Several years back during the holiday season I was riding in the car with Iain–child number four in the Dodson line up. From the backseat our resident deep-thinker asked me a haunting question:
“Mom, do we be good for Santa or do we be good for Jesus?”
In that moment my sweet, little three year old confirmed to me why we chose to go against the main stream and celebrate Advent rather than “traditional” Christmas with our children. I assured him that we “be good” for Jesus Christ not for Santa Claus.
It is THE most important thing to us that our children are raised knowing God and what He has done for us. We want to live in a way that declares “every good and perfect gift is from above”. We celebrate Advent in our home as a piece of the strong foundation we seek to lay for our family.
PLEASE don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying if you “do Santa” with your children you are distracting them from loving Christ. We do not boycott all things Claus. For instance, our kids have had their picture taken with Santa at the mall. Our children know him as a make-believe, character in Christmas, not the highlight of the season. But to be honest, we have found it hard to find a balance between Santa and Jesus during the holidays. Celebrating Advent helps us focus on Christ. Although Advent has been the focus of our family’s holiday celebrations for several years, I still find it very hard to write about it because I don’t want anyone to think I would ever judge them for their choice. Rather, it’s simple: Advent works for our family. It is the highlight of our year. Here are some reasons why…
1. Advent helps us to savor the moments.
Since we can’t spend a lot of extra money doing Advent activities, we turn the regular holiday traditions into special moments. For example, going to the Christmas tree farm is always one of our first Advent activities. It is something lots of families do this time of year. I just write it on a little piece of paper, stick it in the Advent calendar and add some little special touches. I try to make a normal family tradition a little more special.
2. Advent encourages our family to think of others.
At least once a week during Advent I try to incorporate a service project. It is usually making a gift for someone special, like teachers, neighbors, and friends. We also like to visit the elderly in our church and sing carols. It doesn’t have to be a big project, anything that helps us focus on others rather than on ourselves.
3. Advent helps teach our children our blessings come from the Lord.
It sounds kinda crazy, but we want our children to know there is no one who magically brings gifts to our house. God is our provider and He blesses us in many different ways. He provides mom and dad with jobs, talents and abilities, which we use to work hard and make money. We then use discipline, budgets, coupons, and creativity. Rather than Santa, we wait in long lines, fight crazy traffic, and sacrifice our own wants and needs to provide gifts for them. We do all this willingly and with more love than they could ever imagine, because they are precious gifts God has given us. When our children realize the gifts they receive did not magically appear it helps to instill a spirit of gratitude rather than entitlement or expectation.
Again, PLEASE don’t get me wrong. Our children are not the perfect picture of gratitude. They are imperfect human beings like their parents, but we are training them to strive for holiness right alongside of us. Just as we miss the mark we know they will too. Therefore, Advent is one of our biggest tools for teaching gratitude. During the Advent season we try to make everything we do a celebration of the Lord and what He has done for us. We are not spending time and money to honor whether they have been naughty or nice over the past year. Most of what we do to celebrate Advent are family activities and not gifts. This enables us to model love and gratitude while growing closer as a family.
Over the next few days I’ll post more information on Advent and how we celebrate it. I’ve asked my teenagers not to look, so I’m attaching my calendar for this year below. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions. I’m working on a second post concerning how I set up my calendar.