How Christmas Transforms the Mundane {Advent Ideas}

Last week we celebrated Christmas with my husband’s family. Matching Christmas pjs. Visiting Santa with cousins. Waking early to open stockings. Exchanging presents by the lit tree. Finishing with a wonderful steak & potato Christmas dinner.

Every activity just as it should be on Christmas day. But it didn’t feel like “Christmas”. There was no build-up. No counting days from turkey to a candlelit service.

Because Christmas is more than a day. It’s a season. More than giving gifts and eating good food. It’s a period of time to adjust hearts. Redirecting my focus from self to God. Reminding me there is more to living this life than the day-to-day tasks. 

What makes Christmas entrancing is how the ordinary transforms into the extra-ordinary. Lights on trees. Trees situated in living rooms. Sprinkles on cookies. Sparkles on  clothes. Parties on weeknights. Normal gets turned on its head.

The changes shake me from the mode of the mundane. 

Even conversation changes. Time around the table pouring over His story. Sweet questions during car rides about the words, “King of Kings”. Discussing whether lyrics say, “the Lord has come” or “the world has come.”

When I start to feel the stress of all the expectations of the season, it’s good to remember I need the change. I need to break from my rhythm. Just like I need to wake up each morning and proclaim, “You are king of my life.” I need to end my year with the proclamation, “You are King of Kings…who came to earth in the form of newborn babe.”

Advent, which means “coming” prepares me for the coming of Christmas, Gives perspective for His future coming. But it takes intention to do advent activities.

Last year I shared 5 tips for enjoying Christmas with young kids. Including two different ways we focused our hearts on the true meaning of Christmas. One, we crafted adorable ornaments from Truth in Tinsel. I loved having a fun craft to do while dinner was cooking. Each day discussing a new detail of the New Testament story of Christ’s birth.

The other way was “The Family Promise Tree” (based on the Jesse Tree), a set of felt ornaments my sister sewed. With each ornament there is a little devotional, starting with Genesis, directing us through God’s promise to send His Son to deliver us from sin. Each day tells a story from the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist) leading to the arrival of Jesus…the Promised Child. It’s a simple advent and it works for us.

Unfortunately, “The Family Promise Tree”, is no longer available. But my church friend, Jacki Rucksdashel, felt a calling from God to create an updated Jesse Tree Devotional for families. Here is what she shared with me:

“As we started looking at what we would choose as a family to focus on what Christmas was really about, we had a hard time finding something specifically for young children.  Our kids relate so much to the power of narrative…a story.  That is when the idea for this devotional was born.  After two years of trying this and trying that, my husband and I decided to sit down and with the Lord’s help, create a devotional book for our kids in this stage of life.  Thus, The Jesse Tree Project was born.  We are so happy to share it with you for free.”

Did you catch that last line? For FREE! The devotionals are awesome they include:

  • Verse of the Day
  • Bible Reading for THE STORY-for adults to read or for older children.
  • THE STORY– the Biblical account written in narrative form for young children.
  • Questions —to check for understanding.
  • Prayer — feel free to pray your own prayer!
  • Worship–songs, poems, videos or books to inspire praising Him.
  • Extended Activity–Extra activities to do with children to help solidify what they learned.  (All optional of course!)

If you don’t want to have to make the ornaments for each day, Jacki & her husband have created printable ornaments.

I haven’t put up our tree yet. I haven’t printed out ornaments. I haven’t hung up the felt Christmas tree. But there is still time. It isn’t even December yet.

I will make time this weekend to decorate my home. To print off ornaments. To hang up a felt Christmas tree. Because it’s in celebrating the “coming” of Christmas that my heart turns from self to God & I replace “me” with “He”. 


5 Tips for Enjoying Christmas with Young Kids

Yesterday I found myself slightly dreading the arrival of Christmas. You may also feel overwhlemed or stress. It was 2 years ago when my 3rd son was a newborn that I found myself crying at a Christmas party…normal life was hard then the added demands of the holiday season made it unbearable. But through that challenging year I made some changes.

I thought I would take a second to remind myself & share with you what helps keep this great holiday under control & focused on the “Reason for the Season”.

1. Ask your kids what matters to them

Instead of feeling like you have to go to every holiday concert, activity, crafttime, party, etc. Sit down at dinner one night and ask your kids what their favorite holiday traditions are. If they remember it from last year and enjoyed it, then it’s worth doing it again.

My kids’ favorites are: the downtown Christmas parade, the Lionel train set at our local mall, visiting Santa, making Christmas cookies, and watching Christmas movies. Another one of their favorites is…

2. Find an advent that works for your family

Advent, from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming”, is a formal way to expectantly wait and prepare for the coming celebration of the nativity, birth of Christ, at Christmas.

There are a lot of different options out there for advent. We have used a set that my sister made for her kids called “The Family Promise Tree”. The creator of it, Cherie Steuerwald, adapted it from the Jesse Tree, which has been around since the 60s. The booklet that she wrote to go with the daily ornaments, has a short poem with hand motions, story lesson and memory verse. 

It starts at Genesis in the Bible and works through God’s promise to send His Son to deliver us from sin. Each day tells a story from the Bible (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist) leading to the arrival of Jesus…the Promised Child. It’s a simple advent and it works for us.

Another option we are going to try this year is brand new…”Truth in the Tinsel” by Impress Your Kids.

 I met Amanda at Relevant and she shared this idea with me. I love it because:

  • hands-on crafted ornaments for each day
  • tells the nativity story
  • adapted schedules for busy moms (if you can’t craft everyday in December)
  • one page supply list (most of which you probably already have).
  • super cute book layout

The key is to find what works best for your family. Low stress. Fun. Then the truth of the miracle of “God with us” can be shared with your children.

3. Fewer, more meaningful gifts

Our boys have so many toys. So. many. toys. Last year I heard about giving them gifts according to this little rhyme/categories and I loved it. You give them 4 things:

  • Something they want
  • Something they need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

I decided that what they really need is typically clothes. So instead of the “wear” category, I inserted a “something made”. (want, need, made read). Last year I made my eldest a crocheted blanket, my middle a superhero cape, & my youngest a little handheld blankie.

This year with Pinterest I think I’m going to make a couple pillowcases for the older boys and a fort kit for my youngest…but if it becomes overwhelming I’ll forget about it.  

4. Order Christmas Cards from

The last three years I have ordered our cards from I typically order a postcard (less paper/less cost) with our family picture on the front. The best part is that Hallmark  will address and mail them for me. I keep all my address in an excel spreadsheet. All I have to do is upload the spreadsheet to their website and for no additional charge (just cost of stamps) they will address & mail the cards for me.

 I know it’s not as personal as handwriting the addresses but this is the season of life that I am in. Most people just want to get a cute picture and update of your family.

5. Let go of “perfect”

Once we had young kids around I had to let go of all my expectations of a “perfect” Christmas. I had to realize that in my attempts to make it all perfect, my stress & attitude were far from “perfect”. So I put up fewer decorations around the house…only those things that are important to me (nativity set) and the kids (stockings & tree). I have the boys join me even if it means Martha Stewart may frown at our results. To me a perfect Christmas is perfectly imperfect!

What does your family do to simplify and enjoy Christmas?

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