Katherine Ash
Advent Resources #2

Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting on part 1 of this advent article (here). I have had a number of inspiring conversations, and have been recommended more resources, so I will add some of these further down the page. Advent is only a few days away, so hopefully this will give you some places to get started.

This article is more focused on where you might get some inspiration for things to do as a family. I have included baking ideas, places to look for craft, some book recommendations and a few thoughts of things that you could do to demonstrate love to those around you. This is not an exhaustive list. If you have anything else that you think I should add, then please have a chat with me, or send an email or message.

This is not about presenting instagram / social media perfect advent - there is no pressure. As a family, we will not be doing readings, craft and baking every day. David and I work, our daughter is at nursery, and these are a very busy few weeks. We will be doing our readings at our own pace. Our aim as a family is to enjoy our time together, enjoy what we read, and for all of us to take something away from it.

Reading the nativity story

When you read the story of the nativity in the gospels, each is told in a slightly different way and from a different perspective. In the same way, there are lots of different stories telling the nativity. We love the "Touchy Feely Nativity" which was a favourite last year, and we read it for months and months. This year, we are enjoying a variety of books, but "Jesus' Christmas Party" has been read a few times already, and it is funny. This story is told from the perspective of the poor inn keeper, trying to get a good nights sleep, but he keeps being interrupted. 

Nativity toys

There are so many places that you can buy a ready made set from, not just Christian bookshops or online. We have a little wooden set which we bought last week, and we are enjoying telling the nativity story over again. Our daughter enjoys asking us to tell it again, and likes to interact with the characters in the story. Last night, the animals were evicted from the stable for being too noisy and waking the baby Jesus. The angel was put to bed as she was tired from all the flying and singing that had been happening. Already, this has been worth buying. I am having such a great time watching her understanding about the birth of Jesus narrative growing.

If you are feeling creative, then there are plenty of sets to make your own characters, with peg pins or similar. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest, if this is something that you'd enjoy. Or, you are likely to have some toys around that could be re-purposed for a few weeks. Duplo, Lego, Playmobil and plastic animals would work really well for this. I have pulled out pieces and moved them to a separate box so we can do this later in the month.

A nativity play

Do you remember the nativity play at school, wanting to be a particular character (an angel perhaps) and ending up as a frog (?), or another sheep? How about putting on a play together, as a family or in a LifeGroup or community group? We are doing this with our extended family, and have decreed that professional costumes are banned. We are looking for dressing gowns, tea-towels and curtains. There are plenty of scripts available online, that you could print straight out and use.

Tearfund Nativity Play 
Action For Children - Nativity Play 

Colouring and Stickers

We love colouring and stickers in our house! Sometimes this is an activity that I let our little one do while I am busy, but it is good to get involved sometimes as well. Here are a few free printables that I found online:

Blessed Beyond A Doubt 
Nativity Scene Colouring Page 
Nativity Colouring Pages 

I really like the Usborne sticker and colouring books in particular (we have a couple of them). There is also a sticker book for older children which looks at the depiction of the nativity in art, and is produced in association with the National Portrait gallery. There are other options too here:

Eden Books - Colouring Selection

Craft ideas 

Looking through Pinterest, or searches on-line there are literally thousands of ideas that you could try. I would suggest that you try simple activities that will allow you time to talk about what you have been reading and learning about together, rather than creating a hugely stressful masterpiece.

Nativity Craft Suggestions - Just Bright Ideas 
Church Leaders - Nativity Craft Ideas 
30 Ways to Celebrate Jesus at Christmas 
Bible Society Christmas Resources

Serving others

Jesus was the most amazing gift that we have been given. We didn't deserve Him, we weren't even looking for Him. In fact, we weren't even aware of our need for a saviour. But, He came anyway. How amazing! Don't keep this for yourself, share it with those around you. Allow people to see a glimpse of what God has done in you, and use the Christmas season to be open about why you are doing it. There are so many ways of doing this. It might be smiling at the shop assistant who is having a bad day, or baking a cake for someone. But, if you would like to think about other ways that you can serve others, I have a few for you here:

Faith, Hope & Enterprise - you could donate via JustGiving or contact them direct via their website.
#adventchallenge - Where will this advent take you?  (The Bible Society)
Salvation Army - Present Donation 
Derby City Mission - Present Donation 

Some links to some video clips that you might find useful:
The Christmas Poem - The Bible Society 
The Well Good News Of Christmas - Bible Society 2016 
The Greatest Story - Bible Society Video 2017 
Christmas According To Kids - Southland Christian Church 

Some baking suggestions:

I love to bake, and it is our daughter's favourite activity at the moment. I have never bought so many sprinkles! Here are a few things that we like to bake around this time of year, and have fun!

If you want something to bake for others then you could try these ideas. Some of these are not really suitable to do with children (as they include hot sugar syrup) but they are a lot of fun, and I have tried them.

Red Onion Marmalade 
Chocolate Fudge Recipe 
Yule Log 
Peppermint Meringue Cookies 
Peppermint Creams 
Gingerbread Figures 
Mincemeat - This recipe is fantastic with some shop bought pastry to make a delicious mince pie, or a few spoons in an apple crumble, or if you are like our daughter you could just eat it out of the jar!

What about the rest of the year?

These two blogs have some outstanding ideas for ways to connect with God and your children. Raising Little Disciples is written by a friend of ours and I recommend following!

Amy's Blog - Raising Little Disciples 
Flame Creative Children's Ministry - Ideas 

Some books that you might find helpful:

Christmas is already a busy season...

Please do not feel that you need to add advent to a long list of things that need to be "done". I hope that rather than feeling guilty that you have not created something from scratch on your own, that you will see that there are so many great ideas. You get to pick and choose the things that might work in your circumstances, whether that is as a family or in your own time with God.

I know that our family will not manage reading scripture every night, and we will need to plan activities into our week as well. We will aim to spend 4 (or perhaps 5) evenings a week reading some of the scriptures. Our advent readings will probably take us into the middle of January. But that is fine, as I know that this way, we will not resent the time, or hurry it through, but we will take away some lessons.

We have a 2 year old, so many of the resources that I have been looking for are things that I can do with her. But, anything that has excited me, and set off my imagination I have tried to include, in the hope that it will do the same for you! I hope that I will be able to look back over this during the next few years. We are certainly not going to be doing everything this time round!

My hope and prayer is that advent will be a time of refreshing and joyful anticipation as you spend time reflecting on the One that this is all about. I leave you with some Christmas reading plans which might help you grow in your walk with God during this Christmas season:

YouVersion - Christmas Reading Plans