Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent 2014 - Prepare Your Hearts for Jesus!

 Did you know that yesterday began the Christian season of Advent?
Advent is the season prior to Christmas.
 Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas.  This year, that was yesterday.
Advent ends on Christmas Eve.
Then, there is the Christmas season that last 12 days {Like the 12 days of Christmas Song!} until Epiphany.   {Click here for more on the church year .  Also, here}.

In my family, we do special devotions each year for Advent. We also have an advent calendar that looks like a house that is numbered for each day from Dec. 1 - December 25.  Kinda like this one -- except that ours is solid red with doors for each day.  Each day there is a small gift {think -- piece of candy} for the kids as we count down to Christmas. They have all figured out now that on Christmas Day, they will find the baby Jesus behind the door so that he can be added to our Nativity scene.   Because he is the greatest gift of all.

My sister texted me yesterday and asked me what we use for our Family Advent devotions.  It occurred to me that there may be others out there looking for ideas for Family devotions this Advent season.

  Here is what we have always used in our house. Besides the Advent calendar I mentioned above, we have done a Jesse Tree.   A Jesse Tree is great because the selected readings take you from Genesis to Revelation.  A great way to show that Jesus is present throughout scripture.
 At times, we have made a paper tree on the back of the door and added a paper {colored} ornament as a symbol of that lesson.  You can download devotions and patterns for your tree here.
This one is great to use with small children as it allows for them to actually see a representation of each lesson.
Here is another article on the Jesse Tree that provides some different options for the readings.

As my children have gotten older, we have streamlined things a bit. We have the Jesse Tree Book, and we have simply done our red advent calendar above after we have read the devotion from the book.

Another thing we do each year because our children really love it, is this.  This is an interactive nativity scene that I purchased at a Christian Bookstore years ago.  It poses the question "What does God want for Christmas?"  There are only about 7 lessons , but it comes with a pop up nativity scene and each time you unwrap a 'gift' you find a character from the nativity to add to your scene.  It comes with a book that tells the story (in rhyme) of that character.  Each day ends with  the same question -- "What does God want for Christmas?"   Even though my children know the surprise, that the last day's gift is  a mirror -- because what does God want for Christmas?  He wants YOU!   -- They still love it.  Maggie has already asked if we are going to get it out and use it this year -- and she is 11!

This year, we will be doing our red advent calendar and our "What God Wants for Christmas" Nativity, but we are doing something different for our readings.
This year, I have chosen a Family Devotion from YouVersion of the bible. YouVersion is an online bible that you can have on your computer. You can also download the app to your phone or tablet.
I have it on my phone and use one of the reading plans to read my bible each morning.
They offer advent and Christmas reading plans {along with all kind of other reading plans!}
My family and I are doing this one together.
However, there are many to choose from and they vary in length of days as well as in content so you can pick one that works for your family.

That is what my family will be doing as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus this Advent Season.  
Do you have plans to do devotions with your family this Advent Season?
Even though it started yesterday, it's not too late!  A lot of things listed above are as simple as downloading, so you can get started today!

If you have time to go out and buy a book today, the Jesse Tree book that I linked above is awesome or here is a new one for this year.  Ann Voskamp has written a new book that I feel will certainly be worth your time.

Matter of fact, I'm hoping to find it myself this evening and it may well be added to our Advent season this year.  If you do not know who Ann Voskamp is, go here to find out more.  You won't be sorry!

Everything that I have shared thus far are ways to do this Advent season with families that include small children.
 I also wanted to share with you a couple of links to places that would be good for families that have teens so you are still  able do advent devotions together as a family.

I found this devotion that is written specifically for youth and is downloadable.
  And this one from d365 that is done online and gives you things to 'do' after your quiet time each day.
Lastly, I found this "eretreat" from the Upper Room that you can register for and do this Advent season.  I think I will be registering myself.  It starts TODAY (so go register now!) and lasts through December 27th.

All three of these last links would be great for families with teens to do together or even for teens and adults to do on their own this season.

It's not too late!

What are you going to do to Prepare your hearts (and your family) to celebrate this birth of our Savior this Christmas? 

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