Family Advent

One of the things I love about Christmas is celebrating advent with my family. There is something about the lights, the time off the kids have from school, and their wonderment that makes remembering what God did for us in sending Jesus to this world to live among us and bring us salvation such a special time. As a family we spend time weekly leading up to Christmas remembering different parts of the Christmas story. I thought I would share the format we are using this year in this blog post. I know it is late in the season and Christmas is almost here, but take a couple of the ideas and see if they work with your family. Merry Christmas and enjoy celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Day 1: Angel’s Announcement to Mary and Joseph

Read: Luke 1:26-38 (Mary); Matthew 1:25 (Joseph)
Question to Ponder: What do you think it was like to get a message from an angel? What does it mean that the angel told them about Jesus ahead of time?

Activity: Take a moment and write down one thing the Lord has told you or taught you this past year. Then share that thought with the family.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for working through ordinary people like Mary and Joseph and for their faith and trust in you. May we respond to the things you are trying to teach us in our lives in the same way they did to the message of Jesus’ birth. Thank you for all you did to tell us ahead of time that Jesus was coming in your word. Amen.

Day 2: Shepherd’s encounter with the Angels and Jesus

Read: Luke 2:8-20
Question: Why do you think the shepherds were so excited? What do you think it looked like to glorify and praise God?

Activity: Write a thank you letter to Jesus for all he has done for you. Be sure to thank him for who he is and share why you are excited to celebrate his birthday. Place the cards under the tree so we can read them out loud on Christmas morning.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for coming down to this earth as a human just like we are and for showing us how to live. We are excited to celebrate your birthday with you this month and look forward to the day we can celebrate with you forever in heaven. Amen.

Day 3: Wisemen Bring Gifts

Read: Matthew 2:1-18
Question to Ponder: What did each of the gifts the wisemen brought signify? Where they worth a lot?

Activity: Make an ornament to hang on the tree as a gift to Jesus. Write one thing you want to give him this year from your life. It could be sharing with others or anything you want.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of life that you have given us by coming to this earth, dying for us, and being resurrected from the dead so we can have that new life. Help us to be wise in our own lives like the wisemen were in how they responded to Herod. We give you our lives as you gave yours for us. Amen.

Day 4: Jesus’ Birthday

Read: Luke 2-1-20 & John 1:1-14
Question to Ponder: Why is Jesus’ birthday so important?

Activity: Tell the Christmas story using the nativity set as props. Each person takes turns reading a piece of the story and placing the nativity pieces in place. Then sing happy birthday to Jesus and each person takes turns reading their thank you notes to Jesus out loud. Close by singing “silent night” together & prayer.

Advent Day 8: Giving to Others

Read: Matthew 25:31-46

How aware are you of the needs of those around you? On any given day it could be the more obvious needs that we usually try to ignore like the guy on the street with a sign asking for food or money. Or the woman pushing a shopping cart with all her possessions in it. But there are also the more subtle ones that are easy for us to miss not because we are trying to ignore them, but rather because we are too busy doing our own thing to actually notice. The woman who is struggling with two kids and grocery bags trying to get to her car. The person sitting in the corner of a coffee shop quietly sobbing over news he just got on his cell phone. The person who has come by your office several times bothering you with simple questions that don’t make sense who really wants to talk about some issues in his life but doesn’t know how to break the ice to start the conversation.

There are people all around us who need our care. As Jesus said in Matthew there are people who are thirsty and need a cup of water, hungry and need food, or cold and need clothing. He tells us that when we take care of these needs that people have and give to others it is as if we are doing it to him. How do we get to the place where we see others as Jesus does? Or even see Jesus in others so we pay attention and respond to them as we would to him? There is such a tendency to be so busy doing good things that we don’t even see the most important things in this world. I want to have the eyes of Christ this Christmas and beyond to see the needs around me and respond to them as he would if he were me. If the God of the universe could give our world the gift of his presence as a baby and ultimately his death as a man, the least I can do as an act of gratitude and worship to him is to serve those he came to die for.

Lord, help me to see others with your eyes. Make me aware of the needs around me and give me the means to respond to those needs. Amen.

Advent Day 5: The Light of the World

Read: Matthew 4:12-17, Isaiah 9:1-3, Matthew 5:14-16

In my advent reflection this morning I read about Jesus being the light of the world who came into a world of darkness to show us the way. It is interesting to think about the fact that the bible uses light as a symbol of who Christ is and was when he came to this earth. Light illuminates the things around it and makes it easier to move about and function in a dark space. Light keeps us from hurting ourselves or from grabbing the wrong thing when we can only base our decision on what we feel. Light allows us to see things for what they really are instead of guessing at what we think something is and hoping we are right.

Light is a perfect example of who Jesus is. He came to bring us the truth and embodied that truth in his life here on the earth. He lived the life that God always intended for us to live, not because God loves rules or wants to spoil our fun. As the author and designer of life, he knows how he created us and what he intended for us that we would experience joy in living. Because we thought we knew best and wanted to do our own thing we went in the direction of darkness and are merely settling for a cheap substitute for joy so we are constantly trying to manufacture it instead of experiencing it through living the way God intended. He sent Jesus to show us the way to live and to understand how thinks were designed to work in this world. Through the life of Christ and his lighting the way for us we are able to see things for what they really are, move around in this world with intention and purpose and no longer have only our feelings on which we base decisions. Living the way God intended, in the light, is the source of purpose and joy because we are living as our creator intended.

I pray that this Christmas I would continue to do everything I can to live in the light instead of hiding in the darkness. The more I am who I am in every situation in life and don’t try to play a role or look good for others, the more I am relaxed and can live in the moment and enjoy the life I have been given. The more I live for other’s perceptions the more I stumble around and am captive to those perceptions. I want my life to shine as a light as Jesus’ life was a light to this world.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus to this earth to show me how to live. Help me to walk in the light that you have shown me and live my life in the fullness you desire for me. Amen.