VirginiaLynne is a mother of five. She writes about parenting, crafts, and games for children, family fun, and Christian ministry ideas.
What Is Advent?
Advent is anticipating the coming of God to earth in the form of a baby. These celebrations began in order to help people prepare for Christmas. They also were a teaching tool for priests to explain to people who did not have a Bible. This was a way for them to learn what the story of Christmas was all about.
A Simple Plan for Families
I did not grow up celebrating Advent, but when some of my mom's friends talked about celebrating this with their children, I wanted to try it with my preschoolers. Unfortunately, I couldn't find many Christian resources that were right for my young children, so I wrote my own. It was actually one of my first articles I posted online. For those of you who don’t have a tradition in your church but would like to try celebrating at home with your family, you might want to try my plan too.
1st Sunday Before Christmas: Hope
Mary’s Hope and Belief in God’s Promise
- Light 1 purple candle symbolizing Hope.
- Read aloud Luke 1: 26-38: This tells about the angel Gabriel going to tell Mary she would have a baby who would be the Son of God. Talk about how May had to have Hope that what the angel told her was true.
- Pray: Lord, help us to Hope in you like Mary.
- Activity: Sing a few of the familiar Christmas carols which tell the story of the baby in the manger like Silent Night, Away in a Manger, or Joy to the World.
2nd Sunday Before Christmas: Peace
Joseph had Peace about God’s Plan
- Light two purple candles - Hope and Peace
- Read aloud from Matthew 1:18-25: This is about Joseph learning about Mary’s having a baby and being told by the angel in a dream that this child is the son God. (Joseph had Peace God would take care of Mary and the baby.)
- Pray: Lord, help us to have Peace like Joseph that you will take care of our family.
- Activity: Read together a Christmas book about the nativity.
Family Nativity Play
3rd Sunday Before Christmas: Joy
Elizabeth, Mary, and John had Joy in the Baby Jesus coming
- Light two purple candles (Hope and Peace) and one rose candle to symbolize Joy.
- Read Luke 1:39-45: This about Mary visiting Elizabeth. Talk about how the baby John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came in (you could also read Mary’s hymn of praise in Luke 1:46-56 for older kids).
- Pray: Lord, help us remember to have Joy because you came. We know that you care for us and came as a baby to earth so you could save us and love us.
- Activity: Act out the story of the nativity using a manger scene or stuffed animals/dolls.
One of Our Favorite Books
4th Sunday Before Christmas: Love
God loved us and sent his son to die for our sins
- Light 3 purple candles and the 1 rose candle: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love
- Read Luke 1:57-80 (or some parts of this): This is about the birth of John the Baptist and his father Zacharias’s prophecy that John would prepare people to hear of God’s Love by helping them to repent and ask forgiveness from their sins.
- Pray: Lord helps us to repent and be sorry for our sins. Thank you that you love us. Thank you that you sent Jesus to die for us on the cross.
- Activity: Watch Christmas movie which tells the Christmas story, or sing along with a Christmas CD.
One of Our Favorite Songs
Jesus is Born!
- All Candles Lit: Usually, we wait until after our Christmas Eve service to light all of the four candles. Next, you should light the fifth candle in the middle, the white candle which represents the light of Christ.
- Read Luke 2:1-20: This tells about the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. You can also add Matthew 2: 1-12 if you want to talk about the visit of the wise men.
- Pray: Lord, we thank you for coming as the baby Jesus. We thank you that you came to the earth to be a light to us. We know you love us-us and we thank you for dying on the cross for our sins.
- Activity: Using a tape recording of the Bible story, or as one of the adults or older children reads aloud, act out the nativity scene. We enlist any visiting relatives, neighbours or even the family pets! Acting out the nativity together is a wonderful way to culminate the Christmas advent season and is one of our favorite family memories. Even if you aren’t able to do the other advent activities, you should try this one. Don’t forget to take a video of your production. It will be a wonderful family memory of advent for years to come!
My Favorite Advent Book
After I had celebrated using my own plan for a few years, I came across a very helpful book by Lisa Whelchel, The Adventure of Christmas. Her activities are geared towards young children and she has some fun recipes like "Cinnamon ornaments" that my kids liked making. I added many of her ideas to my own celebration. I especially appreciated the way she explains how activities and traditions we already practice have a spiritual meaning behind them.
Tips for Moms of Preschoolers
- Don't stress! Some years we have time for more activities than other years. I really recommend that you don't worry about how many days or activities you accomplish. Your children will remember that you did celebrate this season, and that is what is important.
- Miss a Sunday? We have too. You can just wait until next week and talk about two things, or maybe schedule for a different day.Sometimes we miss a Sunday and so we make it up on another day during the week. The most important thing to remember is that the purpose of Advent is celebration and worship and preparing our hearts. Every time we stop for even a moment during the season, we are inviting our children to know more clearly what Christmas is really all about.
- Remember the purpose! The most important thing to remember is that the purpose of Advent is celebration and worship and preparing our hearts. Every time we stop for even a moment during the season, we are inviting our children to know more clearly what Christmas is really all about.
Try a Candy Cane While Watching This
Favorite Christmas Books
Luckily, there are a lot of wonderful children's books that help to teach children the meaning behind some of our Christmas traditions. Even if you don't do any other activity, just reading one of these every night is a great way to focus your family on Jesus.
Some excellent ones are:
- Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
- The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Pat Matuxzak
- The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne
- The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
These are available used on Amazon for under $5. You can also find videos of these on YouTube. All of these tell a good story and are great for bedtime reading. I also love collecting and reading different children's books about the birth of Jesus. Here are some favorites:
- The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
- Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell
We also look at The Nativity Story video (with some adult editing of scenes which are scary for my kids) and the nativity portion of the Luke movie.
Mary Did You Know
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on September 14, 2012:
Cynthiaahdz- glad you liked the ideas. I find that celebrating Advent in some way each year helps me to slow down and think about Christmas as a celebration of Holy God coming to earth. My favorite personal Advent tradition is to read the Gospels and think abou the story from the perspective of someone who was there. One year I focused on Mary. Another year I thought about the shepherds. It is a favorite part of Christmas for me.
cynthiaahdz on September 14, 2012:
This is great!
I've been thinking about actually celebrating Advent with my children when I get older, but as I told this to my family, they did not like the idea as much. This gives some awesome ideas of what I can do with them, and simply have a great celebration!
Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on December 04, 2011:
I just found my advent wreath today! We are still decorating our tree and it was in the box. But we have been talking about advent and will catch up tomorrow!
~Christina from Northern Virginia on December 04, 2011:
Great suggestions. I'm late getting started with our advent activities this year, so I may incorporate some of your ideas. Thanks for the help!