The Terrell family is a family of traditions. Pam has a coworker who often jokes that if we do something once we turn it into a tradition. She’s not far from wrong. We love traditions. What I like about traditions is that they are a good way of reinforcing beliefs and behaviors that we, as a family, want to encourage.
The church has known this for millennia, and therefore developed many such traditions. Several of the traditions from our church practices can be adapted to use during family time. The pastor in me (who often decides that he must take control) wants all of our “thread” parents to regularly do some wonderful traditions with their little ones to help them grow up experiencing more of Christmas than just gifts.
Here are a few classic Advent traditions that I recommend for adjusting to family use:
- Advent Calendar – Pam and I used an advent calendar with the boys. our was a story book advent calendar (this one right here). Growing up we would read the boys two stories before bed each night – one Bible story and one children’s book. During Advent the Bible story would be the story book from the Advent Calendar. We loved the calendar and the story of Advent that the storybooks told each night. It was an easy way to make sure we focused on Jesus each night during the Christmas season.
- Chrismon Tree – Basically a Christmas tree where are the decorations are based off of religious symbology. My first experience with a Chrismon tree was at First Baptist Church in Carthage, Missouri. Every year FBC would decorate a Chrismon tree on Christmas Eve as a way to talk with the kids about the Christmas story and early Christian history. It was always a wonderful worship service. You could setup a small Chrismon tree in addition to your family Christmas tree and allow your kid(s) to make different Chrismon ornaments to put on the tree. Thanks to Pinterest you can find Chrismon ornaments here.
- Jesse Tree – This is what we will be using during our last worship gathering before Christmas. Our kids will help us do this by creating and decorating some ornaments to hang on the Jesse tree. The Jesse tree is very similar to a Chrismon tree but it starts with the Old Testament (the root of Jesse – Isaiah 11:1) and remembers all the messianic prophecies pointing to the Christ. You can get a free Jesse tree kit at this link.
- Advent Wreath – we’ve been doing this in Tapestry with our lamps for years and will do it again this year. You can easily adapt an Advent wreath to family use. Put it at the center of your dinner table and explain the meaning of each candle each week. Then maintain the correct candle for each meal time of the week. An added benefit of this is that it will encourage your family to eat at the table (if you need to encourage that behavior). You don’t have to buy an advent wreath. You and your kids can make it yourself. Here’s an instructable describing how to make several different types of advent wreaths.
There are plenty of other Advent traditions that you can adjust to working within your family. What is important is not so much what you do but that you make a conscious effort to help your kids to understand Who Christmas is all about.
Advent starts Sunday, December 3rd (not this Sunday but next Sunday) so now is the time to thing about such preparations.