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As a parent, I know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed during Advent, trying to balance all of the activities at home, school and church, so my suggestion of adding one more item to your to-do list may not win me any blessings this Advent season! With so much going on, it can be easy to lose the excitement and anticipation around celebrating the birth of our Lord. You can help your child feel that anticipation by discussing the theme we celebrate each of the four Sunday’s in Advent at church. It does not have to be a Sunday school lesson, or be around your Advent wreath, or even involve reading scripture, but just a short talk with your child at bedtime or in the car on your journeys from activity to activity.

Advent 1: Hope “a strong and confident expectation”
Some questions to ask your child: What does it mean to anticipate something? What kinds of things do we look forward to? Be prepared for talk of presents and Santa Claus. You may need to model for your child what you might be anticipating such as, “I am excited to spend time together as a family,” or “I cannot wait to see you in the Christmas pageant and hear the story of Jesus’ birth.” You can say this simple prayer with your child: Dear God, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jesus, and for our hearts to be filled with the hope he brings. Amen.

Advent 2: Peace “tranquility, harmony, or security”
Children often associate peace as the opposite of war between countries. You may need talk about how peace or lack of peace not only affects countries, but individuals as well. For example, how the peace between two people can be broken and mended. Or how we can feel peace within our hearts by praying to God a prayer like this: I am so excited for the arrival of Jesus, and pray that the peace he brings will surround me, my family, my church and all those in the world, like a warm blanket. Amen.

Advent 3: Joy “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”
For some, it can be hard to feel joy at this time of year, and our children are not immune from sadness, even with the upcoming holiday. As adults, we need to remember that joy is not just found in “big things,” but can be found in small things such as seeing the first snowfall of the season, reading Christmas cards or hanging up favorite decorations. Once you find a little joy with your child, it will become easier to find more and more things that bring your family joy. For a child who love facts and numbers, the word “joy” appears 88 times in the Old Testament in 22 books, and 57 times in the New Testament in 18 books, so I am guessing that God really wants us to feel joy and to share it with others! A joyful prayer: May I feel the joy in my heart that the shepherds felt the first time they looked upon baby Jesus. Amen.

Advent 4: Love “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
Love abounds at this time of year with family and church gatherings, but what are some ways you can encourage your child to show love for their neighbors? Start by modeling behaviors such as saying “hello” to your neighbors, or helping an elderly neighbor to shovel snow off their sidewalk, or just holding a door open for someone. We often overlook the smaller actions in our everyday lives, when it is these smaller actions of love and respect that can lead to greater ones. Lord, you sent your son to teach us to love each other. Help me learn to love my neighbor this Advent season. Amen.

Christmas Day: Jesus the Savior is born to us today. Alleluia!
One of the traditions we have in our family is leaving Baby Jesus out of our Nativity set during Advent, then placing him into the manger on Christmas Eve after our son is in bed. Such a simple action, but it brings a moment of peace to me to have to slow down to do it, and it brings my son such joy to look for Jesus on Christmas morning. It is a reminder of the hope and love that Jesus brings to so many. Jesus is born to us today. Alleluia!

Whatever the Advent season brings your family this year, remember to take a deep breath and enjoy with your child the anticipation of the hope, peace, joy and love that the birth of our Lord brings to us.

With many Advent blessings,
Marcie Jackson, Dir. Of Children & Family Ministries