Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life

Best Ever Family Tradition That Rescues Christmas


Advent Christmas Rescue

When I was growing up, Christmas was all about Santa Claus. I still remember the year I discovered Santa wasn’t real. I was in 3rd grade, and I’d heard unbelievable rumors from bigger kids at school. Before the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, I raced with my brothers to the tree and saw the doll I’d found hidden in Mom’s closet the week before. The gift tag on the doll said: “From Santa.” I was horrified. The big kids at school were right.

When I had children of my own, I chose not to go the Santa route, but gifts remain a central focus of the Christmas season. Many of us expend more energy buying, wrapping, and giving gifts than we do on any other activity in December.

Gifts are fun, but I what I really want to pass on to my kids is the marvel of the Christmas miracle.

We Celebrate Advent, Christ’s Awaited Coming.

At our house, celebrating advent rescues Christmas from the gift goblins and turns it into a special opportunity to encourage our children’s faith. When the kids were little, we started lighting a wreath every evening in December. We read a brief scripture, sang a carol, and blew out the candle. Some nights we had a special treat like a cookie, hot chocolate, or apple cider.

Gathering around an advent wreath builds family togetherness and adds a bit of wonder to Christmas. Singing a familiar carol brings a peaceful pause to hurried days of holiday preparation.

Let go of perfect.

You may have rosy pictures of your family gathered around a candle lit wreath, like in a Christmas Hallmark movie. Your kids’ angelic faces are rapt with attention. They sing “Away in the Manger” and adore Jesus.

Ain’t gonna happen that way every night, folks.

Real life advent time is like this. Your kids fight over who gets to light the candle and who gets to blow it out. (Smart parents devise a system of taking turns, which works only sometimes.) While everyone sings “Away in the Manger,” one kid hits his brother. The other kid sticks a pencil into the candle flame to see how fast it will burn.

Relax and do what you can.

Remember that even your most feeble efforts to point to Jesus as the center of the Christmas celebration will encourage your kids’ faith. If your children are small, keep it short and sweet. If your kids are busy high schoolers with evening activities, aim for 3 or 4 nights a week and call it good. Our family did it in the MORNING last year! Candle light was not quite the same at 8:00 a.m., but we let go of perfect in favor of what works.

At our house, celebrating advent rescues Christmas from the gift goblins and turns it into a special opportunity to encourage our children’s faith.

Here are some helpful resources:

Countdown to Christmas: A 15-Day Advent Nativity Activity: My friend Lisa Apello has written this new guide. You can use it in conjunction with a nativity set, putting out one piece each day and reading a corresponding scripture and devotional.

We Light the Candles : An old fashioned guide with simple readings for young children.

Good Morning Girls Advent Study: Bible study for you and activities for your kids.

Focus on the Family’s Advent Readings (Scroll to bottom of the page for the reading plan.)

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

Maybe you haven’t had the time or energy to think about advent. It starts this Sunday, November 29th. If you don’t have a wreath or a reading plan yet, light a candle, sing a carol, and pray with your kids. Keep it simple. If you don’t have kids, you can still light candles and read scripture as a special ending to each day in December.

Now it’s your turn? What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?

Linking up with Grace and Truth,  Dance with Jesus, and Faith ‘n Friends. Check out these communities for more encouragement.

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Author: betsydecruz

I want to enjoy the everyday life God is giving me as best I can, even when the road gets bumpy. I love having fun with my teenagers, learning almost anything, and drinking dark roast coffee with my friends.

31 thoughts on “Best Ever Family Tradition That Rescues Christmas

  1. Definitely our Advent traditions are among my favorite. Twenty years ago I made a big banner with a Christmas tree and 25 ornaments representing aspects of Jesus coming — I got the idea from a book whose name I can’t recall, but it covers teaching on Jesus being the Alpha and the Omega and details of the Christmas story right through the wisemen. And . . . yes we had a schedule of who got to put the ornaments on each morning. Phew.

  2. Betsy, we love to celebrate Advent as well. I agree with you that it is the one thing that rescued Christmas for us. We started when the children were young and went through all the phases of “real life” incidents marring my idea of perfection. However, my teens and young adults now make it a priority to do “advent” every night. We usually only miss 2-3 nights in all of December. It brings such a sense of peace to a hectic season.

  3. I think that celebrating the coming of Christ is what we truly must remember. I pray that we lean in that direction more and more and away from the commercialism of Christmas, away from the Santa thing too.
    May Christ be our focus.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  4. Like be it. Especially the pencil I the candle – sounds like my house when the boys were small!

    Hugs – may have to sing a Christmas Carol now…

  5. “Let go of perfect in favor of what works” — words to live by! Thanks, Betsy.

  6. “Ain’t gonna happen that way every night, folks” – LOL! So true. The whole arguing over the candles and punching the brother. But God does bless those little moments in big ways, you are so right! Loved this post, Betsy! The story of you discovering the truth – so funny. I always enjoy your personal spin on things. Sharing with my readers!

    • Thanks for sharing, this Ruthie. What I didn’t mention, but what cracks me up is that the bigger kids at school said there HAD been a Santa, but he got shot. Can you imagine? where’d they come up with THAT???

  7. What a great family tradition Betsy. Makes me want to start one myself when I have a family of my own. Also, I always see your beautiful smile on linkups and want to say hi! I too am a longhorn, Hook ‘Em!

  8. Betsy,
    I had to chuckle because my kids, like yours, argued over who got to light the candle and who got to blow it out. I’d then get frustrated because we were all missing the point. Thank you for the reminder to keep it real and accept that whatever is done will be less than perfect. Personally I love Ann’s devotional “The Greatest Gift” with the ornaments and Jesse tree. Last year that really helped me slow my heart in order to take in Advent. This year, my husband and I are going to read it together. I’m looking forward to that more than decorating and I think that is how it should be?! Thanks for this timely reminder!
    Blessings to you this Advent Season,

  9. “Real life advent” – I love it! You are so right and we need more seasoned moms out there telling the Pinterest mom generation that it won’t always “look” perfect. So glad to be doing this journey alongside of you. Love this post. I’m going to share it this week! And I think I found you via one of the linkups we do together, but I picked my reads and left them open until I could savor, so I’m not sure. But your title drew me in from a linkup -just wanted you to know!

    • Thanks, Christi. Good to know about the link-up. That is a great idea to pick your reads and leave them open until later. 🙂 Blessings on your family as you celebrate real life advent!

  10. What a wonderful tradition, Betsy! You have definitely inspired me. Thank you so much for sharing, Love! GOD bless you, beautiful friend! 🙂

  11. Hi Betsy … I love the ‘relax and do what you can’ piece! I wish I had shown alot more grace when I was raising my girls back in the day!


  12. We celebrate it a little differently with this amazing hanging quilt my mother in law made. Each day there is a little patch that gets hung on one of the 25 buttons. A verse and description is read. Short, sweet, and very to the point! Your points here gave a little needed reminder of how important this is. Thank you!!

  13. Betsy, I loved this post, and how you shared what reality looks like. I’ve wanted to do something Advent with our boys, but I haven’t determined what’s best yet. I appreciate the resources you’ve offered. I’m going to check them out.

    One of my favorite traditions is decorating our Christmas tree. Once hubby gets the lights the way he likes them, we all hang the ornaments, laugh over the stories from some of them, remember vacations (we buy ornaments when we travel), and I share some stories from ornaments from my girlhood that grace our tree. One boy puts on Mannheim Steamroller because that is what we listen to when we decorate the tree. We usually drink tea as we decorate. We tried to make eggnog this year. Let’s just say we won’t be trying that recipe again. 🙂

    • Sorry about your eggnog, Jeanne! We live and learn, don’t we. Your ornament collection sounds wonderful. All of my ornaments are back in Turkey, and I miss them. But I’m thanking God that there’s a tree here in the house where we’re staying, so we don’t have to buy a tree and decorations that we can’t take back with us anyway! Hope you figure out a way to observe advent with your boys. Maybe once a week? 🙂

  14. Oh my goodness, Betsy! So true about how the reality of sharing Advent and Christmas traditions plays out. We sure do have to let go of perfect and trust that God will impress their hearts and minds with the little bits of wonder and truth we can share.

  15. Pingback: Why Do You Celebrate Christmas? Do You KNOW? - Counting My Blessings

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