This Advent Calendar has been adapted from several calendars available through www.thrivingfamily.com. It is interactive and offers a great opportunity to make advent fun and memorable for your kids. Most of the devotionals are filled with object lessons and will require some materials or planning ahead.
First Sunday of Advent First Candle – Prophecy (Purple)
Isaiah 40:3-5, Isaiah 9:6
Every night at dinner this week, light the first purple candle of your Advent wreath.
Romans 1:20 & Genesis 1:1-26
Lead your kids into a darkened room to read Genesis 1:1-26. (You may need a small flashlight.) When you arrive at verse 3, turn on the lights. As you read through the remaining verses, pass around items that offer glimpses of God’s Creation -- a leaf from a plant, magazine photos of fish and wildlife. You can challenge your older kids to research short videos online. Images of the planets and wildlife can be very inspirational. Explain that the Bible says we can see God’s power and know He is real by all the things He has made.
With your kids, inflate several balloons. Put the balloons on table and take turns blowing them around. Can you see the breath that fills the balloons or moves them?
Things such as our breath and words aren’t seen, but they can make things happen. God’s words are even more powerful than ours. He spoke and created everything in the universe. Only God can do that. That’s part of the reason that Jesus is called the “Word.” He existed before the world was created. God made all things through the Word, who is Jesus. Jesus is the source of all things.
Find photos of grandparents, great-grandparents or other distant relatives. Talk about things that have been passed down to your children: beliefs, interests, talents, and heirlooms. Discuss how family names are passed down, too.
Jesus was called the “Son of David” not because His dad’s name was David but because His ancestor was King David, a special king whom God had chosen to rule over Israel. God had said that the Savior of the world would come from David’s family line. And that Savior is Jesus!
Tie yarn to something solid, such as a chair or table leg, and then weave the rest of the ball throughout the room, around furniture, through the banister, etc. Challenge your kids to trace the yarn back to the source.
The yarn is like a vine. A vine connects leaves to its roots, just as Jesus connects us to God. Through the vine, the plant receives water and food. Jesus is called the “True Vine.” He provides the things we need from God, who is our source of life.
Listen to a free audio clip from the Radio Theatre drama The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuprLizc5ac) Mr. Beaver says that Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus, is not safe, but he is good.
Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Lions are strong and courageous—even ferocious—but Jesus always uses His power for good. Jesus’ earthly family was part of a bigger family (a tribe) known as “Judah,” named for one of Jacob’s 12 sons. People were expecting a savior, the Messiah, to come from this family. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah may not be “safe,” but He is good. How do you think you will feel when you meet Him?
Second Sunday of Advent Second Candle – Bethlehem (Purple)
Every night at dinner this week, light the first and second purple candles of your Advent wreath.
Micah 5:4, Luke 15:4-7 & Luke 19:10
The prophet Micah used the image of a shepherd to describe the coming Messiah. Jesus used the same imagery to tell people about himself, saying that He came to seek and save the lost.
Choose a family member to become the “lost sheep.” While all the other family members close their eyes and count to 30, the one “lost sheep” hides somewhere in the house (or outside, weather permitting). The family searches for the one who has gone astray, and when he is found, everyone celebrates. Together, thank Jesus for seeking and saving His lost lambs.
With your child, talk about obstacles that might be in the way when walking to another room in your house. Then blindfold the child and guide her to her destination using only your voice. Redirect or comfort your child if she goes in the wrong direction.
Sometimes it feels like we’re wearing a blindfold because we don’t know how to work through a tough situation, like when we have disagreements with friends or are tempted to do things we shouldn’t do. One of Jesus’ names is Counselor. A counselor listens, guides and comforts. Jesus can guide us through any situation or problem because He sees and knows everything.
The Magi were distinguished men from the East who traveled a great distance to honor Jesus after His birth. They followed a star that eventually led them to the Christ child.
Take your children on a journey throughout your home, searching for the hidden star in each room. These could be star ornaments, stickers or simply stars drawn on paper. Conclude your search in front of your Christmas tree, and consider allowing each child to place the star of his or her choice on the tree as a symbol of your (and the Magi’s) journey.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Ask kids to stand on different items such as a pillow or an empty soda can. What would happen if you had to rely on those items beneath your feet to keep you steady? The pillow would become unstable and the can would flatten. Then have your kids stand on a concrete sidewalk or basement floor. How stable is the sidewalk or floor?
Jesus is our Rock. We don’t stand on Him physically, but He provides the solid and sturdy base for how we view the world. He’s there through all our troubles and is a solid foundation for our faith. He never loses His love for us. He never fails!
Ask your children to walk a “tightrope” (a string lying on the floor) while balancing a book on their heads and on each of their open palms. Can they do it without dropping any of the books?
What if we had to be perfect all of our lives, never making a mistake? Could we do it? Explain to your kids that although they may mess up by dropping a book or falling off the “tightrope,” those aren’t sins. But sometimes the mistakes we make are sins. When we sin, Jesus represents us before the Father; ready to forgive us and help us do the right thing again. That’s why He is called the “Great High Priest.” A priest is someone who represents people before God. In Bible times, the high priest was the only one who could go into the holiest place in the temple. Today, Jesus is in heaven, speaking to God on our behalf.
Ask your kids how much bread they’ve eaten in the last few days. Remind them that hamburger buns, tortillas, pastries, etc., are all forms of bread. Talk about what would happen if we didn’t nourish our bodies with food. When Moses and the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided manna to keep them alive. Without this special source of food, they would have died.
Our physical bodies need food. In the same way, our spirits need nourishment to stay strong, too. Our spirits need something special. Just as God provided manna for His people’s physical needs, He also gave us Jesus, who is called the “Bread of Life,” because He is the only one who can satisfy our spiritual hunger.
Ask your kids to draw a new picture of a subject they’ve often drawn before. Tell them if they can keep drawing until you say, “Stop,” you’ll give them a treat. While they draw, try to distract them with noise, gentle tickling, jokes, etc. Explain that it’s hard to accomplish a task in such chaos. Working in a peaceful environment would be much more effective.
Sin brought chaos into the orderly and peaceful world that God created. But Jesus came to restore peace and to give us the opportunity to have peace in our lives. He is our Prince of Peace.
Third Sunday of Advent Third Candle – Shepherd (Pink)
Every night at dinner this week, light the first two purple candles plus the rose-colored candle.
Encourage your children to dress up like shepherds. Help them put on a bathrobe or large towel secured with a belt. Place a smaller towel on their heads, and hold it in place with a bandana or headband.
Explain that shepherds were considered unimportant men. So it was a surprise that God chose them to be the very first to hear the message of Jesus’ birth. This surprise announcement showed that baby Jesus was a gift for all people, not just for the rich and famous.
Isaiah 53:4-5 & Matthew 8:16-17
Jesus is sometimes referred to as the “Great Physician.” Just as the prophet Isaiah foretold, Jesus healed people of a variety of sicknesses and injuries.
Using gauze, adhesive bandages or toilet paper, perform imaginary triage and first aid on each child in the family. Have a parent play the role of Jesus, blessing each “hurt” person and removing the bandages. Discuss how Jesus heals us both physically and spiritually.
Isaiah 40:3-5 & Luke 3:15-16
Tell your kids that you’re going to see who can get ready first. Then ask, “What do you need to get ready for swimming?” Have them find something needed for swimming (swimsuit, goggles, etc.) and bring it to you as fast as they can. Then repeat the game with items needed to get ready for school, soccer practice and so on.
Explain that it’s important to be prepared. That’s why God sent John the Baptist to help people get ready for the coming Savior. Many people came to John to be baptized, confessing their sins and preparing their hearts for Jesus.
Hebrews 1:6, 14
Cut out the shape of an angel, no more than 5 inches high, on a piece of dark construction paper. Then help each child cut an angel shape in his own paper. Give everyone a flashlight and dim the room. Using your flashlight, read Luke 2:8-14. When you get to verse 9, shine the flashlight beam through your paper so that an angel appears on the wall. When you read verse 13, have the whole family project their own angels onto the wall.
Angels are God’s messengers. throughout history, they have delivered important messages to various people. But a “great company” of angels announced the most important event since the beginning of the world -- Christ’s birth!
Today’s activity requires a little bit of creativity. Using a ball and an empty water bottle (something that won’t break), set up a simple game of hit the can. Take turns trying to bounce or roll the ball, bouncing it off of objects and redirecting it to hit or knock the bottle over. How many times can you bounce the ball off objects and still hit the item? After playing the game, sit down and talk about a time that God “interrupted” your current path or life and changed your direction. Explain that every family or individual faces big moments, events that redirect our plans. How can you have Mary’s response, to trust that God will be with you?
Ask the children to shout out “I am” statements surrounding the Christmas story. For example, “I am the one who told the shepherds about Christ’s birth.” The rest of the family can guess who the child is pretending to be.
We can describe ourselves in many ways: “I am a daughter”; “I am a son”; “I am a student.” Jesus described himself as “I am,” too, but He didn’t always add
a title afterward. Through this statement, He was describing himself as God. Jesus has always been God and a part of His work in the world. He needs no explanation or title. He simply is and therefore can say, “I am.”
Joseph and Mary’s trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem was more complicated than a holiday road trip to see relatives. The total distance they traveled was only about 80 miles, but since Joseph was walking and Mary (pregnant with Jesus) was riding a donkey, it took them almost a week to make the trip.
To help your kids better understand Joseph and Mary’s journey, use an atlas or online program such as Google Maps to plot the way to a destination about 80 miles from your house. If your children were traveling on foot, what obstacles might they face along the way? Where would they sleep? What would they eat and drink?
Fourth Sunday of Advent Fourth Candle – Angels Candle (Purple)
Jesus was born in a stable and was laid in an animal’s feeding trough. While this isn’t the place you would expect a king to sleep, it was all Joseph and Mary had available on this miraculous night.
Using bedsheets or pillows, create a “stable” big enough for the family to huddle in. Use a flashlight for a lantern, and choose stuffed animals for the animals that may have been present when Jesus was born. Talk with your children about the sights, sounds and smells of the stable. This humble dwelling was the birthplace of our Savior and King.
Just as Mary was chosen to be the mother of Christ, so Joseph was chosen to be Jesus’ earthly father. God showed confidence in Joseph’s character when He entrusted the humble carpenter with the raising of His Son. One of the ways Joseph nurtured Jesus was by teaching Him how to make things out of wood. Jesus probably worked as a carpenter until He was 30 years old.
Give each child a small hammer, nails and some lightweight pieces of wood. Show them how to hammer a nail and, depending on their ability, nail pieces of wood together. Imagine Jesus and Joseph working side by side. What are some things Joseph might have taught Jesus to make?
Set up simple activities in an uncluttered space. Include tasks such as tying a shoe, writing a word and sorting blocks by color. Dim the lights or use flashlights in a dark room and let your children attempt to complete these tasks. Younger children might want to hold a parents hand. Turn on the lights and let them try again.
Ask your children to compare how it felt to work in darkness versus in the light. Jesus is called the “Light of the World.” He helps us understand things about God in a way we couldn’t clearly understand before, and He makes it possible for us to do the work God wants us to do.
Hide coins around the house. Next, create a “jail” by cutting openings in a box or turning a laundry basket upside down. Place one of your child’s favorite stuffed animals or toys in the jail. Then have your child search the house for the coins. Give clues to find the coins, if necessary. When he finds all the coins, he can choose to buy freedom for the toys or keep the money.
As a result of sin, we became prisoners to our evil desires and behaviors. Jesus came to offer himself in exchange for our freedom. He gave His life to buy us out of our prison of sin—to become our Redeemer. His life turned out to be exactly what was needed to redeem us.
Here’s one additional activity for the name above all names—Jesus— to help you celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Tonight at dinner, light the white candle as well as all the other candles as you celebrate Christ’s birth. Be sure to sing your favorite carols. Merry Christmas!
Ask your children if they know who picked their names. Explain that names are special, and when we hear our names spoken, it grabs our attention.
Some people are named after family members. Using a book of baby names or the Internet, look up the meaning of each family member’s name. Now share why you chose that name for your child. When Mary was pregnant, an angel told her to name her child Jesus, which means “God saves.” God picked the name Jesus to show that He would save people from their sins. Today is a day of celebration after waiting all the days of Advent.
Fun ideas to conclude the season:
Have a Birthday Party for Jesus (complete with cake, the Happy Birthday song, candles and nonmaterial gifts).
Doing a Nativity play with simple costumes. As you prepare to open gifts explain how we give gifts as a reminder of how much God gave us in Jesus.
If you have a nativity (or print out a picture) in your house walk through the role of each person in the Christmas Story as you read Luke 2. Use the opportunity to reinforce the gift Jesus is for each of us, and how his birth 2000 years ago changed your life.