As much as most of us love surprises, there’s nothing juicier than the feeling of anticipation as you wait for something you’re especially excited for—counting down the days, while that excitement only grows. With Thanksgiving now in our rearview mirrors, you know what comes next… Christmas! Many children’s favorite holiday! You can help build the excitement of anticipation for your kids, while also encouraging them to focus on the true reason for the season, by creating your own advent countdown to Christmas.
What is an Advent Countdown?
The season of Advent is more than just an advent calendar or a countdown to Christmas. It’s a special time to build anticipation leading up to the holiday, while teaching valuable lessons on the real reason why we celebrate: Jesus!
The word advent means “arrival” or “a coming.” We celebrate Advent to anticipate not only the coming of Christmas, but the ultimate coming of Christ, Himself. Christmas’ advent meaning is to not only remember Jesus’ first advent, or “arrival”, when He was born as a baby to be our Savior from sin, but to also anticipate His second coming where He will return to rule as King over all things.
When Does the Advent Countdown Start?
The amazing gift God has given us in Jesus is far too great to only celebrate for one day. The season of Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. Be sure to start planning your advent countdown ideas now so you don’t miss a single day focusing on the significance of Christ’s coming, celebrating His work on the cross, and teaching kids the importance of Advent!
3 Advent Countdown Ideas
Want to start a fun new holiday tradition with your family? Celebrate Christmas and a Christ-focused advent meaning with these 3 family-friendly advent countdown ideas.
1) Light an Advent Candle
One tradition to brighten the expectation of Christmas that you can do either as a family or church body is the lighting of the advent candle. Designed to help us appreciate the different elements of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ultimate second coming, an advent candle consists of four candles: three of one color, and a center candle that is a secondary color—usually white to remind us that Jesus, the Light of the World, has come. Each Sunday of Advent a different candle is lit and a new aspect of the hope, love, joy, and peace we can experience through Jesus is shared, before finally lighting the center white candle on Christmas Eve.
Whether lighting an advent candle as a family or a church body, make your advent candle lighting even more special by doing a special reading of the Bible on the themes of hope, love, joy, and peace. These readings can either be done by a different church family or a family member each week. Just be sure to invite young children to participate as well!
2) Make an Advent Wreath
To help make your advent candle lighting even more special, consider making your own family advent wreath to encircle them; helping your kids to understand the hope, love, joy, and peace we have because of Jesus. Symbolizing the eternal life we now have through Christ, an advent wreath can be created out of all kinds of elements—pine boughs being a popular option. To make it extra special as a family, however, collect or buy a pinecone for each family member, then decorate it at home with glitter glue, stickers, or ribbon to set around the advent wreath. You could also tie on a decorated ribbon to the advent wreath for each family member every Sunday of Advent, while saying something you feel hope, love, joy, or peace for with each ribbon and candle lighting.
As it’s never safe to leave candles burning unattended, consider having the advent wreath in the center of the dinner table, only lighting the candles each evening for dinner time before blowing them out. Gathering around the dinner table for your advent countdown also offers a great opportunity for the whole family to focus attention on Jesus as the reason for the season each evening.
3) Create an Advent Calendar
This last idea is a favorite with children for a reason. Beginning on December 1st and ending on Christmas Day, an advent calendar helps build anticipation by providing a daily treat, picture, activity, gift, or Bible verse to unearth each day of the advent countdown. The advent calendar options are endless; all that matters is that kids have fun, learn about Jesus, and get excited for His birth and return!
You can easily purchase or create your own advent calendar to use with your kids by following one of the dozens of ideas available online. Just remember to find one that puts the focus on the “Christ” in “Christmas”.
Remember the Advent Meaning
Jesus truly is the reason for the season and the ultimate advent meaning. It is because of the arrival, or “advent”, of Him—God, the Son, becoming a man to forsake Godhood and live among us, His birth demonstrating the incredible love He has for us—that we can live in the anticipation and joy of Christmas and the promise of His return.
Although Christmas time is often filled with special movies, parties, cookies, and gifts, let’s remember to keep Christ as the center of the celebration. Take time as a family to enjoy the advent countdown—using your advent candles, wreath, or calendar, reading the Christmas story from the Bible, or even baking a birthday cake to sing happy birthday to Jesus. This holiday season, let’s use Advent to talk with our kids about just what it means to receive the greatest gift ever given: Jesus!