There's been lots of discussions and posts online these days about how people are celebrating Advent. I thought I'd throw mine into the mix too. =)
For several years now, we've been working towards making our celebrations of Christmas and Easter more Christ-focused. We did an advent wreath for the first time the year Michelle was 14 months at Christmas time. This year we don't have an actual wreath, but we still do have 5 candles, lighting one each week. (Gotta make do with what you can find when you move as much as we do). We've tried a variety of different devotionals, but until this year hadn't done anything that I particularly LIKED (at least, not well enough to repeat).
(Side note on our 'display' - I got the cards on the easel online somewhere several years ago...sadly can't remember where now. They are lovely, though, and small/lightweight enough to move around with us. The nativity scene is from Peru - a gift from a friend, as I've never been there. The cards on the wall were done by a Papua New Guinean artist. Baby Jesus in a bilum - traditional, Papua New Guinean woven string bag, used for carrying anything, including babies!- makes me smile everytime I look at it.)
This year, we are using the symbols from Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotional, but not the devotions that go with them. The devotional thoughts would be over my kids' heads (and as lovely as they are I sometimes have a hard time with her writing style as well, for what it's worth). We are simply reading the Scripture reference to go with each symbol - tracing God's plan of salvation from the creation, through the fall, through the promises made to Noah and Abraham and David, the prophecies, arriving finally at the birth of Christ.
Typically, our family time each evening looks like this:
- We light the candle(s) - depending on the week.
- We use the previous symbols to recount the story so far.
- One child opens the day's envelope that has the new symbol inside (and sometimes a special activity card like 'family movie night' or 'bake cookies together'), and they look at it. They try to guess what the next part of the story might be.
- We read the story from the Bible (I've written the reference on the back). We revisit the symbol and explain how the story relates. Dan or I might add a sentence or 2 about how it points us forward to Jesus (very, very briefly).
- We sing a hymn or carol together (I've chosen one for each week of advent).
And that's it. Simple. Sweet. Meaningful.
I was kind of nervous about using "just the Scripture" and not having some kind of devotional guide to go along with it. But in actuality, the simplicity has been beautiful. I never planned that we'd retell the story from the beginning each night...that just sort of happened. But I think maybe they are starting to see the big picture of redemptive history. I didn't learn that the Old Testament really had much to do with the New until I was in college, so any glimmer of understanding on their part puts them way ahead of me. =)
And, really, should I have been so surprised that Scripture is enough? I'm not trying to bash the use of devotionals or anything, but I don't think we've ever finished any of the 'family devotionals' we've tried. Even if I like them at the beginning (and I'm picky - so much of what is out there for this age group is just silly), we usually end up being disenchanted with them once we get into them. Scripture - or a well-written Bible storybook for the littlest ones - is enough. It can speak for itself.