Advent…this wonderful time of year

So I have to admit, until I became a Sunday School teacher 3 years ago, I had no idea what Advent meant. I grew up in a deeply rooted Christian household (think Southern Baptist mixed with Penticost/Holiness churches! Imagine the stories I could share on just that topic!) but the word Advent never came up.

I’ve since learned that Advent means “arrival” or “coming” and the purpose of Advent is to focus on two things…the celebration of Jesus’ birth and the anticipation of his coming return. Now, I’m not going to get into his coming return…I’ll save that for some Southern Baptist ministers…but I did want to share some ideas on how to keep this Christmas season focused on the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Idea #1…An Advent Calendar that encourages children to do missional work…

Missional work doesn’t have to be grand to make a difference, it just needs to be done in love. Each day include a note for your child such as…”Give a hug to someone you love”, “Share a toy with your sister”, or “Thank your teachers for being so great”. If kids are older, the notes could be to complete little jobs for neighbors and friends such as sweeping someone’s porch or taking our their trash.

Here’s a picture of our Advent calendar that my 3 year old son and I created with old Christmas cards, paper bags, numbers cut out from magazines, and Christmas tree stamps that my son wanted to place on every surface in the house!

Idea #2…Spend less and Give more…

Do you ever buy a Christmas gift in obligation for someone without really wanting to and just marking their name off the list because you feel like ‘you have to’?  Or you get so tired of all the commercialism surrounding Christmas and some years you just want to throw in the towel for all gifts? Well what if, this year, you bought one less gift and had more time and thought for the gifts you do give? I know this idea may seem crazy but sometimes I think its so easy to get caught up in giving gifts that we buy just because we think we have to. So here are some ideas on ways to spend less money but give more with the thought you put into your gifts.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Strannigan of

What if you made at least one homemade gift this year? Homemade gifts are so nice to receive and they are a lot of fun to make! You can have a creative crafty day with your kids painting ornaments for grandparents or spend the afternoon with girlfriends making preserves and sugar scrubs.

Here is a neat rule for buying family members’ a present…spend no more than $20 on the gift, it must be purchased from a local store, and it cannot be made in China! How is that for staying local and giving a gift that someone would probably be thrilled to receive.

For additional ideas on how to put more thought into your gift giving and find cool homemade gifts to make, check out this blog post from Lindsay Strannigan of  I’ve just recently found this blog and thought this post perfectly summarized how commercialism for Christmas gets so out of hand and shares ideas for making gifts with lots of heart.

Idea #3…Make a donation in honor of someone…and if possible, make it a charity that has special meaning to that person

So in the past I’ve made donations in honor of people as gifts but I’ve never really picked a charity that would perhaps have a special meaning to that person. So this year, I am trying to do that…. to give a gift to the VA Hospital for a retired veteran …. give a gift of school supplies and uniforms in honor of someone who lacked those when they were a kid.

Or instead of buying gifts for family members, go in together and ‘adopt’ a family in your community for Christmas.

Another idea a friend shared with me today that I think is wonderful…make a donation in honor of your child. If you begin this when they are a child they will grow up with the experience and hopefully pass it along to their children. What a wonderful tradition to begin. You could choose a child related organization when they are infants and as children get older they can choose the charity they’d like the gift to go towards.

I hope these ideas help you enjoy this wonderful season as we celebrate the birth of Christ and share His love with others.

Merry Christmas,


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  1. While I am not Christian myself, my boyfriend is (somewhat), and the first year we dated, we lived apart and I’ve made him an advent calendar – a shoebox filled with numbered packages containing messages, homemade chocolates, and little gifts. He absolutely loved it!

    Now we live together (happily!), and this brings me to the other part of your post – I love making handmade gifts! Jars of homemade jam, little cellophane bags of homemade fudge or candies – people love those, even if they didn’t (obviously) put it on their “list”.

    If the holidays are about bringing light into other people’s lives, then this, and not a shopping trip, is what it should be about!

    • Hey Veronika,
      Thanks so much for sharing. I really liked your last sentence about how to bring light into other people’s lives through homemade treasures. And so glad you and your boyfriend can find a way to share this holiday together! This is my first year with an advent calendar and I love it. Leaving the notes for my son is almost as much fun as getting them yourself.
      Have a great day! I’m off to begin baking. I have a cookie exchange tonight and haven’t baked one single cookie yet! 6 dozen ginger molasses cookies are my day today.

  2. Colleen K. says:

    This is such an inspiring post. I especially like the idea of buying a gift from a local store that costs no more than $20. Another good gift idea I read about recently is offering someone a service, like babysitting, a home-cooked meal on a date of their choosing, maybe cleaning the gutters of someone who can’t do it themselves (so they don’t have to pay anyone). Since it’s a little late for this year, I’m going to try to get my family to do the homemade/local/service gift thing next year, instead of buying a lot of “junk” we don’t really need or have any place to put! It’s important to step back from the craziness of the Christmas season and remember what Christmas is really all about – loving how Jesus loved.

    • Hey Colleen! Thanks for your comment. I am glad it gave you some ideas for next year’s gifts and I especially like the idea of giving a service to someone. That would be awesome if your whole family got on board with the idea too.
      Have a great day! Jess

  3. Jessica – I love these ideas, especially the Advent calendar that you made with your son. How special that you made it together! Great post.