And just like that, the calendar on my wall says “November” and taunts me with the reality that December is close on its heels. So much has to happen in these few brief weeks of the year! My daughter has a birthday. Thanksgiving celebrations to cook for and attend. And, of course, the preparations and parties that start filling up post-turkey days.
Like all the other Jesus-loving mamas out there, I find myself with the same questions every year: How do I help my kids understand the true meaning of all this holiday hoopla? How do I keep them from succumbing to the tinsel-coated selfishness that so easily creeps in this time of year?
And, if I’m being honest, this question arises too: How do I keep myself from getting sucked into the holiday vortex of busyness?
It’s so easy to get overtaken by holiday planning. There are decorations to set up and family traditions to plan. People and presents and parties galore. So much blessing all around that we can easily lose sight of the One who gives them.
In the midst of all this activity, I want to keep my family’s heart centered on Jesus. I want to find room in our busy schedule to remember what we’re really celebrating–A God who decided to take on flesh and give himself a birthday, just like the rest of us.
That’s why I created a “Gifts for Jesus” advent calendar. Each day gives us a challenge to offer a “gift” for Jesus--an act of kindness toward others that will bless God’s great heart.
Some of these tasks will be simple: Offering a hug, saying thank-you, letting others go first. And some will require a bit more legwork: Delivering groceries to a food pantry or writing a letter to a prisoner. But as we work our way through the advent season, my prayer is that these “gifts for Jesus” will help our hearts stay connected to the real meaning of Christmas.
Would you like to join me in bringing these “gifts for Jesus” to your own family this year? You can download the free, printable “Gifts for Jesus” Advent Calendar tags right here. I actually included 60 different tags, so you can pick and choose the activities that will work best for the age of your kids and your family schedule.
(And next year, you can pick a whole new set!)
These little cards can work with an advent calendar you already have at home. Or craft a calendar like the one I’ve pictured here. (See instructions below.) If you’re really short on time? Just print them off and toss them in a simple basket: It’s not really about the “pretty calendar” anyway, is it?
However you choose to use them, I hope these advent cards will help you and your family focus on the deeper realities beneath all the Christmas glitter.
Merry Christmas, friends. Now go–give baby Jesus a reason to smile today!
How to Make the Advent Calendar
- “Advent Calendar Numbers” printed on cardstock (see download below)
- “Gifts for Jesus Tags” downloaded and printed to cardstock (There are 60 tags: Pick the 24 that work best for you! See download above.)
- 18×24 poster frame
- large sheet of white matte paper
- small craft paper envelopes (Mine were 2.5″ x 4″ and I trimmed the tops slightly for a better fit)
- red gingham ribbon
- small 1″ clothespins
- faux floral stems with small holly leaves and berries*
- glue stick
- hot glue gun
- scissors and tape
*There are alternatives to the little holly leaves/berries that I used, if you’d like a similar look with different supplies. Try small holly stickers for a big time-saver. Or little red buttons glued on top of leaves cut from green cardstock would also offer a cute look.
How to Make:
Step 1: Remove the clear plastic “glass” from the front of the poster frame. Discard.
Step 2: Set the backing of your frame flat on your work surface. Glue the large sheet of white paper to this backing, using a glue stick.
Step 3: Trim the edges of the paper after gluing, if necessary.
Step 4: Cut five lengths of ribbon to about 22″ long each.
Step 5: Using a pencil and ruler, place small marks along the edge of your paper on both sides. Measuring from the bottom, I put my first mark at about 4.25.” Then the rest of my marks were 4″ apart each. (I left a larger margin at bottom to account of the frame.)
Step 6: Using your pencil marks as a guide, place one end of each ribbon around the edge and tape to the back side of your poster backing.
Step 7: Now tape the other side of your ribbon to the backing of the frame, but this time, place a pencil underneath the ribbon before you tape. This will leave a little bit of slack in your ribbon so you get a slight arched effect when you hand the advent envelopes.
Step 8: Put the finished backing back inside your poster frame.
Step 9: Cut out the “Advent Calendar Numbers” and “Gifts for Jesus Advent Tags” from the cardstock/paper.
Step 10: Glue each number to the front of a small envelopes, creating 24 numbered envelopes.
Step 11: Place your “Gifts for Jesus” tags inside the envelopes. You can coordinate activities with certain days to fit your family schedule.
Step 12: Remove small holly leaves and berries from your floral stems.
Step 13: Hot glue the leaves and berries to the front of your clothespins.
Step 14: Attach envelopes to the ribbon using your newly decorated clothespins. And that’s it. You’re all set for a great Advent season with your family!
Did you give this craft a try? Add your own unique spin to the idea? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!