Practicing with Children

Moving on From Advent

img_2767by Joanna Harader

As one of the founding editors of this blog, I feel like I should be a shining example of family spiritual practices. But the truth is that most weeks we’re doing well to pray before meals and get everyone to church. Family devotions, bedtime prayers, Bible coloring pages, prayer walks . . . these practices have mostly eluded me in my seventeen years of parenting.

Except for Advent. I love Advent. My children love Advent. We carefully unpack the wreath and candles after Thanksgiving. We prepare the Advent calendar for the season—25 little containers of some kind (we’ve used egg cartons, envelopes, dixie cups . . . ) filled with candy and a figure from the nativity scene. Then each night we light the candle(s), read a scripture, eat the candy, and place the figure. Even as my children have moved from childhood into their teen years, the appeal of the candles and ritual (and candy) has not diminished.

Of course, we don’t manage the Advent candle-lighting every night. But we do it most nights. Certainly more nights than we manage scripture reading and prayer any other time of year.

So this year I’ve been thinking about how we might create a nightly family ritual that has something of the rhythm and feel of our Advent devotions. When we pack up the Advent wreath on New Year’s Day, I want to put something else in that space we have cleared in our living room. And I want to continue to fill that brief space we’ve created in our evening with another family spiritual practice.

Below is what I plan to try at my house. I hope it will inspire you to find a ritual that works well for your family in the coming year.

Supplies I have pulled together

  • 6 candles of different colorsimg_2768
  • One starter tin with one gemstone of each color (You could use a bag or a box.)
  • One regular tin with five gemstones of each color (We just have random plastic gemstones at our house. You could use marbles, beads, even colored paper.)
  • One card of each color with a Psalm call to worship on one side and a benediction on the other

What we will do:

  • Set up our altar table with the six candles, tins, and prayer cards.
  • First night, choose a gemstone from the starter tin. Place it on the table.
  • Get out the prayer card of that color.
  • Light the candle of that color.
  • Say the responsive Psalm from the card.
  • Say a family prayer, sharing joys and concerns of the day.
  • Read scripture. We will start with Matthew and read one section (based on the headings on our Bible) each day.
  • Get a gemstone of the day’s color from the regular tin and place it on our altar table. (This is something for kids to do to decorate the table. You could have one gemstone per child.)
  • Read the responsive blessing on the other side of the card.
  • Put out the candle.

*When all gemstones of one color are out on the table, it is time to choose a new color. We will then switch prayer cards and light two candles. This continues until all the gemstones are on the table. Then the process starts over. I haven’t decided if I will make new prayer cards for the next “round” or simply repeat the scriptures from the original set.

If you are interested, you find a copy of the calls to worship and benedictions that I put on our first set of prayer cards here. Please comment below about what kinds of daily(ish) rituals work (or don’t work) for your family.

And blessings to you all in the new year!


2 thoughts on “Moving on From Advent

  1. Thanks for sharing. Like you we have some very strong advent traditions but we have been hit and miss for the rest of the year, until this year. With my older teens I have found that it is best if we do something straight after dinner. When everyone is home for dinner & sometimes with whoever is home for dinner so it might happen once a week or it might happen 4/5 nights we read a scripture passage straight after dinner and then use Ann Voskamps 1000 gifts list for the 3 things to be thankful for and then we pray. My kids seemed to baulk at first but now they almost wait for it. If nothing else we stay longer at the table and have more conversation.

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