by Mandy Holton

Preparing for Advent

If you are like me, it seems Christmas time sneaks up every year! I mean, didn’t my kids just start school? And now Christmas is just 51 days away! That’s only seven weeks, people!! How does this happen? Well regardless, its fast approaching, and I want to be ready. Not just ready for the gift buying, the list making, the insane amount of sugar we will consume, or the crazy busyness of our schedule, but ready for something more. I want to be ready for something life impacting, not only for me, but also for my children.

When we had our first child I felt overwhelmed with conviction to teach her that Christmas was so much greater than the idea that she will receive all the things she asked for. I work hard to stay focused on what the real meaning of this season is all about.  I work even harder to keep our sweet girls focused on what the season is all about amidst the blast of catalogs we receive (IN THEIR NAMES!!), and the overloaded toy aisles at Target that seem to scream their names as we shop. Indeed, staying focused on Jesus and the real Gift that came in the form of a Baby to rescue us from the bondage of sin is difficult. However, I am determined I will NOT let the world or the commercialism win my children over through anticipation of new toys. I desire their hearts to be so overwhelmed with the greatest Gift, that the temptation of things will be easier to resist. I want to teach my children a different type of anticipation as they learn to dedicate this season to the One who gave meaning to Christmas.

This is Advent, a time filled with waiting and hope. It is the season for celebrating the coming of the Lord. It is a time to add focus and a sense of peace to what would otherwise be chaos. For our family, Advent means preparing for the arrival of Jesus and helping our children stay focused on the true reason for the season. We take 30 minutes each night, four to five weeks before Christmas, to center our hearts on the birth of our Savior and His presence in our lives today. It is a time of focus, reflection, and family worship.

Advent has taken a different form over the years in our home. When our girls were little, it was a simple Bible reading, craft, and a snack using a homemade advent calendar like this:


As they got older we invited friends to join us in a “Happy Birthday Jesus” celebration at our home. We made a nativity scene, an angel, and a star, listened to the story of the birth of Jesus, and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus with homemade cupcakes. ?

The past several years we’ve celebrated Advent in the form of a Jesse Tree. Each night we open a bag containing a new ornament and a passage of scripture that traces the lineage of Jesus chronologically from creation in Genesis to His birth in the New Testament. (Click here for Ashley Anthony’s detailed post about creating a Jesse Tree for your family!)

We also finish our Christmas festivities with family by singing Happy Birthday to Jesus and enjoying birthday cake for Jesus. The cake has layers of black, red, and green with white icing, and represents sin, the blood of Jesus, the cleansing of sin through salvation, and the growth we experience through our relationship with Jesus.

In order to be prepared for this special season, I must plan ahead. This means getting all the materials and supplies I need weeks in advance. This also means I try to get almost all of my Christmas shopping done early. Also, I strive to prepare my own heart and mind through prayer. It is so important to first focus myself in order to make this time meaningful for my girls. Finally, I have to be flexible. I realize that no matter how hard I try this is a busy time of year, and sometimes we may miss a night and have to make it up the next night. This is also why I start Advent before December 1. The reality of missing a night or two is inevitable, so I build in some extra days.

Whatever way you choose to celebrate Advent, know that you are about to embark on some of the sweetest days with your children and engage in precious conversations as you watch their hearts become enlightened and their eyes light up with excitement in anticipation of the coming of the birth of Jesus. This tradition will bless you in ways you have never imagined as you seek to make Him and only Him the focus of your home.

Watch this video and be challenged!

You might also consider some of these ideas to help you with Advent in your home:

  • Choose to give three gifts to your children, just like Jesus received three gifts.
  • Take your children caroling dressed as Mary, Joseph, or Baby Jesus.
  • Attend local church events emphasizing Jesus’ birth.
  • Donate toys to a local ministry.
  • Sponsor a child through organizations like Compassion International or Point of Impact.
  • Allow children to help you shop online to give things like clean water, goats, and vaccinations for children in foreign countries through organizations like World Vision.

Other helpful Advent resources:

Jotham’s Journey (children’s Advent book)

Tabitha’s Travels (children’s Advent book)

A Jesus Advent Celebration PDF

Truth In the Tinsel

Mandy Holton


*Please leave your comments below! How do you strive to point your family toward Jesus during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? 

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