Kids of all ages enjoy opening the doors of an advent calendar. It might be in the shape of a Christmas tree, a house with stockings hanging over a fireplace, or even Santa Claus. There is usually chocolate, Christmas candy, a little puzzle, a Bible verse, or a tiny toy behind the door or in the pocket.
Now, that you have their attention, why not use the daily calendar opening as an opportunity to draw the children into the story of Jesus’ birth. Each child might have his own, or there could be just one family calendar with the focus on the children. They can take turns opening.
Make it more than a countdown to gift opening on Christmas day.
Use a Ready Made Advent Calendar
Many parents or grandparents simply purchase an advent calendar that is complete in itself and ready to be hung on the wall. It is made of paper or cardboard and has tiny doors to be opened. A flat piece of chocolate is the usual treat behind the door.
Some of these calendars might also have Bible verses included. These, of course, can be read and discussed.
Buy or Make an Advent Calendar That Needs Filling
Other parents buy or make advent calendars with pockets that can be used year after year. This means they have to take the time to find something to fill each of those pockets. The easy way is to simply put a piece of chocolate or candy in each pocket. There is always room for that kind of treat, but there are ways to make this ritual much more meaningful.
Be prepared to spend some time doing the following.
- Check out the local Christian bookstore. The Sunday School section has favors that will fit in the pockets of the calendars. These small erasers, stickers, tiny puzzles, or even pencils usually have a Bible verse, a Christian symbol, or an inspirational thought on them.
- Search the dollar or discount stores. You can often find Christian-themed items around Christmas time. Or, you can add a Bible verse or stickers.
- Make a ‘to do’ list. Consider adding pieces of paper that tell the children of activities you will be doing as a family; for example, going for a walk to check out the neighbors decorations, collecting food for Christmas hampers prepared at their school, saying special prayers for families staying in emergency shelters, or even going for a family skate.
Don’t worry if the calendar pockets are overflowing. You can always wrap the item in tissue paper so it doesn’t matter if a pencil or bookmark is sticking out the top.
A word of caution: do not wait until the last minute to shop for these small treats. It can take a long time to find the right ones. Be prepared to fill in the blanks with chocolate or candy.
Connecting With the Christmas Story
On Sunday evenings for the four weeks of advent and on Christmas Eve, make the advent calendar extra special by having a brief devotional time with the children. Use passages of scripture that lead up to the birth of Christ.
Here is an example of a sequence of scripture passages you might read to the children and then explain how they fit into the Christmas story.
Weeks One and Two
- John foretells the coming of Jesus (Mark 1:1-8).
- The angel Gabriel appears to Mary that she will be carrying the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38).
Weeks Three and Four and Christmas Eve
- An angel comes to Joseph in a dream to explain why Mary is having this baby (Matthew 1:18-24).
- The birth of Jesus (Luke 2: 1-7).
- The role of the shepherds in spreading the word about the birth of the Savior (Luke 2:8-20).
You might want to light candles on an advent wreath at home and look up special children’s Christmas prayers to make this devotional time even more special.