For our nightly Advent devotional last year, I used The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper. I really enjoyed it, but my kids, well, not so much. The vocabulary Piper used to elaborate and stress certain topics was perfect for my husband and I to understand, but as I read it out loud to my children, then aged 8 and 13, many times the words and concepts went over their sweet, but easily distracted heads.

I found myself having to interchange and interpret difficult concepts for easier explanations, so they could comprehend what I was reading. This made it a tad cumbersome, even though Piper penned each devotional reading to be relatively short, and for an adult attention span and comprehension. Saying “Now, what that means…” for almost every reading turned our devotional time into full blown lectures and lessons. Not fun for the kids.

This Time Around
This advent season, I have learned from last year’s mistake and have ordered 2 books: Good News for Great Joy by John Piper and The First Days of Jesus by Andreas J. Kostenberger. We read Kostenberger’s book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, for Lent this year, and my kids absolutely loved it. They could not get enough of it and actually wanted to keep reading ahead. I created a reading schedule, so our final day of reading landed on Resurrection Sunday, which helped my children understand, with somber and heightened anticipation, Christ’s death and resurrection. I highly recommend it.

Advent was completely overlooked at the first couple of churches  our family were members of. I knew nothing of this season where there is reflection of the 25 days leading up to the birth of Christ. Yes, I know it’s common knowledge Jesus was not actually born on December 25th, but throughout church history, for whatever reason, this is the month and date that orthodox Christianity has set aside to honor and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

The first time I sat in a church setting with Advent-related activities, I was confused. When that first candle was lit, I felt a bit embarrassed that I had no earthly idea what any of it meant. It provoked me to go home after the service and look up the word “advent” and do  research. I learned Advent simply meant “coming” in Latin.

Deep Reflection
I was immediately hooked after discovering Advent was another reason to honor and celebrate the coming of Christ. As Christians, I know we should live our lives daily with a sense of anticipation for Christ’s second coming, as well as deeply reflect on the reason for Christ’s first coming.

Jesus voluntarily left the right hand of the Father and stepped down into a sinful world to redeem and make new a sinful people to call his own. This is an unfathomable gift we should let permeate every cell in our sinful natured bodies. Also knowing Christ will come back a second time, we should live in such a way that reflects our anticipation of that reality. Truly, these are great reasons to set aside some time to purposely meditate on both comings of Jesus, past and future.

Family Tradition
As parents, we should also use advent as a teaching tool to help our children grow an anticipatory spirit in their own hearts and minds. We would fail them if we made them think Christmas was all about what we can buy them without ever making a real effort to teach them the real gift of Christ’s coming.

This should not be a half-hearted after thought, but instead, should be done with more vigor and intentionality than we do our Christmas shopping or activities. That means we might have to scale back on our external festivities, so we can fit in a consistent, quiet, and meditative time to help our family refocus.

In my research, I also learned different denominations had their own spin for Advent. Unsure how to start our own version, my family initially copied a toned down version of what others were doing. On our first attempt, we gathered around our dining room table every Sunday evening, and did the weekly candle lighting ceremony and read a short devotional from an Advent book. As nice as it was, it seemed contrived, not to mention the act of lighting the candle gave my boy a reason to become mesmerized with fire. He attempted to light more things.

Last year, we dropped the candles, and just read a book. We all liked it better, even if the book was a tad mature for the children. The simple act of reading a book felt a bit more organic to our family. Since I’ve made it a habit to read to my kids nightly, it just felt more “us.” Reading books to my children for Advent and Lent are new traditions my family has embraced.

As usual, this slacker mom bought our Advent books too late, so we are still waiting for them to arrive. I am really excited to see how the kiddos will react to the books. If Kostenberger’s Advent book is anything like his Lent book, we are definitely in for a treat.

What Advent traditions does your family have?

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