Advent is a season of hopeful expectation. A time when the church holds her breath in anticipation of Emmanuel — God with us. May these resources for any age help you prepare the way until the Son of God appears. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you.
By Joshua Speight
Ideas for families and teachers of young children
Create Chrismons — Chrismons, ornaments which represent Christian symbols, were first developed by France Spencer and the women of the Ascencion Lutheran Church in Danville, Va. The word “Chrismon” is actually a contraction for “Christ monogram.” A simple internet search can lead you to websites which will give you examples of Chrismons (which are usually gold and white) with directions and patterns to create them. As an Advent activity, you might create some simple Chrismons, discussing the meaning of the symbols as you do so, and even display them on a Chrismon tree.
Create a Jesse Tree — A Jesse Tree is a decorative tree used during Advent to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’ birth. Since Advent is a season of waiting, a Jesse Tree will help to build joy and anticipation as you wait for the birth of Christ. Jesse Trees have three main parts: the tree itself, symbolic ornaments and scripture readings to coincide with them. Each day, a new ornament is placed on the tree and a passage is read. These simple ornaments can be crafted together to create a family tradition to retell the story of Advent each year.
Crowd at the Creche — Do you display a nativity in your congregation during Advent and Christmas? One way to demonstrate the inclusivity of your congregation is to invite each family to bring something small from their home (a toy, memento or treasure) that represents them to place in the manger. You could invite everyone to bring their offering during a special part of worship. This display turns into a beautiful picture of God’s diverse creation at the manger during Advent. Note: be sure to have people label their treasures and set a date to retrieve their items after the holiday. — Katie Cook/Seeds of Hope, Texas
ADVENT CALENDAR — What better way to anticipate the coming of Christmas and the arrival of the Christ Child than an Advent Calendar? Purchase or make an Advent calendar. Need some ideas? A simple internet search for “Advent Calendar DIY” will help. — Meg Lacy, North Carolina
Present for Jesus — Find an empty bag, box or basket. Find something shiny or yellow that reminds you of gold. Use something fragrant (like an air freshener) to represent frankincense. Pour a small amount of oil into a small container or sealable bag to represent myrrh. Put these three gifts in your bag, label the present with Jesus’ name, and open it again on Christmas Day. — Heather Burke, South Carolina
Go caroling during Sunday School — Take the children around the church to the adult classes to sing Christmas Carols. — Tommy Bratton, North Carolina
Ideas for small groups
Advent Conspiracy — Feeling bogged down by the busyness and consumerism of December? Check out http://www.adventconspiracy.org for ideas on how to simplify this season and keep Christ at the center of the celebration by spending less, giving more relationally, worshipping fully and loving all. — Meg Lacy, North Carolina
Use social media — Share an image inspired by scripture on social media pages each day of Advent. Complement these images with a challenge in the comment section to read the associated passage of scripture and then apply it. The goal is to engage the group in common reading and application during their daily living of the season. — Josh Beeler, Tennessee
“Active Advent” for students and families
Advent is a time of waiting and, for many of our students and their families, waiting is boring. We wait at the grocery store. We wait for a table at a restaurant. We wait for the bell to ring at school. The waiting of Advent is not like this though. We’re not pacing back and forth or checking through our phones in the lobby. Instead, Advent is supposed to be intentional and active waiting. This year for Advent, maybe youth ministry can take a different tone. Being active is usually not difficult for students, but maybe students can see their activity as a part of something larger. The youth ministry of First Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Va., has built a tradition of a Christmas Progressive Dinner. Students and adult volunteers enjoy a course at each home and learn about that particular family’s Christmas traditions. As we move from house-to-house, the youth minister always says, “We need to go. The next family is waiting for us!” — Ben Brown, Virginia
Advent reminds us that we are all richly blessed not only by the miraculous gift of the Christ Child, but also in the resources within our churches and families. During Advent, as you actively await the arrival of the Christ Child, spend a few minutes taking inventory of what resources you have as a church and as a family. Is there a children’s curriculum you could pass on to a smaller church who doesn’t have a curriculum budget? Did your church get new hymnals or baptismal robes in the past year? Can the used ones be passed on to a church who has experienced a flood, fire or natural disaster in the past year? Does your family have shoes, clothes and toys you have outgrown that would make Christmas for a family who doesn’t have expendable income? Asking these questions helps us remember that awaiting the Christ Child is awaiting the kingdom of God here on earth, of which we have been invited to be a part through open hearts, open minds and open hands. — Merianna Harrelson, South Carolina
Ideas for observing an “Active Advent”
Host a fair-trade market — Partner with local businesses that support fair-trade and fair-business models. Encourage your congregation to buy gifts for others that make a difference. Consider how to partner with CBF field personnel for gift giving through a “Give-More Store” where a percentage of items purchased will go to the CBF Offering for Global Missions.
Read Matthew 15:32-37
Reflection: Did you notice how concerned Jesus was about the people? He had been teaching them and healing them. He knew they were hungry; so he fed them. And there was enough for everyone! God wants us also to feed those who are hungry.
Prayer: God, help those who are hungry have food. Thank you for the food you have given my family. Amen.
Activity: Donate food to a local pantry.
Read Matthew 9:35-38
Reflection: Everyone at some time needs someone who can help them. In this story, Jesus knew that he was only one person and he needed more people to help others. That’s what Jesus asks us to do. Help other people!
Prayer: God, as we prepare for Christmas, help us to prepare ourselves to do the work you want us to do. Amen.
Activity: Make Christmas cookies and share them with someone.
— Carrie Veal, North Carolina