It's tempting to look around and feel like I've been cheated. Why doesn't my husband have the wife he married and why doesn't my daughter have a mom who can do everything like all the other moms? All I want to do is go to a Christmas parade or make cookies with my family....what's wrong with that, God?
Nothing is wrong with those things, but are they necessary in order to have a happy holiday? I can celebrate Christmas even if I am flat on my back in bed because it is not tradition or family or food in which I am rejoicing, but rather God and how He came in flesh to bring hope to a dying world.
Even though there is the constant pull from the world and my own sin of idolatry, I want to focus on Jesus at Christmas. While my chronic pain may keep me from being the kind of mother I thought I would be, it has allowed me to better teach my daughter about the importance of having a relationship with God and how even though life is hard we can trust Him. I may not be able to bake for hours on end with my daughter at Christmas, but I can teach her about who Christ is by preparing for his coming.
I wanted to start an advent calendar tradition last year when my daughter was 2, but I was unable to do much last Christmas. As I said when I made my "Thankful Tree", I am not crafty and obviously my pain greatly limits me so I began talking with a friend in October about her advent traditions and began making plans. This year we are doing a felt advent calendar and a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar.
I really like The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith. There are 25 separate devotions for children and adults. Each day comes with a memory verse and song ideas as well as questions to ask children at the end of each devotion. For ornaments I used pictures from Ann Voskamp's FREE advent devotional and other images I found on the Internet. Even if you don't have a tree or ornaments to go with the devotionals I highly recommend reading the stories/scripture. It's not too late to order a copy of The Advent Jesse Tree and use it for the remaining days!
After reading Noel Piper's Treasuring God in our Traditions (which you can read/download for free here) I really wanted the advent calendar she created, but it is no longer sold. However, I did find the script she uses here. Then my friend introduced me to Heart FELT Truths and I downloaded the templates to make the nativity scene pictured above (except for the camels and dog, which I had to free hand). This was a bit more labor intensive than I would have liked, but I saved a lot of money doing it myself. You can purchase pre-made calendars through their etsy shop. I really preferred Noel Piper's script so I added on the camels and dog and re-ordered her script a little to make it work with the felt pieces I had templates for.
Even if you do not have children at home, I encourage you to spend time this advent season preparing for the celebration of Jesus's birth. Desiring God has a great app called Solid Joys, which features 365 daily devotions from the ministry of John Piper and currently these devotions correspond with Piper's ebook Good News of Great Joy (which can also be downloaded on your computer for free if you do not have an iphone/ipod/ipad).
My daughter has been so excited about the Advent Calendar and Jesse Tree this year. I hope these tools help her have a better understanding of God's plan to redeem the world through Jesus and help our family focus on Him more this season. No matter your circumstances this Christmas, may you find peace in the One who came to bring us great joy!
"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." Luke 2:10