The season of Advent is frequently eclipsed by the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping squeezed between recitals, sports, and everything else. It’s easy to lose sight of the season amidst the other stresses and commitments, and adding one more thing feels impossible. Thankfully, there are plenty of smaller ways to incorporate Advent into family life without adding a lot of extra pressure.
If you have five candles at home of any shape or size, but don’t have an Advent wreath, a great craft for Sunday school the first Sunday in Advent, or any time that weekend, is to draw a circle on white paper and then invite everyone in the family to help decorate the circle. You can use any medium, as the goal is to create space for everyone who wants to participate. You can pick specific colors like green, blue, or red, or let your participants use any color. When they are done decorating the circle, the candles can be placed on top of the paper for a homemade wreath. Each night before or after dinner or before bedtime, light one candle for each week of Advent.
Lighting the candles can be the way to mark the space as special for your family. A small moment to pause, maybe to say a prayer or to name something you are thankful for. It could also be a reminder to talk about the “roses and thorns” or ups and downs of the day with each other. A great addition to lighting the candles is the Families Celebrate Advent & Christmas resource, which includes a card for each day from the First Sunday of Advent through Epiphany. Each card contains rituals, prayers, or reflections to share as a family. Lighting a candle and then drawing a card as a family gives a small moment of pause in the midst of your busy day without adding so much that it becomes just another holiday stressor.
Midweek Zoom Dinners with another family from church or with your extended family are another great option. These can be lowkey (perhaps leftovers, picking something up on the way home, or making something simple) since folks will be joining from home. Dinner conversation can be what comes up naturally, or you can start by having someone read a kids’ book and/or Bible verse that everyone can then talk about during the meal. There are a lot of great books that reflect Advent themes. God’s Holy Darkness shares the gift of darkness as the nights grow longer, remembering that God’s work in creation first happened in the dark. Adriana’s Angels reflects on long journeys of refugees like that of the Holy Family going to Bethlehem and then Egypt. Mother God opens up conversations for the many ways that we encounter God from a caring mother, like Mary, to the God who shows up with us, Emmanuel. Sarah Rising echoes the prophets’ calls for justice in community. Tofu Takes Time helps us sit in this time where God’s reign is not yet here, where everything is not quite ready.
There are also calendars (https://adventword.org/en/home/) with daily prompts to draw, write, or take pictures. These prompts are usually good to talk about with kids. Children frequently have great insights into what words might mean or what they might have to do with God, and everyone might get the chance to learn a little.
No matter how you settle into Advent this year, may these ideas give you permission to resist the busy-ness and take a moment or two to stop and breathe together as a family.