A Handcrafted Advent Calendar (+ daily readings and activities!)

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I love Christmas season. I love everything about it—the lights, the music, the food, the weather. Most of all I love the anticipation of the weeks up to Christmas Day, all pregnant with excitement. (Or for me right now, just plain pregnant.) This year, my heart is trilling to celebrate Advent. Not the cheap-chocolate-behind-cardboard-Santas type of countdown, but a true preparation of our hearts to remember the coming of Christ King. {Click through to see our handcrafted Advent calendar and reading/activity list!}

Why celebrate Advent? Isn’t the idea just to tick the days until presents and stockings and Santa? Nope. Not at all.

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word which means “coming” or “arrival.” The Advent season is described as “the time we remember that period of history when we were still in darkness, waiting for the light of the world to come.” (Quote from Let Us Keep The Feast, a basic but great read on observing Advent.)

…the time we remember that period of history when we were still in darkness, waiting for the light of the world to come…

That’s what my heart wants to experience this year, and what we want Red and Wolf Pup to understand. Christmas is about God entering Earth, about light piercing dark, about joy destroying despondency. Sometimes to truly grasp the weight of this season’s significance we must intentionally hold reminders of God’s purpose and plan daily. Otherwise it’s easy to get carried away in tinsel and trappings—and become literally trapped by the glitter and bustle instead of experiencing the joy Jesus unleashes.

So this year I made a simple Advent calendar with a daily Bible reading and corresponding activity to walk us through the season. For the actual numbered day markers, I wanted a calendar that was cute to look at but also interactive enough for little hands to enjoy. I copied Tsh’s easy design over at The Art of Simple. (And I scored my frame and ribbons at a thrift store for under $2! [clap, clap, clap, clap])

Christmas Advent calendar in Shoebox

The actual Advent reading guide and activities took a little more piecing together. Who knew that so many varying Advent reading schedules and tracks existed?!? I settled on primarily following GMG_Advent-Childrens-Resources. (FYI, you must sign up for their newsletter to receive the PDF materials for free.) This guide doesn’t include a reading for every day of the week, so I added content for weekends. Here is the list of passages and exercises we’ll be following for the next 24 days (note that the activities are tailored for toddlers/preschoolers):

1. Light one candle. Read 1 John 1:1-4. Explain the overall idea of Advent and why we are counting down until Christmas. Sing “Oh Come, Oh Come Immanuel.”

2. Light one candle. Read John 1:9-12. Make “Hand Print Earth” craft from GMG resource.

3. Light one candle. Read Jeremiah 33:14-15. Make “Pocket Promises” craft from GMG resource.

4. Light one candle. Read Isaiah 60:19-20. Turn off lights except for Christmas lights & candle. Eat cookies/milk treat and talk about light and dark.

5. Light one candle. Read Romans 15:12-13. Make “Family Tree” craft from GMG resource.

6. Light one candle. Read Luke 1:76-79. Look at world map and talk about how Christmas is celebrated around the world, outline from GMG resource.

7. Light one candle. Read 1 John 4:7-8. Write a love note to someone special, deliver it.

8. Light two candles. Read Matthew 22:37. Draw a snowman with a heart, or make a snowman out of cotton balls.

9. Light two candles. Read Psalm 119:105-106. Create a “path” on the floor out of ribbons or string. Turn off all house lights except for candles, use a flashlight to walk carefully on the path.

10. Light two candles. Read Zephaniah 3:17. Drink hot cocoa and sing or listen to “Silent Night”.

11. Light two candles. Read Luke 1:37. Perform a quick “science experiment” by mixing baking soda and vinegar together in a pan. Watch the bubbles and talk about how God can do anything.

12. Light two candles. Read John 12:35-36. Make “Paper Towel Candle” craft from GMG resource.

13. Light two candles. Read Philippians 2:6-7. Make paper snowflakes and hang somewhere in the house.

14. Light two candles. Read Matthew 1:21. Bundle up in PJ’s and drive around to look at Christmas lights.

15. Light three candles. Read 1 John 2:4-7. Pop popcorn and enjoy a family game night.

16. Light three candles. Read Nehemiah 8:10. Help each child choose something—a toy, a book or a blanket—to give to a friend or to donate to a child who might appreciate that item. Share big smiles to reflect giving with joy!

17. Light three candles. Read Psalm 16:11. Sing “Joy To The World” and “I’ve Got The Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down In My Heart.” Finger paint paper or canvas with the word “JOY” spelled out in painter’s tape. Remove tape once paint dries to reveal the word “JOY” clearly.

18. Light three candles. Read Luke 2:10-14. Talk about good news that would bring each family member joy.

19. Light three candles. Read Hebrews 12:1-2. Hold a family race—contestants compete by rolling large marshmallows across the floor to a finish line with their noses. Consider crowning winners with a paper crown.

20. Light three candles. Read Isaiah 9:6, Zephaniah 3:14-15, and Philippians 4:47. Make the “Names of Jesus wreath” craft from GMG resource.

21. Light three candles. Read Matthew 1:20-21 and John 14:27. Decorate heart-shaped sugar cookies and talk about loving God with our whole hearts.

22. Light all four candles. Read Romans 5:1-2. Snuggle up and watch a Christmas movie.

23. Light all four candles. Read Colossians 3:15. “Decorate” or color Christmas tree printables.

24. Light all four candles. Read Luke 2:1-13. Sing “Away In A Manger.” Open one present (our children will receive new PJ’s because we are practical like that). 🙂 Attend a candlelight service at church.

Care to join us in preparing our hearts to see Christmas from a real perspective? It’s not too late! Make a good-ol-fashioned paper chain and jump in… or don’t make anything and simply read along with us. Use  #SmallishAdvent to see a glimpse of our activity each day or to share your own thoughts.

Together, let’s focus our eyes and hearts on more than gathering presents and sparkling lights. Let’s countdown to Christmas with our gaze on His presence and piercing Light.

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  • Kim
    December 2, 2013

    So excellent, Evelyn! Yes, we will join you in celebrating the advent of Jesus. Thank you for your efforts to point us in the right direction. Be blessed!

    • Evelyn
      December 2, 2013

      Thanks, Kim. I appreciate your faithfulness in commenting. 🙂

  • Christy King
    December 2, 2013

    This year we’re doing the Advent wreath. Sometime during the next year, I want to knit a bunch of those tiny stockings to use for an Advent calendar. Didn’t think of it until too late this year.

    • Evelyn
      December 3, 2013

      Christy, the stocking idea is a great one! 365 days is surely enough time to knit 24 miniature socks. 🙂

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