FAMILY ADVENT ACTIVITY: ADVENT PRAYER CALENDAR

Hi Friends,

My name is Mirim Kim and I am currently a second year student at Knox College, studying in the MTS program specializing in Religious Education. My passion has always been for children, youth and family ministries, and creating practical activities that help families to cultivate loving, joyful and faith-based home environment. This year, I was given the exciting opportunity to participate in a Theological Field Education (TFE) placement and met Tori Smit as my site educator, who has helped me to expand my horizon in both educational and intergenerational ministries. As a part of my TFE experience, she has graciously invited me to write a blog posting for the synod website, thus I decided to share with you one of my family activities that we do at home.

So let’s begin! 

Another exciting season of Advent is less than a month away. It is a wonderful season for parents and grandparents to create a learning opportunity for our children to experience the joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus. With this in mind, I want to invite you to participate in this simple family activity, which has helped my family reflect on the coming of Christ.

Children tend to pay better attention when tangible materials are in front of their eyes, and when they are allowed to touch and interact with objects. Perhaps this is the reason why many toy stores allow children to see, touch, and hear the toys to stimulate their interest in order to sell the products. Children also love having a chocolate Advent calendar so that they not only have fun opening something each day, but also to taste the delicious chocolate. 

As a mom of three boys, I wondered if there are any other types of Advent calendars we can use before bedtime that would not create a sugar rush for the boys, and also something that can be reused year after year. I also looked for something simple. We tried our best to do Advent devotions with our children every year, but to be honest, there were days when they were just not willing to do anything, or when we were too exhausted from the chaotic day. 

While looking for the one I liked, I ended up deciding to make my own version at home. Inspired by the Advent wreath that we commonly see in the church, I made an Advent prayer calendar composed of one white Christ candle, 25 stones and 25 little bowls to put them into. 

Each night, we gather around this prayer calendar and ask each person to offer up a prayer of waiting for the coming of Jesus. Children’s prayers can be a simple sentence, such as “thank you for sending baby Jesus,” while younger children can be encouraged to say just a word or two. When my youngest was in preschool, we asked him to say a word, and the word he chose was “baby Jesus.” There is no right or wrong prayer. Meaningful participation is the key to this family activity. Creating a safe environment for children to feel welcomed and invited to pray in simple language in their own way is the core of this Advent Prayer Calendar. 

When the prayers are done, we asked our boys to take turns putting one stone in one of the little bowls each night. The person who placed the stone in was also asked to say, “we pray all this in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and then use the candle snuffer to snuff out the light. Our children liked to stay there for a few more seconds to watch the smoke dancing and disappearing as it went up in the air. One of my boys told me that it reminds him of God being everywhere. Indeed, our God is omnipresent. 

This has been a meaningful Advent prayer time for our family, to not only learn how to pray but also to listen to each other’s prayers and build a sense of unity as a family in expressing our hearts to Christ. I hope that this family activity may bring an extra special atmosphere and joyful participation of waiting for the coming of Christ, just as it is for our family. 

How To Make an Advent Prayer Calendar

Materials:

2-3 packages of oven baking modelling clay (I used Sculpey PE 5042 Oven Bake Clay Premolar! in black from Amazon. You can choose any colour you want.

25 small stones (available at a dollar store)

A white pillar candle (available at a dollar store)

A small container to hold rocks (available at a dollar store)

A simple candle holder (optional)

Candle snuffer (optional)

Instructions:

Unpack the clay from its original package and cut them evenly to make 25 pieces. 

Using your hands to mold the clay into small bowls for the stones. Place them on the baking tray and bake it according to the instruction on the original package. I used “Sculpey Premo” and baked them at 275 degrees for 40 min.

Let the cups sit until the bowls are cooled down. 

Designate a place in your home to display the Christ candle, a container of rocks and little bowls nicely. This space will be an Advent praying center for your family.

Optional: If you have extra clay, make some more little bowls to create a total of 40 bowls. Also, get a purple pillar candle and a few more rocks (you have enough when you get a bag from the dollar store) to make a family prayer calendar for the season of Lent.

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