The English word advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”. The Greek word for adventus is parousia. The meaning of parousia is also “coming” but refers specifically to the second coming of Christ.
Advent is celebrated in the four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. These four weeks of anticipation are the WHY of Advent.
Week 1: The Prophesy Candle
Sunday: Scripture–Isaiah 9:2-6
Song - “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel”
Activity – Give each child a flashlight. Turn off the all the lights and walk around a little in the dark. Then one by one, turn on each flashlight. Ask these questions: Was the darkness very helpful? Did you like it dark? How did the flashlight help you? Does it take a lot of darkness to cover the light? How much light does it take to overcome the dark? How is Jesus like the light? Re-read the scripture.
Nativity - Get out the stable.
Sunday: Scripture – Luke 1:26-28, Matthew 1:18-25
Song - “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Activity – Discuss how God used his angels as messengers to Mary and Joseph. The angels helped Mary and Joseph to know what God wanted from them and that God had chosen them and was watching over them too. Have each family member create an angel, one of God's superheroes. Older children may like to draw or write a description while younger ones may like to dress up. Talk about how God has given angels the special job of watching over us (Hebrews 1:14, Matthew 18:10). God expects them to guide, protect and comfort us (Psalm 34:7, Psalm 91:11).
Nativity – Add an angel to the stable.
Week 3: The Bethlehem Candle
Sunday: Scripture – Micah 5:2, Luke 2:1-7
Song - “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Activity – Create the town of Bethlehem. Talk about what Bethlehem may have looked like. What kind of buildings and businesses were there? Decide as a family whether to create Bethlehem on paper or in real life. If you choose to use paper, have each family member draw a part of town that they choose. A long piece of butcher paper also works well as a mural of Bethlehem that you can keep adding to as Advent progresses. If you choose a real life Bethlehem, work with the kids creating parts of the city. Maybe a table with a blanket over it is a stable or inn. Where's the city gate? Is there a market area? What do you sell there? Another great activity is visiting a live nativity or a re-enactment of Bethlehem. Many churches have these.
Nativity: Add Mary, Joseph and animals to the stable. If you have a separate manger, add this also.
Week 4: The Shepherd Candle
Sunday: Scripture – Luke 2:8-20
Song - “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “What Child is This”
Activity – Go outside or out to the country and spend some time looking at the stars. A bonfire is even fun. Discuss what the shepherds saw that night. Was it a night like this? Maybe it was chilly. What night time noises did the shepherds hear, crickets, coyotes, the crackle of the fire, the sheep? Do you think the angels lit up the sky? What did their voices sound like? If you stay inside, have everyone create the front page of a newspaper announcing Jesus birth.
Nativity – Add shepherds and sheep around the stable.
Christmas Eve: Jesus' Birth Candle
Sunday: Scripture - Luke 2:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25
Song - “Silent Night” , “Away in a Manger”
Activity - Pray together, allowing each family member to to thank God for sending us Jesus. Encourage each person to also thank God for one gift he has given to them that year.
Nativity: Add the baby Jesus to the manger.
Christmas Day: Jesus is Our King
Sunday: Scripture – Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:67-69, Revelation 22:3-5, John 3:16
Song - “Joy to the World”
Activity – Look at baby pictures of each family member. Talk about how each person is growing up and changing. Jesus grew up too and is now the King of Heaven and can be the King of our hearts (John 3:1-3).
Nativity – Allow children to play with the nativity and recreate the story of Jesus birth.
Epiphany: The Wise Seek Jesus
Sunday After Christmas: Scripture – Matthew 2:1-12
Song - "We Three Kings of Orient Are", "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, "What Can I Give Him"
Activity – Share what your favorite part of Advent and the Christmas season was this year. Why was it your favorite? There are no wrong answers. Brainstorm as family how you can keep the Christmas spirit alive. Serving together? Sharing Jesus love with your neighbors?
Nativity: Add the Magi to the nativity and talk about the special gifts they brought to Jesus.
“Celebrate Jesus! At Christmas”by: Kimberly Ingalls Reese
“Christ in Christmas, A Family Advent Celebration”Printed by NavPress, Devotions contributed by James C. Dobson, Charles R. Swindoll, James Montgomery Boice and R.C. Sproul