Sunday, November 28, 2010

Preparing For His Coming: The Best Resources For Advent (All Free!)

In past years our family has struggled with how to celebrate the birth of Christ in a meaningful, sincere way.  For us, that has meant reevaluating many of the common elements of our own childhood traditions.  For a while, we even considered not celebrating the holiday at all, because of some of the pagan roots distantly associated.  There were a few years where we chose not to have a tree for this reason.

This year, however, we've purposed a way to redeem the tradition (tree and all) and allow it to bless our family, all while bringing glory to God.   Rather than getting our children excited about Santa coming during the weeks that precede Christmas day, (this article explains why we've decided to discard the tradition of Santa in our family), we will be focusing on His Coming by celebrating the season of advent, starting today!

How We Are Going To Do It:

Using a Jesse Tree, we will be having morning devotions each day till Christmas which will guide us from the first prophecies of His coming all the way through to His birth.  Read more about the spiritual significance of a Jesse Tree here.  Each day you hang a symbolic ornament which corresponds to that day's scripture/ story.  (This can be done once a week instead if your family has the time/ attention span!)

I was excitedly anticipating the re-release of Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotional book yesterday, in which all proceeds would be donated to Compassion International.  Her devotional includes full color print outs of each ornament symbol, and also has a daily activity for your family to reach out and give to others: such an important aspect of the true meaning of Christmas!  The best part of this wonderful resource is that Ann has decided to offer it for FREE!  

Here is the link where you can subscribe to her blog and receive the 80 page e-book immediately.  I am blessed just to be able to share this information with you, and I know you will be blessed to receive it.

For some more in depth discussions with our older son, (11 as of 12-11), we will be going through this free advent devotional in the evenings, as recommended by John Piper. 

We'll also be doing an "advent calendar" of sorts...similar in theory to many of those Christmas calendars you see everywhere, but with an added bonus:  Each day a verse/ part of the story of Jesus' birth is read, slowly adding more each day until the entire story is recited by Christmas Day.  This will be of particular benefit and enjoyment to younger children who will easily learn the story by repetition.  Noël Piper used to produce advent calendars like this with the accompanying story, broken down into daily readings.  Although it is no longer available for purchase, permission has been granted for the story to be freely distributed, and I am now in possession of it- thanks to this sweet missionary girl. Leave a comment if you'd be interested in receiving a copy, and I would be glad to pass it along!

Noël Piper's book: Treasuring God In Your Traditions, offers valuable insights on the importance of traditions in family, gives instruction on how to keep them Christ centered, and shares many great ideas her family has benefited from.  Last night I happened to stumble upon a FREE pdf file of the entire book (holla!)

Click here for the free online copy of Treasuring God In Our Traditions.

For those of you who homeschool or just want to incorporate additional spiritual nourishment (and some fun) during the season, you should definitely check out Sheri Graham's blog post which is full of links to unit studies, crafts, gift ideas, and more (all FREE).

Can I mention just one more free thing I'm looking forward to using?!  Kids 4 Truth offers some great stained glass style coloring pages which are each accompanied by a scripture verse.  If you scroll to the bottom of the coloring page list, you will find their 6 scene "Arrival" collection.  Wouldn't these just be beautiful painted or colored?!  You will have to select "scale to fit" in your printing option if you want the images to fit the paper.  See if you can resist printing out an extra for yourself..I dare you!

I hope to share with you how our advent calendar is going to look once I figure it out myself.  I really like the idea of the manger scene, so we'll see how it goes!  We have a few more days left till December, right?!

I'd love to hear your thoughts, feelings, or ideas for purposeful holiday celebration.  What does your family do to "keep it real"?