What I am reading this December and ideas you can use this Christmas season to refocus on Jesus

As a child, my idea of Advent or an advent calendar was the daily chocolate candy that you found behind door number 1 (or 4, or 23.) It helped us count the days until Christmas arrived but there wasn't much focus on the why and it left us with a gross chocolate to eat.

But, you know, we loved it! Just the process of having something to look forward to and celebrate was fun and exciting.

 I grew up in a home with parents who, themselves, grew up Mormon, turned Baptist, and landed in the "non-denominational" church that itself also "grew up baptist." Advent was not a regular part of our community's traditions. I can remember only one friend from church whose family celebrated Advent - colorful candles and all - so my knowledge on the subject was sparse.

Twenty years later, as an adult, I was introduced to Advent in a whole new way. I had a few friends who regularly read daily devotionals meant just for Advent. I followed Ann Voskamp's Blog before she had written her Advent books, and she mentioned their Advent wreath and family traditions. I also read a book by Noel Piper called Treasuring God in Our Traditions which she spends a chapter or two walking through their family's Advent practices. After a season of research, I was ready to dive into Advent the next year.

For a year or two, I read a daily devotional in the month of December. It really did help me prepare my heart for Christmas and focus on the reality of Christ leaving heaven to come down to earth as an infant born to save the world. For a few years, we focused on the "Jesse Tree" aspect of Advent which uses the Old Testament stories of Jesus' family tree to point to His birth.

Over the past eight years or so, I've tried many different Advent traditions. Some worked well and I loved it and some were too much work or I simply couldn't keep up. This year I combined my favorites and added one new idea.

A book I am reading for the third time is by John Piper, offered as a free PDF from desiring God website:  The Dawning of Indestructible Joy  or the kindle version is on sale today! (there are a few affiliate links to amazon throughout this post if you want to buy there directly)

I am also reading a new devotional this year by She Reads Truth. It can be found online for free: She Reads Truth: Advent Plan 2016 They also have a men's version at He Reads Truth Advent 2016. The theme of their advent plans is "Christ was born for this." Focusing on His role as Prophet, Priest, and King. I am learning a lot about the role of Prophets and Priests in the Bible and how Jesus is the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.

The last book I'm using this year has a version for adults and one meant for families. The version I am reading is on the kindle. They also have printable ornaments available to use for the Jesse Tree. Click on the picture for the link to amazon:

This is an ornament I printed and have used more than one year and this year the Jesse Tree is right in our dining room in my "Christmas decor zone." The Greatest Christmas printables

I am also reading Ann Voskamp's family Advent book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

It's out of stock on amazon till Dec. 14th but you can find it online other places. It has been our go-to book for the kids every night during advent. There are also ornaments you can print for that book that the kids can color and hang on the tree. This year I wasn't going to do that book with the kids but my five-year-old son asked me, "Mom when are we going to do the reading and coloring stories like last year?" So I started reading the stories at night - but we're not coloring the ornaments this year.

I have a new display for the Christmas cards we receive this year and we are trying a new Advent prayer calendar that I found through Mercy House Global. I love the simplicity of it but also my geography-loving heart is thrilled that my children can learn a little bit about a new country each day.

Each of the featured countries works with Mercy House in some way. The cards have a prompt with the country to give guidance for what to pray. Day nine, for today, is Ethiopia and pray for Abundance. So we use our Smart Globe to learn about the country and then we pray for them as we walk to the bus or drive to school. The website doesn't list the cards for sale anymore but they have other Christmas ideas and presents: Mercy House collections: Christmas.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus both looking back to the past of his birth in Bethlehem and looking forward to His coming again as King of Kings. As Christians, it is important to be reading the Bible and learning about our Lord who came to save us from sin. So whatever you do for Bible study and prayer, think about shifting the focus for Advent season and focusing on God sending His Son to earth for us!

Let me know what Advent traditions you have enjoyed, I'm always looking for great ideas or books. And, because I grew up with the daily chocolate treat. During Advent we also have a calendar box with a Hershey candy cane kiss for each of us to enjoy after dinner.

"And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

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