I love Advent. I love the confident wait, the certain hope, the undeserved miracle. I love the still, quiet moments around the table with our kids. When the house is shrouded in darkness save for those glittering candles reminding us of His light and His love.
Our firstborn son was born the day after Christmas. In fact, I was admitted to the hospital Christmas night, swollen and scared and wondering.
Anticipation, expectation, wonder.
I have walked Advent with those very palpable feelings tied about my heart. As Mary makes her way round our wooden advent wheel, I am right there with her. Expectation and wonder. Scared and filled with joy.
We have shared 7 advent seasons with our children. Some of them were rife with illness or stress. Some were lonely, painful seasons. Some we crawled our way through, we made it by the skin of our teeth.
All of them had hope, because all of them had God. After all, Emmanuel has never skipped an advent. He’s right in the thick of it with us. We don’t have to put on our Sunday best to meet Him. He gets the broken bits, the tattered rags. He doesn’t mind that I haven’t done the laundry or that dinner was more than slightly burnt. Or that I skipped the Caroling at the Nursing Home field trip because I did not want to be around people. We are a mess and, unlike me, Emmanuel still showed up.
For those that have been writing in and asking what we do for advent, yes, I will be including a list of our favorite books and resources below, but I wanted to write first and say that you don’t need to buy or make anything so that your children can experience advent. Emmanuel–God with us– is all that truly matters. He is near to us as we wait with confident hope. The tender security of this season is not dependent upon what we mothers accomplish as social directors of the season. Lets make time to draw near and worship. Lets make it the priority.
We often see Christmas as our time to serve the community, or to teach our kids about loving others. Are you looking for opportunities to serve in your community and minister to others this season? Fantastic! Don’t forget to love God first. I have to remind myself of this over and over again. Our most important commandment is found in Matthew 22:34-38, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” As Henri Nouwen says in The Living Reminder, “It seems that in fact we live as if we should give as much of our heart, soul and mind as possible to our fellow human beings, while trying hard not to forget about God…But Jesus’ claim is much more radical. He asks for single minded commitment to God and God alone. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind and all of our soul.” Yes, love others this Christmas season. But we can’t forget to love God first. A few years ago my obsession was not getting, it was giving. And not the good kind of giving. I emptied myself so much I was basically inside out. A frazzled, empty mess. God was not first. He was not even a distant fourth. Everyone and their mother (except this mother) came first that year. My devotion was distracted. He showed up and I left the room to help someone else.
Lets lead our little ones to the advent wreath and spend time with the Lord, but let us not forget to get ourselves there first. Your advent season with Jesus matters too. So before you skip down to the resource section and kill yourselves trying to add in every single book or print out, find time in this often too busy season and carve out space for yourself to celebrate this expectant longing for Jesus. Wether or not you have an advent wreath, step away from the chaos and be near to Him. He loves you so. Come, let us adore Him.
This Advent I am asking God to help me understand the depth of His love for me. All these years of walking in faith and I still wonder, “really? Do you really, really love me?” I am a disgusting human being. Could He, in all the magnificent splendor and blinding blaze of His perfect righteousness, truly love me? My Sunday school answer has always been “Yes, He loves me!” I am certain of His love for others. Greatly, greatly certain of His love for others, but always cautious and insecure when it comes to me. I am praying for it to hit me like a ton of bricks this Christmas. I want to be utterly wrecked by His love. At the end of this Advent season, I want to live life like an unchained, freedom-gifted girl, adored by the God of this universe.
What will you ask Him to show you this season? What will you ask Him to reveal to your children this season? Pray faithfully over it. Pray it often. Write it down and pray the same thing over and over. I am determined to forget the dishes for awhile, arrive late to the party, leave the Christmas movie for later. Are the kids fighting? I’m committing to take a few minutes to intervene and help them reconcile before we move on and come to the light. If I start fighting with my spouse? I can stop in my selfish choo choo tracks, make it right and gather with my frail human family and worship Him– immortal invisible God only wise. There are a thousand distractions, a million blinking lights, begging me to turn away from the only light that matters. I refuse to be blinded by them.
Turn out the lights, come to the table, strike a match and light the candles.
Soak in His light. Hope, peace, joy and love.
He is coming.
Nothing can stop His coming.
Not fighting kids or messy rooms or canceled plans or strained family relationships.
He is coming.
Joy to the World.
Farmhouse Schoolhouse Favorite Advent Resources
Advent Books/Curriculums for Children
Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide
Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Jonie Eareckson Tada
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith
The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman
The Story of Christmas Illustrations by Pamela Dolton (illustrations are featured above)
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
A Tree for Peter by Katie Seredy
The Glorious Impossible by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Giotto
The Journey to Bethlehem by Chris Molan
The Christmas Stories of George Macdonald (one of my favorite collections!)
The First Christmas by The National Gallery London
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
The Candle in the Window by Grace Johnson
A Cowboy Christmas by Audrey Wood
The Small Miracle by Peter Collington
Josie’s Gift by Kathleen Long Bostrom
An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco
Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck
Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd Jones
Father and Son by Geraldine McCaughrean
Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer
Back to the Manger by Margaret Ann Philbrick
Go Tell It on the Mountain by Debbie Trafton O’Neal
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
The Tale of the Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner