Amy’s Free Ideas

The advent wreath can be a way to make reading the Bible and praying with your children special for the Christmas season, especially if you turn out all the other lights. Lighting the candles is not very complicated--light one candle for each Sunday before Christmas. The hard part is figuring out what to talk about and pray about as you light each candle, especially if your children are different ages with different abilities. But the extra effort is SO worth it! Sharing our faith helps our kids see what it means to live as Christians, especially since they can see all our weaknesses and failures up close. Share from the heart what God has been teaching you, and they will naturally learn to run to Jesus for every problem because they can see with their own eyes how God will never fail them and will always help them. Teaching them about Jesus and his birth and life can help them understand that God has suffered all the hard things that we might ever suffer, so he understands what we go through. Let’s make the time to prepare well, so we can teach them well. Change what you talk about each year to match your children’s abilities as they grow and develop--what works well with a 2 year old does not work so well with a 12 year old! Add a fun activity afterwards to help them associate fun times and good memories with reading the Bible and praying. If your kids ever groan about doing the advent wreath, change it up so it is new and different! Or drop the tradition all together and invent a new way to talk about God with them. Lighting the candles is not the important thing; it is talking about God that is SO crucial!

Week one: Light one candle

Possible Bible Story: An angel appears to Zechariah to predict the birth of John,  and an angel appears to Mary to predict the birth of Jesus, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth

Passage: Luke 1:5-80 (skip songs of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary)

Talk about: Who didn’t believe what God said? (Zechariah) Who believed? (Mary) What would you do if God talks to you?

Pray about: Ask God to help you believe and obey, especially when it is hard to do

Possible activities:

Week two: light two candles

Possible Bible Story: Jesus is born, angels appear to shepherds

Passage: Luke 2:1-20, Philippians 2:1-11

Talk about: Jesus’ example of humility and suffering, and our need to follow his example, or, Shepherds told everyone about Jesus; who will you tell about Jesus?

Pray about: ask God for help to follow his example, especially when things are hard, or ask for boldness to tell the good news to people

Possible activities:

Week three: light three candles

Possible Bible Story: Jesus presented at temple and is seen by Simeon and Anna

Passage: Luke 2:21-38 (If you only plan to do 4 weeks, combine this with week 4 lesson)

Talk about: God’s promise fulfilled after many, many years of waiting

Pray about: ask for help believing and waiting for God’s answer to prayer

Possible activities:

Week four: light 4 candles

Possible Bible Story: Wise men follow star, meet Herod, give gifts to Jesus

Talk about: some people believe, some people choose to not believe, and even get angry

Passage: Matthew 2:1-11

Pray about: choose someone to pray for for salvation

Possible activities:

Christmas Day: Some people light a fifth candle on Christmas Day

Possible Bible Story: Herod rages, wise men return home another way, Joseph takes family and runs away to Egypt

Passage: Matthew 2:1-12-23

Talk about: God’s protection for Jesus and for us

Pray about: Ask God for help trusting him in hard situations

Prayer alternative for final advent wreath for the year: each person prays, then blows out one candle. Some things to pray about could be to thank God for what he has done in the past year, or each prays for a different person to get saved in the following year.

Possible activities:

Match and Fire Safety

Safety is paramount, so teach your children how to keep everyone and everything safe when using a flame of fire!!

  1. 1.Do not use real candles if your children do not instantly obey your commands.

  2. 2.Teach young children the meaning of the word, “hot,”  by holding their hand over the flame to feel the heat. Be VERY careful not to hold it too close or too long or they will get burned--do it just long enough to feel uncomfortably hot. Test it with your own hand first. If you will teach them the meaning of hot, they will stay away from anything you tell them is hot because they know that it hurts.

  3. 3.Older children should be trained how to use matches before being allowed to light candles. (see list on left.) Younger children can blow out the candles, but never allowed to light them, even if they pitch a fit. Do not give into their manipulation!!

  4. 4.If children do not light candles properly, they should lose the privilege for one turn (one week), or if they were very careless, they should not be allowed to light candles for the whole season (all remaining weeks for lighting the advent wreath.)

  5. 5.Never leave lit candles unattended.

  6. 6.Put the wreath and matches out of reach if you think that your children will try to play with it between uses.

  7. 7.Use this as an excuse to have a fire drill, and to teach fire safety.

Tips for Toddlers

  1. 1.Keep it short--the story should not last more than 5 minutes. The prayer only a sentence or two.

  2. 2.Make it active and hands on--don’t expect them to sit still, so make ways for them to move around that will fit in. Candles fascinate them, and blowing out a candle is always a highlight. But don’t stop there. After telling the story of the wise men, let them dress up like wise men and choose a “gift” to give to the baby Jesus. You or an older sibling can carry a star around the house and let them follow it until it leads them to the “baby Jesus,” which can be a doll, or a figurine from a nativity set. This can even turn into a game where each person can take a turn hiding the doll, then carry the star on a circuitous route around the house to find the baby.

  3. 3.Make the story time as visual as possible--use pictures, a Bible story book with pictures, or a nativity set to tell the story each week, or better yet, each night. Get a nativity set that is sturdy enough for your children to be able to play with.

  4. 4.Get them started praying, too--this is the way they will learn, and they can do this long before they know how to read.

Tips for Elementary Children

  1. 1.Retelling the story: Elementary children have been listening to this story for years, so they think that they know it backwards and forwards. Now is the time to bring out details they may not have been told earlier, or connect it to the world that they are learning about. For example, take time to study the stars and the universe together to get an idea of the vastness, then talk about how the person who made all that, came to be born as a tiny baby. He wasn’t born in the fanciest castle, but he was put in a feeding box where the smelly animals were. He sacrificed a LOT, and he expects us to sacrifice for other people, too. Start also using teaching passages, such as Hebrews 1:1-3 where it talks about Jesus creating the Universe. Get the kids to read the passage and ask what they think it means.

  2. 2.Get them involved in the process--like reading the Bible passages when they are fluent readers. When they get to be 5th or 6th grade, they can start helping you to plan the devotionals. Then by middle school, they should be able to plan and lead the devotionals themselves.

  3. 3.Pray together: if they see you asking God for things that are out of your control, and then they see God provide those needs, they will learn to turn to God for their own problems.

  4. 4.Make it fun: plan activities that reenforce the story, but that add some fun, too. Crafts and games are great for this. Rather than just any game, plan games that test their knowledge of the Christmas story, and the Bible. This also helps them realize that there are still a lot of things that they don’t know. Include “trick” questions, like, “How many wise men there were?.” We tend to think there were 3 wise men, because there were 3 gifts, but we don’t know how many wise men there were--there could have been a dozen!

  5. 5.Get them involved in service projects to help other people. After all, that is the true meaning of Christmas! Begin with people they know, like making cookies for an old neighbor or shop keeper they see on a regular basis. Over time, make the projects more challenging and for people they don’t know. Toward the end of their elementary years, have them be involved in the planning stages as well.

Tips for Teens

  1. 1.Make it real. They need to know now, more than ever, that the Bible relates to them right now--it is not just a story about something that happened 2000 years ago. Talk about issues that are confronting them today. For example, to help them identify with what happened 2000 years ago, when talking about when the angel visited Mary, ask them what they would do if an angel showed up in their bedroom and told them what was said to Mary. What would they answer? After the angel left, who would they tell? Who would believe them? How would they answer questions at school when rumors started flying? How would they explain it to their parents or the fiance? Would they believe you? How would they handle the shame after the baby was born? Would they feel like God was taking care of them if they had no place to stay, and the only crib they could put their new baby in was a feeder box? Talk about other people in the Bible who were asked to make sacrifices and why. Read Matthew 25:31-46 together and discuss what God expects of us when he says, “...I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat...” Discuss what our responsibilities are to the poor and mistreated.

  2. 2.Admit when you don’t know something--if they have questions that you can’t answer, say so, and tell them that you will try to find answers. They also need to know that even the smartest people don’t understand everything about God and the Bible. This is where faith comes in: We have to trust God for who he is, both a loving and all-powerful God who will do what is best for each person. Sometimes that “best” involves suffering. He has his reasons, but he doesn’t always tell us what those reasons are. He does tell us one reason for suffering, and that is to purify us, like purifying gold. Our teens need hard answers for hard questions. If you don’t know the answers, ask your pastor or youth pastor, or read a book that explains the issue.

  3. 3.Make sure they feel loved: if all they hear from you is where they fall short, and what they are doing wrong, they are going to feel like they can never live up to your expectations, and they might just give up. They may think that you don’t love them. If that is the case, they will not listen to anything you have to say. Be sure to spend time with them--fun time--and to use words of affirmation to encourage them. Make sure they feel your love, then they will listen to what you tell them about God.

  4. 4.Make sure they see your faith in action: pray together about real needs that you have now. When you celebrate together for the answered prayer, their faith will grow stronger. They will learn to turn to God for help.

  5. 5.Help them to live out their faith--discuss how to share their faith, and pray together for particular people to come to faith. Do service projects together, but let them take the lead in planning and doing, and you come along side as the helper and advisor.

Match safety training should include:

  1. 1.How to light a match

  2. 2.How to light candle without burning match too short and burn their fingers

  3. 3.How to put out flame, not just blow it out and put the still hot match on a surface that might burn or melt

  4. 4.How to keep water handy in case of an accident

  5. 5.How to keep matches out of reach of younger siblings

  6. 6.To NEVER EVER use matches without parental supervision

make props, stage , and/or puppets

make wise men follow star around house

write script for play or puppet show

read a modern Christmas story aloud

Put on the play or puppet show

Write a letter of thanks to God (younger children dictate to parent)

Each person prays before blowing out one candle

Rules for making things fair

  1. 1.Everyone takes turns

  2. 2.Younger children get to blow out the candles

  3. 3.Older children get to light candles after they have had training

  4. 4.Candle lighting privileges are revoked if children complain about taking turns, or are careless with fire

  5. 5.Decide how to Take turns. Option #1 Parents always light the candles. Option #2 Each week a different child gets to light all the candles--youngest lights first week, but only one candle, the oldest lights last week, and gets to light all 4. Option #3 Divide candles between children each week; week one, one child lights one candle, week two, 2 children can light one candle each, week 3, 3 children can light (if you have 2 children, this is the week the fight breaks out because one child gets to light an extra candle. You can be the tie breaker and light the third candle, or the person who didn’t get to light the first week, can light the extra one this week. Week 4, 4 children can light, or divide candles between children.

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Plan a

Make a birthday cake for Jesus