Journeying Together: Advent Edition
Grace and peace to you and your families.
It is a new season in the church. On Sunday November 29, we will enter into Advent, the time when we prepare our hearts for the mystery of Christmas. We have four weeks to get ready. This is a time of practicing patience as we remember all of God’s people who had to wait many, many years for the promised Messiah. During Advent, we retell the story of the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the wise men who all made the long journey to Bethlehem. We reflect on all that God is doing in our lives and look forward to what God promises to do in the coming King. It is a time of self-reflection and discernment as we turn inward and ask: “God, how are you calling me to welcome you and share your good news this Christmas?”
My prayer is that this will be a helpful resource for you and your families as you enter into this time of preparation, remembering, and reflection. As you use this resource, please let me know what is working and what is missing. Share and invite others to subscribe to the Journeying Together email newsletter too. Join the continuing conversation on our Family Faith Formation Facebook page and connect with us on Twitter via #famfaithform. Together, we can support one another on this journey. You will find additional resources on our new Family Faith Formation pages too!
Grace & Peace,
Symbol to Look for: Stars
Stars remind us of the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the wise men who made the long journey to Bethlehem. When you see a star, stop and pray: “God, where are you leading me? Help me follow you.”
Virtue to Practice: Patience
It is hard to wait. Advent is a time when we practice patience as we wait for the birth of the promised king. This season:
- Practice patience by using this breath prayer: (Breathe in) Lord, help me wait...(Breathe out) as I experience you in this moment.
- Play “I spy,” paying attention to when you see people practicing patience. Say: “I spy someone who is waiting” or “I spy someone who is patient.” Write/draw/share these moments in your journal or with your family or friends.
- Journal: Take a picture/draw/write how you experience (see/feel/hear) God as you are waiting.
- Share: Tell someone you are close to about how you experienced God. You might also choose to share your story on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #famfaithform.
- I wonder what this Scripture/story tells us about God.
- I wonder what this Scripture/story says about us.
- I wonder what you are waiting for.
- I wonder how it feels to wait.
- I wonder what you experience (see/feel/hear/smell) as you wait.
- I wonder how God is helping you get your heart ready for Christmas.
Lord, thank-you for loving us and journeying with us. Help us look for you in every moment of every day.
Do Holy Work Together
Loving God: Every day or once a week, gather together and read part of the Christmas story as told in Luke 1-3:40. Wonder together about the story, and ask: “What is your favorite part of the story? What does this story tell us about God? What does this story say about us?”
Loving Neighbor: Decide together how your family will share Christ’s love with others. Invite all family members to participate in the brainstorming process. Ideas include:
- adopting a family for Advent, delivering meals or wrapped gifts to go under the family’s tree. Invite all members of the family to contribute to the shopping list. Shop, wrap, and deliver the gifts together.
- making ornaments or writing cards for shut-ins or people who live at a local nursing home.
Bless Each Other
During this Advent season, pay attention to moments when your family blesses you. Write a letter or draw a picture for each of your family members, telling each person how much he or she means to you. Open these letters together on Christmas morning.
POCKETS IN THE HOME
The theme for the November issue of Pockets Magazine is “Enough.” As we approach Thanksgiving in the U.S., we wanted to explore the relationship between gratitude and the constant urging of our consumer culture to acquire more.
Some topics to discuss in your family:
Are there things we have that we don’t need, but that others could benefit from? (This discussion should focus on the entire family, not just children getting rid of their “stuff.”)
What are some of the needs we’re aware of in our community? What can we do as a family to help meet some of those needs?
Here are some ideas for using the November issue of Pockets in your home:
Pick a suggestion from “Do 1 Thing” (pp. 8-9) for your family to do each week of the month. Note the prayer suggestion for each week and include it in your family prayers.
The readings in “Pocketsful of Scripture” (pp. 14-15) focus on the Psalms. Try writing your own psalm together, using one of the suggested readings as a model. Use your psalm as a table blessing for a family meal.
Post the “30 Days of Thanks” calendar (p. 16) on your fridge and incorporate these thanksgivings into your family prayers at mealtime, bedtime, or whenever you pray together.
Bake pumpkin bread (p. 21) together. This recipe makes enough to share, so wrap up a loaf or a few muffins for a neighbor, teacher, or some other special person. Encourage your child to make a drawing or write a note to include expressing your family’s appreciation for that person.
Read about how Angus (p. 23) inspired his family to designate a special jar to collect change to be donated to help people in need. Angus’s family not only put their spare change in the jar, but also added to it in honor of kind deeds done by family members. Consider adopting this practice either short-term (perhaps looking ahead to Advent) or long-term.
Faith Hero—Read about this month’s Faith Hero, Fanny Crosby, (p. 41) and sing a few of her well-known hymns together. (“Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory” are two of the better known.) Talk together about what makes a faith hero and decide on someone who is a faith hero for your family this month.
Check out the “Family Time Activity” (p. 48) and discuss ways to show your thankfulness for various everyday blessings. Talk together about the things each family member is grateful for and how you can show that gratitude in your actions.
And finally, encourage your child’s creativity! The cover of this month’s issue was drawn by one of Pockets’ readers for the annual cover contest. (You can check out the runners-up on p. 20.) You’ll find the rules for the next cover contest on page 24. We’d love for your child’s artwork to be among the entries!
As you prepare your hearts for the mystery of Christmas, read Kara Lassen Oliver’s new book, Passing it On and participate in her Advent guide.
In Passing It On, Kara Lassen Oliver provides a practical guide to help parents, grandparents, and other concerned adults nurture children’s faith. For four weeks at a time, she offers easy-to-follow suggestions for families during the seasons of Advent, Lent, summer, and back-to-school.
This book features:
- plans for weekly family gatherings with age-appropriate activities;
- symbols to remind family members of the week’s spiritual emphasis;
- a suggested daily practice and prayer for each week;
- a leader’s guide for parent groups studying this book together.
The most valuable legacy we can pass to our children and grandchildren is a spiritual heritage. Kara Oliver shows us how to do just that.
FEEDBACK CORNER: WHAT'S GOING ON IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
Have an exciting faith story to tell? Do you have a family faith practice you want to share? Let us know! E-mail us and maybe your story will appear in the next issue of the newsletter.