We're doing something different this year as a family.  We have always been intentional about holiday celebrations.  We want our kids to know why we celebrate the various "special" days throughout the year and provide a context for how we celebrate in light of our faith.  Because, let's face it, the meanings behind our holidays are being eroded by commercial interests in the public square.  I'm not bemoaning holiday-themed marketing; people need to make a living.  I'm just more aware than ever that it is my job as a parent to teach my kids why turkeys go on sale in November and briskets in May.  Otherwise, we can become a culture that celebrates celebration instead of days of remembrance to be grateful for the many blessings that we receive.

I heard a lot of talk last year about liturgical practices surrounding the theme of Advent: the coming of Christ.  So, this year, we found a "Reading Plan" for Advent in the Bible app put out by  It's a very simple plan that involves a few key elements.  We light a candle each night and let it burn down to a mark representing each day of December until Christmas Eve.  We read a passage of Scripture (most of which refer to some promise of God which was fulfilled by the Messiah).  We worship with a hymn. (We don't know all of the words and we were unfamiliar with a couple of the tunes, but YouTube is a great resource.  Just search "Song Title Lyrics") And we pray thanking God for His promises and the ultimate gift He gave in Jesus Christ.  It takes about 8-10 minutes, and we do it just before bed time.  The younger kids enjoy the songs and are excited to see the candle getting shorter, and the older ones are getting a broad overview of the promises of Scripture.  And I am blessed with a daily reminder of the reason we celebrate Christmas.  We can all get caught up in the hustle to decorate, buy gifts, make it to parties, prepare for time off work, and traveling to see family and friends.  It's good to have something that helps us to daily return to the true theme of Christmas.

So what do you do to keep yourself focused?

-JP Jobe

JP is the head barista at The Coffee Shop and the pastor of Good Hope Family Fellowship.