Attempting Advent

Growing up in a church that didn’t participate directly in Advent, I have come to adore this tradition as an adult. (I think everyone has, actually. It seems like Advent has made a splash in evangelical churches in recent years. It must have a great PR team.)

And as a parent? Oh, man. It’s the best.

Each year we attempt an Advent calendar with daily activities.

“Attempt” because I try really, super hard not to set unreasonable expectations. For instance, our activities are things like “read a Christmas book” and “make an ornament for a friend”.

I try to scale my real desires of “create a 6′ ice-sculpture” or “feed every homeless person in Texas” back a little. Keep it realistic, you know.

We aim for easy activities with a simple purpose:

look for Jesus, love people.

Sometimes we love elderly friends at the nursing home. Sometimes we love our neighbors. Sometimes we love police officers. Sometimes we love families who can’t afford presents.

We’re always looking for people to love. And, when loving people, we always see Jesus.

Funny how that works.

I think sometimes love doesn’t turn into action because there are too many expectations put on it.

I don’t know what to do.
I don’t want to do it wrong.
I don’t think it’ll make a difference.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have kids the right ages.
I don’t have the money.

I think we underestimate how far a little bit of love can go. Even when it feels awkward or messy or impractical.

I think we also underestimate how much our kids learn when we try.

So, today, the boys and I shared a little bit of love with kids who are sick and in the hospital.

Or, rather, *tried* to love kids who are sick and in the hospital.

Tried, because

a) HIPAA makes it hard to actually love them in person. [shoutout to our friends who work at the hospital and offered to deliver the packages for us.]

b) this:

me: Alright, guys! Ready to make cards? Remember…these are for kids just like you who are sick and away from home. What do you think we should say? How about “Get well soon.”?

son: Nah. I’m going to make my own card. It’ll be super sweet.

me: Perfect. Go for it.

son: *draws a Christmas tree*

me: Yes! Good start.

son: *writes “God loves you!”*

me: Oh, my word. That is awesome. I love it, buddy.

son: I’m not done yet. *draws one angry red stick figure and one happy green stick figure*

me: Who are they?

son: Satan. And God. I’m going to cross out the devil and put a check mark next to God.

me: Oh wow. That…escalated quickly. Great! Do you want me to tell you how to spell “Merry Christmas?”

son: No, thanks. But can you spell “THE DEVIL”? I need to label my picture.

me: Uhhh….I think the kids can just figure it out, you know? Mad guy…happy guy…….

son: No I need to tell them. So they’ll know never to choose the devil. How do you spell it?

me: Um. d-e-v—oh hey look at that….Davis is eating his marker. Quick! Let’s put your card down and help him finish his!

son: No, thanks. *sounds out “devil* How do you spell “author”?

me: You could probably just sign your name.

son: No I need them to know the author.

meOk, it’s….a-u-t-h-o-r.

son: ….and how do you spell “illustrator”? They need to know I’m both the author AND the illustrator.

me: aaaaand time’s up. Put the markers down, everyone.

And that, you guys, is how you attempt Advent.

A little bit of intentionality,

a well-annotated greeting card,


and a brief pamphlet on the reality of spiritual warfare.


“this is God, this is the devil”

This is how you love people fabulously.

(And awkwardly. But mostly fabulously.)


Dear sweet, hospitalized child,

We’re so sorry about your chronic illness. We hope you like the toy and that you feel loved.

Most of all, we hope you don’t choose Satan.

much love,

the Brooks family

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