I love this season - the season of Advent.
I love how it lasts the whole month of December and it's not centered around only one day of opening presents. I love how we are focusing on Jesus and His wonderful plan of salvation all throughout the month, instead of focusing on what presents to get and how much money to spend. I love how Sitora runs and brings me her Advent devotions with a sparkle in her eye. I love the precious moments we spend together learning about how we can love others and love God. I normally do devotions with Sitora every day (along with tea time) but the season of Advent is just extra special :) Seeing the Christmas tree all sparkly and decorated, looking out the window to see a winter wonderland in our backyard (not to mention the eagles soaring overhead), hearing Christmas music softly play in the background, it all gives me such a sense of excitement and wonder! I never want to become desensitized to the sacrifice of the cross. I want to feel redeemed, restored, saved, thankful, and hopeful every day of my life. I never want to take the cross for granted.
Maybe this Advent stuff is more for me than it is for my children?
It's keeping my childlike faith alive. Reminding me of what really matters. Reminding me of my hopelessness without a Savior. What if Christ had never come? What if we were still waiting for a Savior? How different would I be without Him?
If you have never celebrated Advent with your family, it's not too late to start! It's very simple really :) I think every family can adapt the traditions according to what works best for them. For instance, our little kids devotions won't inspire a 14 year old. I think there are great resources available online or in Christian bookstores for families to use for Advent. I personally google ideas all the time for extra Advent devotions ideas.
Here is a great website for Advent ideas for kids. I copied the text and pictures onto a Word document and printed it out. We read the lessons and Sitora colors the picture, I cut it out, then we make it into an ornament to hang. The lessons are short and fun to keep your kids' attention. Click here to see.
Here is the book I also go through with Sitora everyday- she loves it! I was so happy to find a Christ-centered Christmas item from Wal-Mart. Click here to see.
For me, I am reading through this Advent plan from the website YouVersion. I have the YouVersion app on my iphone to read the Bible and do different reading plans. I found the "She Reads Truth-Avent" reading plan and love it. They are short and inspiring, and every lesson leads up until Christmas day. They are too short for my regular devotions, so I just use it on top of daily Bible reading.
I also make up things for us to do to celebrate Advent. To help Sitora focus on others instead of herself, we spent a morning going through her books/toys and together we decided what she would give away to our local food pantry. We volunteer there every week and I know that they are looking for toys to wrap and give away on Christmas day. Sitora doesn't have a lot of toys, mostly because we've moved so many times in her short (almost) 4 years of life. I like it that way actually- it keeps things simple and she appreciates what she has and uses her imagination more. I figured she will be getting many new toys at Christmas from her Nana and Papa and from mommy and daddy and other relatives. What a great time then to find some toys to give away!
I also announce random things like, "Today for Advent we are going to make cookies!" or "Today we are going to play in the snow," or "Let's watch a Christmas movie together!" on top of her lessons. I like to mix it up so she doesn't know what fun activity we are doing that day. Not every day has a big fun and crazy craft/activity. Some days are more quiet and simple, while others we do something more extravagant.
We don't talk much about presents. Maybe a little here and there. We only give her a few things for Christmas. Her birthday is just around the corner and she'll be getting lots then too :) I want Christmas to be a season of remembering Christ coming to earth, not thinking of what presents she'll be getting. Sure I love giving gifts, and getting them too. I love giving something special to the ones I love. I just want the main focus to be on Jesus, not the presents.
I let Sitora read books about Christmas and Santa and reindeer. She watches Christmas movies. We play with Elf on a Shelf and hide him and giggle. I think it's fun and festive. But again, it's not the primary focus. It's a small side dish of the feast, you could say.
Now for the big shocker.
Sitora knows Santa is not real.
This is why.
I want my children to know that everything I speak of is true and worthy of believing. I want my children to trust me in all things. If Sitora grows up hearing about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and Jesus, and then one day she finds out that Santa and the Tooth Fairy aren't real, I don't want her to question her faith as well. I want her to know what's true and what's fictional. She knows about the true St. Nick and what he did, and how that's the origin of the Santa character.
For my friends whose children do believe in Santa, I have told Sitora many times not to ruin it for other children. We actually don't talk about it that much. I have no problem with the fictional character- I just won't lie and tell her he's real. She has sat on Santa's lap at many places and we laugh about elves and reindeer. The main point is that we don't tell her, "Be a good little girl because Santa is watching and he will give you presents if you obey!" We don't say, "This gift is from Santa!" on Christmas day.
I personally feel that our children should obey because God asks us to, not because Santa is watching. I want them to learn from an early age to listen to the voice of God and chose to obey Him because of their love for Him. I don't want to start out their childhood with being good for Santa. Because one day my children will grow up and Santa will be irrelevant- they will need another reason to want to obey. What excuse do we use for our children to obey once that happens?
I want my children to love God and the scriptures. To love others and treat them the way they would want to be treated. To respect others and act humbly and lovingly with a heart of compassion. I believe that telling our children to obey because Santa is watching is a lie and and trick. I'm sorry if I offend you in any way on that matter. I just take raising my kids so seriously that things like this just don't line up with my parenting ideas.
Sure, I love the magic of Christmas. I love the lights, the hot cocoa, the trees, the candy, the presents. I'm not against any of that. I just don't want it to be the main reason we celebrate the season. I want to keep Jesus first, then the holiday part second.
I hope as our children grow we can continue celebrating Advent and personalizing it to their ages and personalities. And I hope that I too, can focus on Advent and what Jesus means to me. I am so thankful for the God who sent His Son for us. I am thankful that Jesus left His heavenly home to come to our earthly home. But the good news is, He's not a baby in a manger anymore, He's not a broken man on a cross, He didn't stay in the grave, and He's coming back for you and me someday! He's alive :) Rejoice!