4 Ways to Celebrate Advent at home with your family
If you have children or grandchildren, you might be looking for things to do with them at home for Advent and Christmas. Here are some ideas ...
1. An Advent wreath and an Advent liturgy at home
You might already have an Advent wreath but if you don't, you could buy or make one, or simpler still, place four candles (most supermarkets sell them) in a circle in a prominent place in your house. It is important to be careful with candles, especially around small children, so if you're worried about this, you could use electric candles.
You can create a simple reflective time for your family by lighting one of these candles each week. If the children are old enough, you could get them to take it in turns to light the candle (a very important job!) and say 'Come Lord Jesus, Alleluia!' together. You could choose one of the Advent Sunday readings to read (again, if they are old enough, the children can take this in turns) and say some simple prayers together. At the moment, our church services don't have intercessions, so what a good opportunity to pray together for the world, for those who are sick, for those who have died, for friends and family. What do your children/grandchildren want to pray for? You can also sing a hymn or song together (if you are musically inclined), or if you are hesitant to lead a song, find an Advent or Christmas song you know on Youtube or any appropriate piece of music you wish.
2. A Jesse Tree
Some Christian families choose to have something called a Jesse tree. In the weeks of Advent, the ‘Jesse Tree’ will stand as a visual reminder to all people who wait in faith for the coming of the Saviour. it is tree of hope. A tree to remind us of all those peoples who await the coming of Christ the Saviour. You can do this in conjunction with the decoration and lighting of the Advent Wreath if you wish.
Each week the children of the house and the adults are encouraged to prepare symbols representing the different periods of salvation history. These tokens, or symbols are then hung upon the bare tree, starting with the lower branches at the weekly Advent vigil liturgy. Culminating in the ﬁnal days before the Christmas celebration, with gifts for the poor and needy of our time. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the Jesse Tree can be transformed into the Christmas Tree with its lights, glitter and family presents under the tree. Jesse trees are usually made of bare winter branches you can gather (they may have fallen off trees, don't pull branches off living trees!). You can make your own decorations from cardboard/ribbon, or buy some.
3. An Advent Calendar.
Lots of people buy Advent Calendars and there are Christian Advent Calendars available. Some even have Fairtrade chocolate! Some people also choose to make their Advent calendars by hanging small 'gifts' from a piece of string. But if you would like to have something which combines prayers and activities, you can download our Journey Through Advent to Christmas Advent Calendar written by children's author, Margaret Bateson-Hill. You could also use the 'Ecological Advent Calendar' to think about ways to help creation at this time.
4. Gathering winter greenery – and gratitude
It can be a dark, cold and wet time of year, and tough without all the extra problems 2020 has brought us, but one way to help us feel better is to get outside and spend some time in nature. Towards Christmas you could try a nature walk, and use this to gather winter greenery, holly, ivy, and any beautiful leaves or berries from local parks or the countryside (take care not to collect poisonous ones!) and decorate your home. This is much more envionmentally friendly than tinsel, and also saves money. You could make a wreath or hang greenery on your front door. As you do this activity with your children, ask them what they find beautiful or good in the world around them and encourage them to ask questions about nature too.
A good focus for our time in nature is gratitude: remembering to thank God for the good things in our lives.
If you want to try a guided prayer, you can use the Examen for Children.
Thanks to Peter Harrison for the Jesse Tree and Moments of Meaning for the image of the Jesse Tree.