I will never forget when my daughter dropped a bomb on us. It was Advent, last year. As our kids get a little older, it seems that we're able to do more things revolving around the season of anticipation and waiting. Last year, we walked through The Village Church's Advent Guide, which had a family discussion and activity section (a link to the 2015 version is below). Our family gathered in the living room, the fire roaring (on gas logs), and the Christmas tree glowing (after a large battle), with the first candle of Advent lit. Our youngest slept, can I get a Halle-lu-yur?!? Our two oldest kids sat in wonderment as we talked about waiting. We walked through some of the Old Testament stories of waiting. It is one of those things that you wish you could snapshot in time. Like Inside Out's orbs of core memories, I wish this one could be sealed in time. Our kids were getting it. The three-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl gave applications from their life, things that they had waited for in their lives--A loose tooth. Jesus coming back. Waiting on our youngest to be born.
Then, we jumped into these old saints that waited for Jesus, placing their hope in Him. We jumped to Anna and Simeon, who had waited for Jesus and then were able to see and hold Him. Then, we needed something to make it real to them. Usher in the practical application - we told our kids that we would do an Advent surprise with them within the next week. A million questions erupted. We told them that they wouldn't know when or what, but that there would be an amazing surprise. Anticipation overload. Our oldest got upset, wanting to know exactly what it was. Our middle kiddo just started running around the room with arms flailing. Now, this may not have been the best thing to do if we wanted our kids to be lulled to sleep - Bedtime that night was tough, but the scene was set for anticipation. After the days of waiting, our oldest said, "Dad, waiting for this was hard. I wanted to know when it was going to happen! I wanted to know what the details were going to be. I can't imagine what it was like to wait for Jesus all that time!" There, in her bed, we had a glorious conversation about our hope in Jesus. I can't wait for what the Spirit of God will do in our hearts this Advent season.
Waiting is hard. The source of our hope brings perseverance in the waiting.
This past Sunday, we started Advent as a church. Our family has been walloped by the post-Thanksgiving plague. Both Becky and I were scheduled to serve at church, so we tag teamed. I went early for parking duty in the rain. She came, but kept the kids quarantined. When I was finished with parking, I took the kids back home while she continued to serve and love on some kiddos. Though I didn't hear the Advent Sermon, though I didn't get to experience the liturgy, the full force of anticipation and longing came flowing like a river. I went to tell my wife goodbye. I went to get a hot cup of coffee. In the short walk from the nursery to the coffee station, I heard a harrowing call, a divine ache put into song. Our Sojourn Music team slayed my favorite Advent Song - O Come, O Come Emmanuel! I came home with the kids and we started searching youtube for the live performances of the song. It's got to have that haunting, longing.
O come thou King of Nations bring
An end to all our suffering
Bid every pain and sorrow cease
And reign now as our Prince of Peace
Here is the main thing, our Advent Calendar broke last year, so we're scouring Pinterest (Okay, Becky is) to see what we can make with our kiddos. She opted to spend a few dollars on some supplies to make a calendar with the kids as opposed to $40.00 on a new calendar. I purchased a new print this year; one of Mary consoling Eve! I'll post it later so that you can see it. I sat around a computer with three sick kids talking about Emmanuel from Isaiah 9. Hopefully, you're seeing the main thing - it isn't about doing things perfectly. Advent isn't about having the best and brightest. You don't have to break the bank, make it Disney-esque with bling and glitter. You don't need to feel the pressure to tell stories like Lewis, carol like Buble, or be a holiday hostess like Martha Stewart. Advent, especially with the family, is about intentionally tuning out the noise of the Christmas season. It is about carving out space in our hearts so that we can experience the rejoicing of the first coming of Jesus and the longing anticipation of the second coming of our King. Here are some resources that we're using:
Precept's Advent Study for Kiddos - I have the privilege of working with some amazing people, one of which is inductive Bible study author Janna Arndt. She put together this great resource for parents to walk through with their kiddos. We're using it this year with our oldest. Though it is a free resource, you'll need to have an account with Precept in order to view it. If you don't have one, CLICK HERE. Then, go to the top right of the page, click the icon guy, and click Create Account. It's short. As a result, you'll have access to thousands of free resources, live events, and tools to make disciples.
Paul David Tripp's Advent Devotional - If you haven't read any of Tripp's work yet, you're in for a grace-saturated treat. Paul is a pastor of pastors. He has a priestly voice that shepherds you with grace. He takes a portion of Scripture, expounds on it with precision, and depends on the Spirit of God to bring it to heart level application. Enjoy it!
The Village - Find the Advent Sermons, Guide, and even a Playlist. There is even a Pinterest board where you can get some ideas for the activities with the kiddos.
Church At the Cross Daily Readings - This is the church that is going through a two year reading of the text that coincides with the church calendar. Check out the explanation and the beautiful print out that you can use in your Bible.
Desiring God's Good News of Great Joy - If you haven't seen Piper's stuff on the InnKepper yet, you need to get it first. Then, check out this great resource.
Rain for Roots Advent Album - Our kids have been loving these cds. It helps that we know one of the artists and their kiddos. There are several songs on this album that are just brilliant!
Why Sojourn Chattanooga Celebrates Advent - Our Pastor wrote this up last year. Perhaps you're not convinced that Advent is for you yet. If so, check this one out.
Question: What is your Advent plan this year? Are there any additions that you're trying out, if so please share!