We opened presents with my parents the day after Thanksgiving. The beautiful thing about gift-giving so early is that it has freed us to anticipate the greatest gift of all—Jesus, our Messiah. Each night after dinner we're putting the next leaf on our Advent Tree (for a free complete set of advent devotions, click on the link to the right that says "Advent Tree Devotions"). The kids love when it's their turn to put a leaf on the tree or read the Scripture passage of the day. In a busy season, any chance to slow down and reflect is something to be cherished.
book that started with creation and led up to Jesus' resurrection. It's a wider set of Bible stories than most Advent plans include, and that's what I love about it. Jesus' birth is unintelligible without an understanding of the Old Testament. He was the answer to long centuries of anticipation of God's decisive work to redeem his people from sin. Just as we wouldn't give our kids the answers to their homework without letting them first wrestle through the questions, so we should show them why the world needed Jesus before we celebrate his coming.
If you don't have plans for Advent and want to try these, it's not too late! You can make an Advent Tree with a big sheet of paper or posterboard, and add leaves of green construction paper each day. Let your kids draw the pictures on each leaf, or write a key word from the story instead. Or have them draw the pictures on paper circles to hang on your Christmas tree. Make it a family project. And if you do, I'd love to hear how it goes!