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The 12 Ideas of Advent

Mary Jo Krump, Stephanie Martin, and Ali Thompson

You're probably familiar with the classic Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas." In it, a true love gives a gift every day for 12 days-from a partridge in a pear tree on the first day to 12 drummers drumming on the very last. In the spirit of that song, we're giving you 12 amazing ideas you can use or share with families to help them prepare their hearts for Christmas. Try one, or try them all. They're our gift to you-out of true love!

1 PICTURE FRAME TO BRING GOD PRAISE
What You'll Need Christmas decorations, a digital camera, card stock, tape, stickers, scissors, clear vinyl adhesive, markers, dry-erase markers, adhesive-backed magnets (available at craft stores), and a frame template.

What You'll Do This idea is easy to pull off if your church decorates for Christmas. Set up a photo booth in front of your Christmas decorations and have families pose for a photo. If possible, set up a printing station so families can get their pictures right away.

Then direct families to a craft station where they'll follow these steps.
1. Create an 8x10-inch frame out of the card stock.
2. Decorate the frame with a Christmas theme. At the top write, "Glory to God."
3. Attach your family photo in the center of the frame.
4. Cover the frame in clear vinyl adhesive, turning the frame into a dry-erase surface with the picture in the center.
5. Attach an adhesive-backed magnet to the back of the frame.
6. Write praises to God with dry-erase markers-and keep adding to and changing the praises at home.


2 MATCHING ITEMS
What You'll Need a Bible, multiple sets of pictures of things that go together, such as a pencil and an eraser, a coffee pot and mug, a checker board and checkers, or a baseball bat and ball

What You'll Do Play this game to kick off your Christmas celebrations with families. Hand a picture to each family. Then have them hunt for the family with the corresponding item. When families have found their match, have partnering families sit together and discuss why their items complement one another.

Then read the following pairs of Scripture: Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:26-38; Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1. Have families discuss how the pairs of Scripture complement one another-and why it's significant that God knew the details of Jesus' birth long before it happened.


3 GIFTS FOR JESUS
What You'll Need a Christmas tree, costume jewelry, a scented candle, a tube of lotion, paper clips, and the "Gifts for Jesus" handout for each family.

What You'll Do Set up a small Christmas tree in your children's ministry area, and arrange some costume jewelry, a scented candle, and a tube of lotion underneath the tree. Fold the directions into small pieces you can hang on the tree with paper clips. Encourage families to take home a handout and follow the directions to create their own display of gifts for Jesus.

Gifts for Jesus
Offer gifts to Jesus with your family to remember the gifts of the wise men.
1. Read Matthew 2:2. Say: The wise men gave baby Jesus gold to show that he is a king. Find something fancy like a gold-colored picture frame or a fashionable piece of costume jewelry, and place it under your Christmas tree as you take turns naming things you love about Jesus.

2. Read Revelation 5:8. Say: The wise men presented baby Jesus with frankincense, a spice used when people worshipped God. Set an unlit candle or other fragrant item under your tree, and take turns offering prayers as a gift to Jesus.

3. Read John 19:39-40. Say: The wise men brought myrrh, an ointment people put on bodies that were going to be buried. Set out lotion or perfume as you thank Jesus for dying for your sins.


4 WEEKLY MAILINGS
What You'll Need email or mailing addresses for families

What You'll Do Help families mark the four weeks of Advent by sending mailings that focus on the traditional theme associated with each candle on the Advent wreath. These mailings, brief enough to fit on a postcard, will remind families that Jesus, the Light of the world, is coming soon. Find customizable content for these weekly mailings here.


5 GOLDEN STARS
What You'll Need For each family: a "Five Golden Stars" devotional kit that includes four small star stickers, one large star sticker, and the "Five Golden Stars" directions.

What You'll Do Give each family a "Five Golden Stars" devotional kit to lead their family in this experience at home.

Five Golden Stars
Follow these instructions to lead your family in celebrating Jesus' birth.
1. Get four pieces of clean trash, such as crumpled, unused tissues. Hide them around the house in somewhat obvious locations, and then place a small star sticker in plain view just above the hiding place of each item.
2. Get a better item, such as a plate of cookies, and hide it very well. Place the large star sticker above it, but make sure the sticker isn't easy to see.
3. Tell your family you're sending them on a treasure hunt as they let the stars guide them to look for hidden treasure. Walk with your family as they search, and let them know when they've found all the stars.
4. Ask: How did the treasure under the big star compare with the other treasures? How does the treasure of Jesus compare with other things about Christmas? What things can distract us from looking for Jesus?
5. Say: Jesus is the greatest Christmas treas­ure of all. He's the very reason we celebrate! This Christmas, remember to look for Jesus. Enjoy the tasty treat together as a family.


6 WAYS TO SERVE
What You'll Need a list of homebound church members (optional)

What You'll Do Challenge your families to spread Christmas cheer around your community by delivering traditional Christmas goodies. Provide a list of homebound church members, or challenge families to select six people in their neighborhood. Have families deliver each household a paper bag of hard candies, oranges, and apples, and linger to chat for a couple minutes or sing to the residents.

If possible, schedule deliveries for December 6, known in many countries as St. Nicholas Day. Tell kids in your ministry about the true St. Nicholas (find it at stnicholascenter.org), and read James 1:17-18 to emphasize that Jesus is the source of all good gifts.


7 KINDS OF SNACKS
What You'll Need For each family: a kit containing four large pretzel rods, two graham crackers, one Hershey Treasure candy, one Tootsie Roll candy, two pretzel sticks, one marshmallow, five animal crackers, and the "Nativity Snack" directions.

Nativity Snack
Create this recipe with your family to better understand why Jesus is the reason for the season. (In addition to the contents of this kit, you'll need wax paper and a can of frosting.)
Without using the frosting or any other supplies, encourage your family to try to build a barn using the four pretzel rods as posts and the two graham crackers as a roof.

Lay out wax paper and spread frosting on it. Stick the pretzel rods in vertically, making sure there's enough frosting around them to secure them in place. Use frosting to glue the graham cracker roof on the pretzel rods.

Set up a nativity scene inside the barn, using the Hershey Treasure as a manger. Use frosting to secure the Tootsie Roll on the manger as baby Jesus. Place the two pretzel sticks (Mary and Joseph), the marshmallow sheep, and the other animals (animal crackers) in the frosting base, using extra frosting as needed.

Ask: Why was the frosting so important to this snack? Why is Jesus important to our lives?
Say: Just as we needed the frosting for our snack, we need Jesus to hold our lives together. He came at Christmas to be born for us and live for us. At Easter, he died on the cross because he wants to have a forever friendship with us in heaven. Now that's a reason to celebrate!

Enjoy your nativity snack together.


8 SUPERNATURAL STORIES
What You'll Need a Bible

What You'll Do When families are together for a Christmas event at your church, assign each family one of the following eight supernatural dreams or angelic visits. Then have each family work together to create a comic strip of the event. Have families share their work with everyone after they finish.

The supernatural stories: Matthew 1:18-21, Matthew 2:7-12, Matthew 2:13-14, Matthew 2:19-21, Matthew 2:22-23, Luke 1: 5-7, 11-19, Luke 1:26-38, and Luke 2:8-11


9 CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
What You'll Need For each family: a kit with a round ornament and the "Christmas Around the World" handout, which includes traditions from India, Bethlehem, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, Britain, China, France, and Egypt

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD
In addition to the items provided, you'll need green paint, blue paint, and paintbrushes.

Have your family name any Christmas traditions you practice. Then read the traditions (on the downloadable handout) to learn what people in other areas of the world do. Talk about why you think each tradition helps focus on Jesus-or distracts from him.

Paint your ornament to look like a globe. After it dries, hang it on your tree and pray for the people in each country you learned about.


10 LISTED ITEMS
What You'll Need a Bible, paper, pencils, and a list of top-10 baby names (available at ssa.gov)

What You'll Do At your Christmas celebration with families, share the list of baby names. Have families discuss what names they considered for their children when they were born. Then lead families in making a top-10 list of names for Jesus, having families search in these verses: Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:11; John 1:14; John 1:29; John 6:35; John 10:11. Encourage families to call out additional names they've heard for Jesus.

Say: Jesus has so many names. One thing we know is that he is our Savior, and he was born at Christmas to be Immanuel-God with us.

Bonus! Turn your game into a service project. Brainstorm 10 items newborns need. Then encourage families to bring those items in for a ministry donation to a women's shelter or pregnancy care center.


11 CENSUS QUESTIONS
What You'll Need an online "Census Questions" survey.

What You'll Do Give families a "Census Questions" list to use at home. Use surveymonkey.com to create a free census of your own, using these questions. This is a great way to get to know what your families are doing to nurture faith-and help them think through their answers, too. At the end of the survey, tell families to discuss how the "census" they just took from their home computer compares to the census Mary and Joseph traveled for in Luke 2:1-5.Census Questions
Read aloud Luke 2:1-5 to see how Mary and Joseph had to travel for the census. Then answer the following questions as a family.
1. How many people live in our house?
2. What's the age of the youngest person in our house?
3. What's the age of the oldest child in our house?
4. Why do we have Bibles in our house?
5. What's the best thing about our family?
6. What do we like about our family praying together?
7. What's our favorite thing about Christmas?
8. What's each person's favorite Christmas decoration?
9. When are the best times for our family to talk about God?
10. How does our family's faith help us at school or work?
11. What's something you're thankful to God for today?


12 RANDOM OBJECTS
What You'll Need For each family: a kit with a penny, paper clip, used staple, pebble, cotton ball, crumpled paper, heart sticker, thumbtack, aluminum foil, tissue, rubber band, string, and the " 12 Days of Christmas" handout.

12 Days of Christmas
In addition to the items provided, you'll need an empty egg carton, wrapping paper, tape, scissors, a permanent marker, a flashlight, a pen, and a soup can.
1. Place each item provided in the kit in its own slot of your empty egg carton. Cut a small circle of wrapping paper and tape it over each hole as a cover.
2. Tell your child the egg carton is full of items that'll help your family get to know Jesus, your Savior. Beginning 12 days before Christmas, have your child choose one of the egg carton slots to open each day. Your child may remove the paper and discover the item.
3. Read the Scripture from the handout and follow the directions for the item your child chooses.

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