with the Nativity characters in little gift boxes. You open each one and talk about who the different people are. When it is all set up, the last box is a “gift from you to Jesus.” Inside is a mirror showing your face, meaning you are giving yourself. This is a great way to introduce the concept of surrendering yourself fully to God.
Another beautiful nativity set that is a bit more formal is the one with the Willow Tree figurines. One of my friends collects these and they are so sweet and peaceful. Since she wants these to last a long time, she also has a safe-for-children nativity set that she puts down low, while the Willow Tree nativity set goes up our of the reach of adorable little fingers.
Long Distance Advent Celebrations
If some or all of your grandchildren live far away, you can still have fun celebrating Advent with them. If their families don’t usually do this, you could give them a flavor of it. One idea would be to make two Advent chains. Mail one to them and keep one for yourself. Every day, or every few days, give them a call. Both of you can open the same chains while on the phone. Sing the song and read the verse together. You and your grandchildren will both enjoy the time spent together doing this and you will be adding to the heritage you are passing on to your grandchildren.
Another idea is for you to light the candles on your wreath and then call your grandchildren. Tell them the candle is lit, read them a story, and sing a song with them. They will enjoy this as will you. This might even be the start of a regular story time on the phone through the whole year.
If your grandchildren already celebrate Advent at home with their parents, you could call and ask them to tell you about their devotions that day. This would be an excellent way to reinforce what they’ve learned from their parents, as well as a good way of teaching them some critical thinking and public speaking skills.
Books for Advent
Whether your grandchildren are near or far, you can spend the year looking for Christmas books that celebrate the birth of our Savior. Day after Christmas sales, yard sales, thrift stores, and used book stores are all ways to stock up on Christmas books in a frugal way. During the Advent season, you could put them all in a basket to read each time you are together, or mail them to them, all together or send some every few days. For the long distance grandkids, you might even buy duplicates of some of them so you can read a book or two to them as they follow along while on the phone.
Over the years, I have bought a variety of Nativity-scene Advent Calendars and they are always a big hit. We put them up on the mantel and each time we get together we open another window (or five, depending on how long it’s been since the last visit). There are a wide variety of types to buy, including ones with stickers, little books, candy, etc.
One Advent calendar I really loved was at Teaching Mom but, sadly, that blog is no longer around. However Amazon has some lovely options. Just click here.
Have a Blessed Time This Advent
Enjoy this wonderful season in peace and joy with your beloved and precious grandchildren. Have a wonderful time creating special memories and building on a strong spiritual heritage to pass down to them.