01 Dec Advent with Little Ones: Growing Together in Faith
Christmas. Just say the word and we all have different reactions. So often we race through December, checking the boxes and frantically trying get it all done. (I love to say that perfection is the enemy of done!) I love to SAY it. Putting it into practice is harder.
Christmas with little ones brings a different measure of energy, love, and busy-ness. From a theological perspective, Christmas provides more opportunities than all holidays combined to “catch” children where they are and sow seeds of faith. Children grow in faith and in trust when they are part of a community that has annual traditions they can count on. They form memories about last year’s tree, carols, cookies, and yes, presents…and anticipate repeating these traditions every year.
The story of Christ’s birth provides one of the best ways for children to “find themselves” in God’s story. (Whenever we read, and whatever we read, we naturally place ourselves in the story: we relate to the characters, we respond to the emotions.) And the “characters” in the Gospel accounts: the shepherds, donkeys, angels and babies, provide amazing entry points for faith conversations.
The season of Advent doesn’t have to be hurried, and if you slow down to mark this time of preparation with your children, you will be planting seeds of faith that will grow bigger every year. Luminaries in the field of faith development have narrowed down four “keys” – or rather, four foundational pieces that, if woven into the fabric of your family, will nurture the faith of your children.
We offer these “keys” so that you can take advantage of this amazing opportunity to deepen your family’s Advent experience as you enter this time of preparation. But first….please remember to take care of yourself. Take time to hydrate and breathe….and just sit still. And THEN think (and pray) about how you can weave some of these “keys to the faith” into your family’s Advent season.
Key #1: Caring Conversations:Share your highs and lows from your day over dinner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, have a picnic on the family room floor….light some candles, and you’ll be surprised at how special and different this seems. (Even pizza beside the Christmas tree seems magical) De-stress together…and give your kids the gift of your focused attention.
Grab a flashlight, bundle up, and take a starlit walk after dinner around the neighborhood…enjoy the lights and take in the peace of the evening.
Key #2: Family Devotions & Prayer Use the devotions provided at church in the evening with your children to explore the Christmas story together. Ask them what their favorite part of the “birth” story is. Use your car time to expand upon the story: “I sure am glad I am not on a donkey with this traffic!”
Take time to pray for each others’ highs and lows.
Light your advent candle and read a passage of scripture.
As you wrap presents, say a prayer together for each person you are giving gifts too. Better yet, have your children write prayers for them and tuck them inside the gift.
Key #3: Family Service At this time of year, it seems the opportunities to serve together are endless. Brainstorm over dinner ways your family can be agents of hope this Christmas. Will you adopt a family? Bake cookies for your neighbors? Rake a yard anonymously?
Participate in the Presbyterian Mission Agency Christmas Offering. Talk together about how to multiply the “seed money” that Pastor Michelle gave out. Pray for the recipients. Set goals as a family and mark your progress.
No matter what you do—take time to talk about sacrificial giving, and to pray for those you help.
Key #4: Family Rituals & Traditions What are your “annual” traditions at Christmas? Share with your children why your family celebrates a certain way, and how the tradition began . If your family doesn’t have a history of tradition, it can start with you!