Monday, October 29, 2018

Advent Devotional Idea

For the last two years, our family has done a version of an advent calendar devotional at dinner each night. It’s been simple, meaningful and something we have all looked forward to, so I wanted to share what we do in case you’re looking for an idea. It's something you can do whether you're single, married with no kids or married with kids! You’ve still got plenty of time to figure something out as this year, Advent begins on Sunday, December 2!

The idea came two years ago when I was leading a Women’s Night of Worship in Dar. For that particular evening, in between the times of worship, we had a simple craft time. I had  cut up scrap book paper into strips that the women could choose from to make a paper chain to countdown the days until Christmas. On each strip of paper, we wrote a name of Jesus and a verse or two that corresponded to the name (see below).The idea was that at some point each day your family would gather and take down one of the links in the chain, read the Scripture together and learn about a name of Jesus. 

Shortly after this worship night, I realized I had a ton of small brown cardboard stars with simple twine loops that were meant for labeling gifts. I decided to write the names of Jesus on one side of the star and the scripture reference on the back. This took all of 10-15 minutes to do. 

About two weeks before this worship night I had been traveling and bought a wall hanging advent calendar that I got for a discount. When I bought it, I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to use it, but I was determined to FINALLY do something as a family for Advent. I was so excited to find that the little stars fit perfectly inside the pockets of the calendar! 

How we use it: 
Each night at dinner, one of our children takes the star out of the pocket and brings it to the table. If it’s one of our older two, they read the name of Jesus and the verse/s. We read for Geneva, though this year I have a feeling she’s going to labor through and sound out every single word she can! Once we’ve learned the name, read the verse/s and talked about what the name of Jesus means, that same child gets to hang the star on our Christmas tree. By the time Christmas comes, our tree is decorated with the names of Jesus! 

There you have it – super simple, but meaningful and engaging.

Ideas to change it up: 
Due to the fact that I am now a teacher (still feels weird to say that), I have to share ways to differentiate this activity:  
* If you have older kids, you could lengthen the verses/passages you read or add in reflection questions about the name of Jesus for the night. 
* If you have young kids, make sure you choose names that aren't as abstract - teaching a 3 years old about the Rose of Sharon or Root of David might be a bit challenging. Choose names like Shepherd, Prophet, Servant. Also you could read a story from a children's bible  that corresponds to the name rather than just the verse. 
* You could choose new names of Jesus each year and make it different. You could keep the old names from the previous year and put them on the tree when you decorate, but then add new ones each night of Advent. 
* You could also choose a new theme each year: names of Jesus, attributes of God, advent candle themes (Advent Candle Meanings ), choose key "Christmas" words and read Scriptures about those (one week on Joy verse, one week on Hope verses, etc) or come up with your own idea!

I’m including the list I used for the names of Jesus and the Scripture, but there are lots of lists out there, so feel free to find your own! There are more names than days of Advent, so you have to choose your favorites J 

If you don't have the cute little stars or a hanging pocket advent calendar - don't worry! Pinterest has so many amazing ways to do an advent calendar - get creative! If you end up using this idea, I’d love to see your families version of it and what you think of it.