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Adventing with Kids

Advent is upon us, but what is it really, and how do we do it with kids? The word advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which is from the Greek word parousiaParousia is the word used to describe the second coming of Christ. Actually, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century abbot, spoke of three types of the coming of Christ that we are celebrating and anticipating: at his birth, in our hearts, and at his second coming.

Whatever angle we look at advent from, we see it as a time of waiting and anticipation. And while kids are not great at waiting (let’s be honest, I’m not either), they are fantastic at helping us grow in our excitement and anticipation. So for those of us who are lucky enough to be in proximity to kids in our daily lives, advent can be a wonderful but challenging time. That being said, here are just a few thoughts I have on adventing with kids:

  1. Don’t make it about the stuff. It’s easy even for the “grown-ups” amongst us to get carried away with the potential for fun stuff during advent. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been tempted to purchase the $60+ Lego advent calendar because come on, how cool is that?! But when it becomes about this kind of stuff, we get sucked in to something that is no longer advent at all. Help your kids navigate this amazing time in the life of a Christ-follower through the difficult allure of materialism and consumerism. It’s tough. Be honest about that, and talk it through.
  2. Slow down. I get it, December has a frenetic energy and pace to it that can hardly be matched. But there can only possibly be so many Christmas bazaars, pageants, cantatas, carol sings, parades, markets, and parties before even the oldest of kids (or adults) start to melt down. Part of the advent season is learning about the pace of waiting. It is about learning to stare at the advent candle and enjoy the flickering dance of the flame. It is about gazing in on the nativity scene and wondering how scratchy it must have been to sleep in hay. Don’t get me wrong, I know that kids will only do this for a brief period of time, but at least attempt to engage them in it. Give them the opportunity to breathe, to cuddle in warm blankets, to spend an afternoon of craft-making, or cookie baking, and just slow down.
  3. Refocus. It’s about Jesus, it’s about Jesus, it’s about Jesus. Sometimes we get our thoughts muddled up by what the season is supposed to be, but advent constantly brings us back to Jesus. We are waiting for his second coming, we are waiting to celebrate his first coming, we are waiting for Jesus. This waiting brings with it impatience and anticipation. It contains excitement and exasperation. Embrace it all while you reset your focus on Jesus. Kids will often offer “Jesus” as the classic Sunday school answer for what Christmas is all about; help them to understand that answer just a little more this year. Advent helps us turn our hearts to Jesus in anticipation in a fresh way.
  4. Get excited! Kids do this much better than grown-ups. Let them lead. Encourage their excitement with your excitement. Help them to see that your excitement is about Christ. Help them to learn the excitement of what it means to be a Christ-follower. Get excited. Have parties. Show your kids that following Jesus is exciting.

However you Advent, whether it is reading through a family devotional book together (may I recommend Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift), or lighting your own family Advent candles on a wreath, or whatever it may look like, consider these things while you teach your child about the true focus of this season.

How does your family Advent? Leave a comment below!

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