I have mixed feelings about the lead-up to Christmas and Advent specifically. I love how excited my children get. I love that use their leftover Halloween sweets to stuff the pockets of their advent stockings. I love being invited to Christmas events (not many of these, but hey!) and I love it when the Christmas cards begin arriving in the post. I like the free mince pies at the Christmas concert and I don’t care that the mulled wine is a little sour, as long as it’s hot and alcoholic.
The flip side is the stress which builds up. I have 25 immediate family members to buy presents for, plus I need to help the children buy presents for family, friends and teachers. The last 2nd class post for Christmas is a deadline which looms. I have to remember to feed the cake and at some point, to ice it. I hope the new motor for the extractor fan arrives or we will be spending Christmas day in a kind of sprout-flavoured sauna. My husband is usually on a long-haul business trip during Advent and we all miss him, then he comes home shattered and is no use to anyone. The deadline for ordering the turkey is horribly early.
A couple of weeks into advent, the cracks start to show. I buy sellotape twice a week but no actual wrapping paper. I forget to water the poinsettia and the leaves fall off. I accidentally post a Christmas card to my husband’s senile great-aunt who died ten years ago. I miss the last post for America so I stick 7 extra stamps on my brother’s card and write URGENT in block capitals, cross my fingers and pray. I completely forget about anyone who has a birthday in December. I promise the girls we will have a festive trip out to pick holly and ivy in the wild but after accidentally picking up some slugs and spiders I shell out £35 in a florist. Parcels don’t arrive on time. Carol singers are out of tune. The tree falls over. Someone gets norovirus. Standard stuff, really.
Advent is actually supposed to be our time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. In some ways, we do manage to do this. There are four Sundays in Advent with lovely services, plus at our church there is a special Advent reflection evening in early December which is easily the most uplifting celebration of the season for me. That’s church, though. Things don’t seem quite the same at home. We set out the nativity scenes but outside of church it feels like we’re preparing for the arrival of turkey and Santa.
Back on track
I don’t think there is any real hope of reducing the stress of the practical Christmas preparations. Still, I do want to find a way to keep the coming of Jesus a daily part of Advent, not just for Sundays. To solve this problem my daughter suggested that we could print out Bible verses to put in the pockets of their Advent stockings. Yes, there will still be sweets, but we will jam a Bible verse in there too. I selected the verses with my children in mind. They’re tween-age and teenage girls, and what they need is a bit of prompting and guidance. They’re beyond the age for all the myriad advent crafts and colouring aimed at younger children. On the other hand there are some pretty heavy Advent Bible studies for adults that they haven’t got the attention span for.
This may not be about going deep, instead the verses are arrows through the day; something I’ll encourage them to mull over whilst a toffee from the advent calendar glues their teeth together before breakfast each morning.
Printable Advent Verses
I’m sharing these verses which I have selected as a free printable on my blog, for you to download and use yourself. There are 24 across two sheets of paper for you to cut out. The first 12 focus on the gospel story of the Nativity. The second 12 focus on the identity of Jesus, because during advent I think the obvious thing to do is to think about who it is that we waiting for.
If you don’t have an advent calendar with pockets that you can fill yourself, there are other ways you could use these verses.
- Pop them in your child’s packed lunch box
- Tuck them into your child’s pocket
- Take a picture of the verse each day and send them the photo on Whatsapp or iMessage
- Hide them around the house and have a treasure hunt
- Stick them to the fridge
- Read them together at bedtime
Of course they are definitely NOT just for children! I hope the adults can get a lot out of it too.
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More about the nativity – Encouraging New Parents using Shepherds
Try these: 5 Ways with Leftover Christmas Mincemeat