“Are we there yet?” my seven-year-old daughter will inevitably ask, a mere fifteen minutes from home in an hours-long trip. No, child, it’s still the beginning of the trip. You will have to wait.
In the life of a child, the anticipation of Christmas—parties, presents, and candy—is the ultimate are we there yet? In the life of a Christian, Christmas is the foreshadowing of heaven. It is our great dress rehearsal for the return of the King and the feast of the Lamb. As we journey through Advent, we want to use the excitement of Christmas to teach our children to look forward to greater things. How do we train our children to wait for Jesus and His ultimate return?
We wait with productivity and intentionality.
On a long trip, we often tell stories and sing songs to pass the time, and Advent is no different. While we wait, we tell stories about Jesus and sing of His birth. So much of children’s ministry revolves around storytelling. Our small children absorb Bible stories, one by one. Each week, we teach them a new story and what that story tells us about God. During Advent, we have the great opportunity to connect all the stories they have learned into the big story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Even the smallest children can begin to learn that God created the world perfectly, that sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience, that God promised He would send a savior, and that ultimately His Son Jesus came in the form of a baby, lived a perfect life, died, and then rose again for us—and one day He will return! Remind your teachers to emphasize the big story of the gospel during Advent—either through their regular lessons or taking a lesson to focus on Advent alone.
If a family does not normally have family devotions, Advent is a wonderful time to begin with the annual practice of Advent devotions, wreaths, or calendars. At our church, we give families a new devotional every year so they can develop a library of Advent resources. Encourage your parents to choose an age-appropriate devotional and spend time in worship each evening with their children.
As your church prepares special Christmas music, include the children. If your church has a children’s choir, be sure they participate in your services. If not, work to include the Christmas music your church sings during your Sunday school and teaching times so that children know the songs and can participate in the worship services. As they sing their Savior’s praises, they learn to love Him and feel part of the body of believers.
We wait in dependence and trust.
By definition, we wait for things that we cannot attain ourselves, for things beyond our control. The Israelites waited for the promised Messiah for hundreds of years—the final four hundred of those years without one word from the Lord. And yet they believed the promise of the God. In Luke, we see Simeon waiting for Jesus, for the Spirit had told him that he would not die until he saw the birth of the Lord’s Christ. What faith it takes to believe that when nothing has happened for 400 years!
As we see our families work and scurry “to do” Advent and Christmas well, remind them that God is keeping His promises. He has sent His Son, He will send Him again, and He has their children firmly in His hand.
We wait with joyful anticipation.
When we travel, we are absorbed by the destination. We’ve looked it up on the internet; we know where we want to go when we arrive, what we want to eat, and we talk of it as we go. As we move through Advent, we look forward not just to Christmas Day but the day when all things will be made new when Christ returns. As we tell the stories of His birth and sing songs praising His redemption of His people, may we point our children to the day He comes again, and may they say with us, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Some great resources for learning the overarching story of the gospel during Advent include:
The Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Kit. Using ornaments and stories, this kit is a wonderful resource that walks us through the Bible as we see the promise of Jesus unfold.
Little Hearts Prepare Him Room. Little Hearts Prepare Him Room leads families through the Advent season and has lessons that can be simplified or expanded depending on your children’s ages. Adding the ornaments makes it even more child friendly.
The Biggest Story. This book tells the story of the gospel in a colorful book form for children.