Advent Resources for Families

Advent Resources for FamiliesIf you know me, then you know Advent is one of my favorite times of year and I will talk your ear off about how great Advent is.

I feel deeply that advent calls to the heart of a sojourner. The longing, the hopeful expectation, the crossroads of already, but not yet. It’s a mournful, yet still hopeful cry that says, Come, Lord Jesus, come!

The desire for all to be made whole, for Christ to come again and call his people home. Advent is for the wait. The reminder that as we come to celebrate Christ’s first advent, his birth as a baby, we are to look forward to his future promises in his second advent. We live in this tension of promises received, but still lacking our complete glorification.

We sing,

Come, thou long expected Jesus,

Born to set They people free;

from our fears and sins release us,

let us find our rest in thee.

It’s a beautiful season.

Advent Resources for FamiliesAdvent Resources

Advent has definitely seen a resurgence in some Protestant denominations, but mostly in the evangelical camp. I’m glad our subculture is beginning to remember liturgy and traditions can be helpful means of remembering and teaching Christ in the life of the Church. I’ve found CRI Voice to be a good introduction to the season of Advent.

I wanted to share a few Advent resources and traditions we’ve done throughout the years, as well as a few new things I’ve found.

The Jesus Storybook Bible & the Jesse Tree

When my children were young, I tried reading through Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree devotional and hung the printable ornaments. The length of those devotions were a bit long for the little ones, but the ornaments were a favorite and became known as “hanging promises.”  We eventually started reading related portions of The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Many families have found this works well for them and you can find a variety of Advent reading plans to go along with The Jesus Storybook Bible. You can find more ideas here.

Advent Wreath & Candles

Our advent wreath is one of my favorite parts of the season. It’s a beautiful reminder of how Jesus is the light of the world and in light the darkness scatters. We get to see that beautiful truth as we light a new candle each week. At the beginning of Advent, it’s dark and we can hardly see the little faces peering around the table, but by Christmas Day the light is bright enough to shine throughout the room.

It’s a simple and beautiful way to show our children how Jesus makes the darkness flee and how darkness can be a representation of sin and in Jesus’s redemption that darkness flees.

The circle wreath reminds us God is eternal and is mercy and love is unending. The four candles on the wreath stand for the four hundred years between the prophets and the coming of Christ. They also symbolize the hope, love, joy, and peace Jesus brings (as well as many other things). Three of the candles are purple, symbolizing royalty, and one pink (usually used for the third week). The white center candle, called the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Day in celebration of Jesus entering the world and being the Light of the World.

There’s plenty of options when it comes to Advent wreaths. I bought a frame from Hobby Lobby, stuck it on a plain wreath, and added a few sparkles here and there.

Advent Resources for FamiliesAdvent Music

In some traditions, people withhold from playing Christmas carols, hymns, and songs until Christmas Day, which is the first day of Christmas and continues until Epiphany. The idea is to keep in the remembrance and mood, so to speak, of the Advent season, the already, but not yet, waiting to sing the more celebratory songs once Christmas arrives.

In our house we play both, but I do tend to lean more toward Advent songs in the first few weeks. Here’s a list of Advent songs.

I’m a big fan of Spotify, so of course I have our own Advent playlist on there. My goal is to find the perfect version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, so right now there’s about 20 different versions. I might be exaggerated a little. You’ll also notice a lot of Andrew Peterson on my Advent playlist. These songs aren’t particularly made for Advent, but definitely have echoes of the season (I love me some AP music).

Advent Resources for FamiliesHere’s a few of my favorite Advent and Christmas albums:

Most of these are on Spotify and Amazon Prime, but a few are on one or the other and Behold the Lamb is on neither. But it’s good enough, you’ll want to buy it anyway. ;)

Traveler's Journey: Advent Letters for Young SojournersTraveler’s Letters

This is one of my children’s favorite things. One year we received a package on our doorstep from someone named Traveler. Inside the package were Advent candles, a few letters (and more came later), and a book, Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress for children.

Traveler's Journey: Advent Letters for Young SojournersIt’s been such a treasure and wonder for our family to dig into the Advent season as a sojourner and for our little ones to begin to understand this life of faith is a journey and to long for Jesus’ kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven as we wait for Christ to come again.Advent Resources for Families

You can find all the letters ordered and compiled, along with a few of our favorite hymns and poems below.

Traveler’s Journey: Advent Letters for Young Sojourners

Advent Resources for FamiliesAdvent Books

There are so many Advent devotionals and readings out there I’m sure to leave out a few good ones. This is a list of Advent books that either I’ve used or have heard great things about from friends.

If this is your first time observing Advent or you’re looking to try something new, I hope you find something that works for you. But even more I hope you know the love of Christ and are encouraged to pursue him in the longing and waiting of Advent.

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The Daily Work of Hope

I lose my hope perspective ten times a day, at least. I get weighed down by the crumbs of life…those bread crumbs that stick to your feet when you’re just trying to cook and the smear of peanut butter as you brush against a wall. The things that seem no matter how you wipe them just keep coming back. There’s always more work, something else required of me, some way I can see I’m failing, and that suffocating frustration of when my life feels too boring, too much, too menial and I begin daydreaming of the things that will take these feelings away.

A trip to the craft store, diving into a book or binge watching a show, a few hours alone at my favorite coffee shop, getting out alone for a walk, taking in the breeze and beauty without having to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Those things are good and can be helpful tools in realigning myself to the truth, but if I keep looking to those things as the fix, my conventional savior, I’ll always be disappointed and left dry.

Those things can give me space to refuel, to pause and reflect, but in those longing daydream moments they don’t really do me any good. They increase my despair or loneliness, bitterness or jealousy not because they are bad in and of themselves, but because in my heart I’m saying, “If only I could do or have xyz, then I’d be alright/happy/could do this life.”

But the truth is those things will continue to fail me if I’m looking to them for satisfaction of my soul. 

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

And so, I must do the hard work of turning from myself and turning to Christ, the source of ultimate joy and satisfaction. It’s not easy. Jesus isn’t a quick fix to a perfect life or a continual intravenous drip of happy. But looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith, I can boldly say, “I can’t, but You can.”


I can’t do this day. I can’t take one more question, one more failure, one more thing to stress over.

I can consider him who endured and know in Christ’s power I can endure. And this faintheartedness, this despair to give into sin and apathy—the vanity of life, I can look to Christ and see how he endured for the sake of joy and I too can endure.

To consider Him—not myself, not others, not my circumstances, but Jesus…to do the daily work of living, enjoy life, and not grow weary in doing good in fulfilling the role he’s placed me in. To remember the joy set before me in the new Jerusalem, to turn my eyes upon Jesus look full in his wonderful face, to know this weight of glory.

It sounds so basic. Turn from looking inward and look to Jesus. Basic but essential. Even if I have to do it hundreds of times a day.

And I will.

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It’s all meaningless, so why try?

Yesterday, I was complaining to my husband how the most exciting part of my day was wearing real pants and going to Victoria’s six month appointment. Oh, and making homemade iced coffee.

I was disappointed because I had to cancel an exciting outing to the post office to buy stamps, because Tori wasn’t having it after her shots. Meaning buying stamps would have to be pushed to another day, pushing back the project I needed the stamps for another day with another errand with kids who were cooperative today, but may not be tomorrow. Yay. #momlife

We speak mostly in gifs while Joe is at work and after going back and forth for awhile, he sent me this one:

via GIPHY

Always opening the door, always a door to be opened. I replied, “That’s pretty much #momlife.” And Joe responded with, “maybe mom’s need to read more Ecclesiastes.”

“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:8-9

So I sat down and read the whole book of Ecclesiastes. At first glance, it all seems to say, “It’s all meaningless, all of life is utterly vain and then you die. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, wise or foolish, lazy or diligent in your work, in the end you’re going to die and you won’t be here to see the fruit or effect of your life’s work.”

Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? An anthem for the long days that seem to suck the life out of you.

Enjoy your life, because in the words of the great Johnny Cash, “sooner or later God’s gonna cut you down.”

But with a closer look—a gospel look—the Preacher ends with “the end of the matter; all has been heard” (Ecc. 12:13a). We know how this life ends. This earth is passing away and we are but a mist, a vapor, like the dust to which we’ll return.

But for a believer, death is not the end but the beginning of a great new adventure,

“The death of the righteous, that is, of every believing and repentant sinner, is a most excellent blessing of God.” 

William Perkins

What about today? I’m not dying. (Lord, willing.) Amid lukewarm coffee, sleep deprivation, uncertainty, monotony, chores, and a life that feels like you’re just opening a door to find one more closed, what do these ecclesiastical lamentations mean?

“Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13b

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

 

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40

Yes, life feels futile. Yes, life is repetitive. Yes, the daily details are quite often boring. All our accomplishments will soon fade, our castles in the sand will wash away. Any hope we have in our work or riches or position will not sustain us.

But put your hope in the Lord “where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt. 6:20).

Fear God. Serve Him. Love others.

Life is full of hard, boring, dull, tiresome days. We wipe tables, wash dishes, attend one more pointless meeting, start another load of laundry, call another client, hold babies who won’t sleep, and reheat that cold cup of coffee for a third time.

Life is full of beautiful, surprising, joyous days. Saturday morning family cuddles, surprise visits from friends, a finished cup of coffee, the beauty of community, foggy sunrises, peonies in full bloom,

In all the days—the mundane, heartbreaking, and glorious—fear God, love him, and love others. This life will soon pass by, but if the Lord is our God, even the days we want to throw up our hands and shout, “Meaningless! It’s all meaningless!” even those days are an opportunity to love God and love others.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last,

And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,

If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

- C.T. Studd,

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Advent’s Longing Cry

SONY DSCAt the heart of sojourning is this,

Will we live for the promise even if we can’t see it?

The sojourner says, “Yes.”

Amidst the unknown and chaos, the sojourner travels on, practicing faithful endurance with each dusty step. There is a promise, but we can’t see it. Not until heaven rains down Glory and Jesus comes to call us home. But even in this, even in the spectacular unknown, in the walking on water, like the sustaining air we breathe but cannot see, we trust the Holy Invisible, for it is–He is–the only one who settles our rattled souls and stills the storm of our heart. In Him we move and live and have our being.

We who have been overwhelmed with the grief and joy of Calvary, we stand secure in the empty tomb. Our debt is paid, our ransom bought. We are free, free! dear ones. No longer are we children of the slave woman, but children of the free (Galations 4:31). We have been captivated by the Truth and He has set us free (John 8:32).

So we say “yes” to the promise we cannot see. We say “yes” to the homeland we’ve yet to  touch. We say “yes” to the one born to set us free as we fall to our knees, chains crashing down, our hearts reverberate His praise,

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Oh, but the journey is long and tedious. We crave the completion of home. We grow weary in doing good, fighting against the flesh, and the devil’s relentless attacks.

There are times we lament, “Why, Lord! Why?” We shake our finger at the Holy God and with Jeremiah cry,

“Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:18).

Against our accusations all He asks is our return, our repentance. Always the Shepherd, our Emmanuel, “…for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jeremiah 15:20b-21).

We cannot see the end from the beginning, but our hearts cry for the end. We deeply desire the culmination of our faith, to be in the presence of the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. In the world’s injustice, in our sanctified struggle, in poverty, in homesickness, in anxiety and in peace, though we ache in our wanderings we are not without hope. We are not alone.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:20-23

And yet, we remember him “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Our longing is not in vain.

In all this, He truly is our Emmanuel. Though we mourn in our exile, he will come and we will rejoice.


The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:26

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Advent…He is coming

This is my favorite time of year. The sparkling lights, cookies baking, friends gathered. The wonder and holiness of God becoming feeble babe. It’s a miracle. A beautiful, desperate miracle.

In my mid-twenties, I began to discover the liturgical church year and was pulled into the beauty of the advent season. There was something that kindled my sojourning heart. The light making the darkness flee. The simplicity and ancient tradition in advent liturgy. Walking in the shadows of saints of old, advent created in me a deeper thirst to know Jesus and see his return I didn’t have before.

Advent is

What is Advent really about?

Advent is so much more than a colorful, chocolate countdown to Christmas. It’s a holy mourning, a cry for mercy and for justice. It is a season of repentance and a call to be the hands and feet of Christ. It is remembering the prophets precious promises fulfilled. It is a desperate and yet, ever hopeful longing for Christ to return to take his people home, right every wrong, heal every wound, wipe every tear, and reveal his glory and majesty to all of creation. All will know and all will see and every knee with bow. It will be the ultimate jubilee.  

This advent perspective of Christ’s second coming was so different from how I had heard people talk about Jesus’ return. With their eschatological verbiage they’d dive into the rapture, point out the signs of the times, and analyze  whether you’re you post-trib, pre-trib, or amillennial. Discussions were more focused on how and when Jesus was going to come rather than He is coming. There was a fervor for the facts, but lacked a passion for the person.  I didn’t see a reason to long for Jesus’ return if it was one big guessing game ending in havoc and chaos.

And then I found advent, I met Christ in a way I hadn’t before. He was nearer. He was compassionate and humble. His presence closer, His companionship real. Sorrow had an answer. He was eager (and is!) to meet the needs of his people. He is patient that more would be lead in kindness to repentance.  Longing for the second advent gives me a purpose and hope I didn’t have before. There was a promise made long ago and He is that promise.

“God has given no pledge which He will not redeem, and encouraged no hope which He will not fulfill.”

Charles Spurgeon

 

Jesus is ready. Home is on the horizon. He is coming, for now we wait.

 

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! 

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

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