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Advent Inspiration for your family

image of a candle lit in the darkness

‘Jesus is not a metaphor. He is real. This all happened.’ Tim Keller, in his book ‘Hidden Christmas’, reminds us of truth amidst the sparkle, glitz and consumer-centric hype of Christmas. Amidst the debt, family-breakdown, heartache and strife of Christmas. Advent points to the coming of Jesus to this earth. A gift that had been promised for hundreds of years.

Celebrating advent with our children builds anticipation for Jesus’ birth. It redirects their minds towards the One who makes all things new, the One who they can trust, who doesn’t break his promises, the One who came to heal our broken hearts.

At Grace Church, we’ve been digging around for some ideas and resources to help your family mark Advent in a meaningful way. We hope you can find one or two that will bless your family this season.

Creating Family Traditions

Make a Jesse Tree

Image of The Littlest Watchman advent book for children

A Jesse Tree or Advent Tree is a decorative tree used during Advent to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’s birth. It tells the story of God’s salvation plan, starting with creation and continuing through the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus Christ. (The name Jesse represents the genealogy of Jesus – ‘a shoot will come from the stump of Jesse: a branch from his roots will bear fruit.’ Isaiah 11 v 1)


Image of a Jesse Advent tree with decorations

For primary school aged children, The Littlest Watchman Advent Calendar (which goes alongside The Littlest Watchman book by Scott James) comes with a booklet with 25 devotions for December, helping families look through the Bible together in the lead up to Christmas.

Each window in the calendar provides a tear off decoration for your child to put on your Jesse tree – meeting the different people from Jesus family tree along the way. You can buy your copy here.

The Jesus Storybook Bible has a similar resource you can download for free from


Each story points to Jesus as our Saviour, and most stories can be found animated on YouTube and read by David Suchet (best known for his role as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot).

Image showing a free advent printable from the Jesus Storybook Bible

Alternatively, if your child loves craft and making things, they can draw and colour in their own decorations (correlating with one of the resources shown above) out of card or make them out of salt dough. You can be as creative as you like!


Image of a homemade felt Jesse Tree to help children celebrate advent

Image of a homemade wooden Jesse tree to help children celebrate Advent

Take them to see a Nativity

Pennywell Farm near Exeter:

‘The whole family is caught up in the Christmas magic at Pennywell. Adults are welcome to take part in the Nativity or simply watch the delight and wonder on the children’s faces from the cosy straw bale seating, as the greatest story ever told comes to life.’


Cotley Farm near Whimple, Exeter

FREE ENTRY 10-6pm everyday til 23rd December. A more traditional Christmas experience on a farm run by Christians. Choose a tree, order a turkey, and visit the reindeer lodge, the Nativity area with a donkey and other animals, and the shop filled with locally produced festive goods and decorations.

Visit www.cotleychristmas.co.uk for more information.

Buy a nativity playset

Image of a playmobil nativity playset
Playmobil have a great range of nativity playsets you can set up year after year. You can also find some beautifully crafted wooden sets online too.

Being Generous

Reverse Advent Calendar

Image from Exeter Foodbank of the reverse advent calendar 2018

Exeter Foodbank have provided the 2018 advent calendar below. You could make your own one with your children, to help teach them the importance of serving others and to see the bigger picture at Christmas.

Write gifts list for others

Help your children write shopping or gift lists for other people. Whether family members, friends or those in need, it helps you to go big on giving this Season.

Baking for others

Image showing ‘Bake through the Bible art Christmas

‘Bake through the Bible at Christmas’ helps parents to explore the Christmas story with their children whilst cooking! Containing 12 Bible stories, they take the child through the events of the first Christmas.

Why not give away what you’ve made to your friends or neighbours?

Books and Resources

The Meaningful Chocolate Company have produced The Real Advent Calendar (Fairtrade) which comes with a free 24 page Christmas story-activity book. Read here to find out other ‘meaningful’ features of this advent calendar.

Image showing The meaningful chocolate company advent calendar

‘Diary of a Disciple Luke’s Story’

(8-11 years) Gives an account for the whole of Luke’s gospel, beginning with the Nativity Story. The style is similar to the popular children’s book series, Tom Gates.

Image of the book Diary of a disciple Luke’s story

The Christmas Promise

(4-7 years) This is a brilliant retelling of the Christmas story about how God keeps his promise to send a new king. You can also buy the accompanying colouring and activity book here and a giant colouring poster here.Image of the book A Christmas Promise for children to mark advent

A Very Noisy Christmas

This is a heartwarming book to encourage interaction whilst reading the nativity story. Suitable for ages 1-3 years.

Image of the book A Very Noisy Christmas for children under 5

Books for adults

Ann Voskamp ‘Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Written to engage the whole family (children over 8yrs) during Advent. Based on her book, The Greatest Gift, there are Scriptures to read and activities to apply each theme.

Tim Keller ‘Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ’

Editorial review: ‘In this surprising take on the Christmas story, Tim Keller reveals how, by focussing on the women in Jesus’ birth narratives, a colourful, scandalous and refreshing tale of grace emerges.’

Noel Piper ‘Treasuring God in our Traditions’

This book helps parents, grandparents and other family members pass along the treasure of God to future generations through everyday routines and celebration of key holidays. When family traditions are rooted in the Bible, the next generations will see who the greatest treasure is…

Music and Film

The Star Movie – a playful animation with a great soundtrack (Mariah Carey, Kirk Franklin, Pentatonix, Casting Crowns), retelling the nativity story through the eyes of the animals. Buy on Amazon for £9.99.

Image of The Star Movie DVD cover

The Jesus Storybook Bible on YouTube – divided into three parts, two of which can be found below. Watch the following short videos to help your children see the nativity in the context of God’s big rescue plan.

Part 1: ‘He’s here!’

Part 2: ‘Light of the Whole World’

Christmas Albums

Someday at Christmas, Samuel Ljungblahd, Ole Borud

Image of the album cover for Someday at Christmas

Prepare Him Room, Sovereign Grace

Image of the Prepare Him Room album

Behold A Christmas Collection, Lauren Daigle

Image of the Lauren Daigle Behold A Christmas Collection album

Christmas: The Peace Project, Hillsong

Image of Peace Project album from Hillsong music

These Christmas Lights, Matt Redman

Image of Matt Redman These Christmas Lights album

We hope this helps your family to mark Advent in a meaningful way. Whatever way you choose, be conscious of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Even basic dressing up clothes (think dressing gown, tea towel and rope for a shepherd’s headdress) or four simple candles in an Advent Wreath can help children consider the Christmas story more meaningfully. Find out what your child loves, think about how your family celebrates occasions…

Have fun creating your own family traditions and enjoy finding ways to evoke a sense of celebration waiting for Christmas Day!

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