Today I had the privileged to guest post over at SimpleLifeMessyLife.com. I talked about one of our favorite Advent traditions – the Advent ( aka. Acts of Love) Calendar.
The Christmas season is a time of joy and love but it can also be a time of stress for parents and greediness for children when all they can think about is what they will find under the tree on Christmas morning! To help bring the focus back on Christ and sharing his love with others, we started the tradition of making our Advent Calendar into an Act of Love Calendar. We talked about the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25: 31-46. We explained that we can show our love for Jesus by sharing that love with others and what we do for others, we do for Our Lord.
A couple years back I found this little country house Advent calendar at Target and I loved it! Normally you would put in a treat or little toy for each day but instead I put little slips of paper with different acts of love our family could do each day.
To keep things simple, I searched online for a children’s printable Advent calendar. I found this one from Loyola Press. I simply cut up the calendar and put the little paper squares into the corresponding day. Each day we had one act of kindness that everyone in the family would do. If one of the day’s activities was not really suitable for our family or if there were other acts or activities I wanted our family to work on, I just wrote my own words on a slip of paper and added it in a box. On Sundays our act of love is spending time together so we do something fun as a family, such as, pick out our Christmas tree or bake cookies to bring to a neighbor or watch a Christmas movie together (without fighting who gets to choose the movie.)
In the evenings after we say grace for dinner, we each take a turn to share something about our day. During Advent this will often include sharing about our act of love. For example, one of my sons shared how on the day he was supposed to be help someone in need, he helped a classmate that fell down at recess and walked him to the school office to get a band aid.
Another time we had to be a peacemaker so I shared that instead of losing my temper and yelling at the kids, I first went into my room and screamed into my pillow, then came out of my bedroom and corrected the boys calmly. (They got a kick out of that one.) This sharing helps us to see how we can apply our faith into the daily fabric of our lives.
Let me add two disclaimers here. The first is that you don’t have to buy a fancy advent box to do this activity. You could use construction paper and make 25 Christmas shapes tracing cookie cutters. Or you can use leftover scrap book paper and make an Advent chain with 24 rings. Write acts of love on the cut out slips of paper then loop them together with tape. Then each day you remove one ring.
If you need some ideas of things you could write down, here are some suggestions.
Share something of yours with a sibling or friend at school.
Don’t lose your temper when someone makes you upset.
Be grateful and say thank you to God and others.
Say a prayer for someone in need today.
Clean up your room without being asked.
Donate toys or books you’ve outgrown to charity.
Read a favorite bible story to a family member.
Give someone you love a hug and tell them you love them.
Try hard to obedient to your teachers and parents.
Be grateful for what you have and don’t complain.
Make Christmas cards and deliver them to the local nursing home.
Do an extra job around the house to earn money to buy a toy for the Angel Tree
Spend time with your family doing a fun activity together.
The list can go on and on but you get the idea! Choose things that are most suitable to your family and where you are in life.
The second disclaimer is not to get discouraged if you try this and everything is not as picture perfect as you had hoped. There are days when my little peacemakers are practically fist fighting their brothers over who gets to pick the next act or who gets to put the slip of paper in Jesus’ stocking. Or the teen may give you a blank expression when you ask about their day at the dinner table. Or a hectic day may find you never did anything with your act. Don’t worry about it. Say a prayer to your Heavenly Father and move on to the next day. It won’t always be picture perfect but the grace comes with the effort and when you see a glimpse of your child “getting it” or when you see yourself being more patient, then you know that you truly are learning how to keep Christ in Christmas.
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PPS – This post first appeared at SimpleLifeMessyLife.com. 🙂