Advent: the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. To followers of Christ, there is no one more notable, nor is there any arrival that is more significant, than His. In preparation for the season in which we celebrate our Savior’s humble entrance into this world in an animal’s feeding trough, we thought it would be helpful to share a few ideas for preparing for Advent. Whether you are single or married, have big kids, little kids, or no kids, the intent is that this post – as well as the second in the series next week – will be a very helpful, practical resource for our Church as an example of how to connect the Gospel to everyday Life around the holiday season.

In order to get our creative juices flowing, we Asked the Pastors™ for a few examples on what has worked well with their families. Here are a few ideas from the McCammack family. Note: These ideas are approved for use with up to 14 children at one time.

Since Ian was little, we have used an Advent Calendar complete with wooden shepherds and plastic animals to help us prepare for Christmas. Each night, after a short reading, one of the children puts the figure corresponding with the date up on the calendar. The story, written by Noel Piper, can be found here, and there are plenty of nice advent calendars available that will work well with this particular reading. After nearly a decade of reading this story together, several of my children can virtually recite the whole thing from memory. It is a joy to hear my kids say night after night, “Jesus is the greatest treasure of all. This is the story of how He came to us…”

Another tradition that we have used to prepare for Advent is using a Jesse Tree. This idea comes from Isaiah’s promise that the “Root of Jesse” will one day rule the earth in justice and righteousness. Rather than just retelling the events of Christ’s Nativity, the Jesse Tree story traces the promise that God will send a Savior through the whole Bible. For our particular Jesse Tree, the children take turns hanging a picture from a Bible story on the branches of a small tree. I brought our tree made of dried banana leaves home from Uganda (it made packing my suitcase a bit awkward, but thankfully it made it home in one piece), but really anything with branches will work. The ornaments can be made to be as crafty or as simplistic as you would like – whatever works for your family. We have used different readings for this throughout the years. The Jesus Storybook Bible is easily broken up into readings that bring us to the birth of the Savior, and it’s great for individuals, couples, and younger and older children alike.

For “decoration” around the house, we use manger scenes prominently, for reasons explained well in this article. We use a special set with candles in conjunction with our readings as a helpful way to remind us of looking forward to the Messiah.

Finally, as one last preparation for Christmas, we always watch The Nativity Story on Christmas Eve.

Hopefully you will find these ideas useful as you look to prepare yourself and your family for Advent. Be on the lookout for Part 2 next week, as we hear some additional ideas and some twists on the above ideas from the Heller family.