“Mom, when will we get out our Advent Box?” my son asked the other day. This is a tradition we have had since he was a baby and one he looks forward to each year.
Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions from when you were a child? Perhaps it is going together as a family to pick out the perfect tree. Maybe it’s the cookies you baked together with your mom. Traditions are important to us. They give us an anchor and bind us together with our family. Traditions make us feel connected and give us a sense of belonging.
In the Bible, traditions were important to God’s people. God instructed them to celebrate certain feasts and festivals each year. These events were to be used to reflect and remind God’s people of all God had done for them. Parents were instructed to use these festivals to teach their children about God and what He had done for His people.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance…And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Exodus 12: 14, 26-27
Christmas is an opportune time for Christian parents to “teach Jesus” to their children. Teaching them about what Jesus has done is not simply about reading to them the Christmas story, though it is certainly not less than that. It’s an opportunity to show our children how all of Scripture tells us about Jesus, how as The Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, “every story whispers his name.”
There are many different activities and ways to do this. Some families use an Advent wreath (and we have one of those) and some make a Jesse Tree (another great idea). Our favorite Christmas tradition is our “Advent Box.” When I was a child, I remember having an Advent calendar where each day I tore open the door and inside was a piece of chocolate. There is something fun about opening a little door each day to find a hidden surprise.
For our children, we have a wooden Advent Box with twenty-five doors. Inside each door I place an object that relates to what I want my children to learn during the Christmas season. I also place objects that signify an activity we might be doing that day. Since there are so many activities that we do during the holidays (putting up a tree, wrapping presents, baking cookies, sending cards, visiting a live nativity, etc.), I want to use these activities to point my children to Jesus. I also want to use the Advent season to read through the story of redemption with my children. And for each object that they pull out, I have a corresponding Bible passage that we read.
Here are a few examples:
1. I like to start out the first few days focusing on the promised Savior. Day one might have a small apple that will represent the Fall of mankind and the Savior promised in Genesis 3:15. We will read the passage and discuss it. The next day might have a little scroll behind the door. That day we read the prophecies in Isaiah about Jesus’ birth. We talk about how all of the Old Testament points to the promised Savior.
2. I also include objects that tell the story surrounding Jesus’ birth. Examples include: The angel telling Mary about Jesus, Mary’s Song, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the shepherd’s visiting the manger, etc. (Objects I use might include a small angel ornament, a small sheep, a donkey, etc.)
3. In addition, I like to include passages that speak of why Jesus was born, about His second coming and the great wedding feast. I like to include a small cross and read passages about Jesus’ death. We also enjoy reading books like “The Princes Poison Cup” by R.C. Sproul. Other objects I include are a small trumpet ornament as an object to represent the second Advent and confetti to represent the great wedding feast.
4. For the various activities we do during the holidays, I include an object about the activity and a passage to read. If we are wrapping presents one day, I will put a little bow in the Advent box and we read John 3:16. If we are baking cookies or some other treat, I will include passages about Jesus being the Bread of Life. If we are purchasing gifts to give the homeless or someone else in need, I include a small communion cup and we read the passage from Matthew 25:37. If we plan to drive around looking at Christmas lights that evening, I will include a little light bulb and we will read the verse about Jesus being the light of the world.
The objects I use are really anything I can find that is small enough to fit in the box. Many of them are ornaments. The boys have their own small tree in their bedroom. As they accumulate ornaments throughout Advent, they add them to their tree.
There are a number of different activities to do during the holidays to point our children to Christ. The Advent box is one way we like to keep the focus of the holiday on our Lord.
To see a sample of the passages we read and objects I place in our box, click here. For more inspiration on making your own Advent traditions, see: Treasuring God in Our Traditions and Christmas Out of the Advent Box: Reclaiming Christmas for Fun, Faith and Family
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more Advent ideas!
How about you? What is your family’s favorite Advent tradition? Please share your ideas!