Light the World Advent Calendar
This Christmas our family decided to participate in the “Light the World” campaign on mormon.org. It is a wonderful advent calendar that helps us focus on Christ and ways we can share his light by following his example. Each day is assigned an attribute of Christ along with ideas of how we can follow his example through service, a little video that focuses on that attribute, and scripture references.
Christmas is always a hectic time of year for me and this year I am also still recovering from surgery. Plus, I work from home and have a child with special needs. So at first I was pretty worried about how I was going to fit in an act of service every day. I already have no downtime and every minute of my day is scheduled. But I decided to give it a shot and make it a matter of prayer.
At first, I was going to make a punch box advent calendar with a slip of paper inside listing an attribute of Christ for each day. I was going to make it in the shape of a Christmas tree and it was a really cute idea, but sometimes you have to learn how to separate the busy work away from the important stuff. Following Christ – important. Making yet another advent calendar – not important.
When the kids were little, we started to acquire a lot of advent calendars and before long we had about 7 of them. I love advent calendars, but it was ridiculous. Helping my two little kids move each calendar forward every day was taking about 45 minutes a day! So I got rid of all but two of them. One was a felt wall hanging that my mom had made us when we were kids that tracked Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem. The other was a Santa Claus one that had a place to tie a candy for each day.
Over the years, I have noticed that we often forget to move the Mary and Joseph one forward, but the kids never, ever, ever let me forget the candy one. I knew that the best way to keep us on track was to piggyback the Light the World advent calendar with the candy one. Bribery never faileth.
So I printed out all the attributes of Christ and the dates on slips of paper. I then tied a slip of paper and a candy cane onto each day on the advent calendar. So much smarter than adding a third, separate advent calendar! In the morning, the kids grab the piece of paper and we talk about the attribute and watch the corresponding video. Then at night we eat our candy canes while talking about what we did to serve that day.
On December 1st, I was ready with my slips of paper and advent calendar. The whole thing only took me about 30 minutes extra work. Score! I was ready and excited to introduce it to my kids. But that morning, I had one very, very grumpy kid and she didn’t want anything to do with hearing about attributes of Christ or serving others. I got a little worried. The kids have been fighting a lot in the morning lately and it has made things like scripture reading and prayer challenging. I wasn’t sure how adding yet another thing was going to work. So I did the best I could. Ladybug didn’t hear much of the message, but I figured that I still have 24 more days left and at least some of the days would stick, right?
I work from home and don’t see many people, so I also worried about how I was going to find somebody for whom I could “lift their burdens.” So I prayed. Later that morning, I had to return something at Wal-mart and spotted the Salvation Army guy outside ringing his bell. Bingo! On the way out, I dropped some money in and then smiled up at the man holding the bell and wished him a Merry Christmas. He just beamed. While donating money is helpful, at that moment I realized that it has got to be hard to stand there with a bell all day and have people studious ignore and avoid you. My smile and greeting was probably a nice reprieve.
When I picked up the kids, I excitedly told my kids about my experience. My son told me that he had helped hand out whiteboards and told the student teacher in his class what a wonderful job she was doing. He said it wasn’t much compared to giving money, so I shared with him the talk by Jean B. Bingham this last general conference and her story about how their rowing in a canoe was made easier by the help of the wind. She said, “How like that glorious wind can be the sincere compliment of a friend, the cheerful greeting of a parent, the approving nod of a sibling, or the helpful smile of a co-worker or classmate, all supplying fresh “wind in our sails” as we battle the challenges of life!”
I told him that his words may have been just the thing she desperately needed to hear. It was a sweet teaching moment. At this point, my daughter started to get into it too and that afternoon we found a few other ways to serve others. We found out that a friend needed to deliver some food for a food drive that happened to be just in the area where we were already headed. I was amazed at how we were able to find opportunities that perfectly fit within our schedules. My day had not been any harder than any other day, but we had been blessed with wonderful experiences and chances to learn about Christ. That night, I smiled as I listened to Ladybug excitedly recount her adventures to her dad.
Friday, for “Jesus Honored His Parents and So Can You,” the kids did a thank you scavenger hunt for daddy. They came up with things they wanted to thank daddy for and then used those as the clues. For example, “Thank you for having light saber battles with us” lead their daddy to the next clue, which was in the light sabers. They thanked him for things like reading to them, going to work to make money for us, and taking them to the pet store. The last clue was thanking him for doing so much with the Christmas decorations and it took him to the Christmas tree where the kids had made cards for him. My boy also tried to make the night special by making sure the kitchen was totally clean before Daddy got home. He even tried to talk Ladybug into using her chair as her table during snack time so that the table would stay cleared off and clean. It was wonderful to see my kids caught up in the spirit of service and the glow of their transparent enthusiasm on their faces.
We had a wonderful conversation about how they were feeling the Holy Ghost and how it helps us feel peace and good about ourselves.
My boy struggles with a lot of negative self-talk, so it was wonderful to hear him talk about how he felt like he was a good boy and that the spirit was helping him see that. I wish I could have bottled it up for him to take out during those times he so desperately needs it.
If you haven’t started the advent calendar yet with your family, it isn’t too late. All the days and videos are listed at mormon.org. They are all Christ centric, so it is a great activity for all Christians, not just members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I now find myself desperately hoping that they save all the days, ideas and videos somewhere we can get to them so that we can do this again next year! But if not, I have uploaded the print out of the advent calendar here just in case.
Light the World Advent Calendar. In 25 Ways. Over 25 Days. (PDF)
More than ever before, I feel like we are consciously giving gifts to Christ this Christmas.