A Different Kind of Advent Calendar

When I come across inspiring traditions I like to share them. This one is not your typical advent calendar and it might actually get the focus off the presents this Christmas season.

Whether you do already have an advent calendar tradition or not, this one I am going to share is something your family may want to work in because it’s that neat. It is an advent service calendar thought up by a Dallas mom and business owner named Shannon Copeland.

Shannon thought of this idea when she realized her family was too focused on what they were going to receive for Christmas, instead of what they could give to others. (Can’t we all relate to that?!). So she got out 25 notecards and wrote down 25 things they could do for other people (and included some family activities that weren’t centered around gifts and expensive entertainment!). Thus her family’s Advent service calendar was born.

shannon copeland's famly
Shannon and her family. (When I asked for a family photo, she sent me this – but wanted me to note that they do not always look this put together;).

I love that Shannon didn’t make some elaborate advent calendar to go along with her idea. It wasn’t about that. Instead, she used clothes pins and string and hung up her 25 notecards on the wall. Simple and sweet.

shannonsadventcalendar

I asked Shannon a few questions about her experience.

DoSayGive: How has this shifted your family’s focus away from receiving and toward the act of giving?

Shannon: My kids get so excited to see who and how we are going to serve each day.  I don’t know that this has shifted our focus (we are still selfish by nature) completely, but when we are spending our time/energy thinking out others, it doesn’t leave time to think about ourselves.

DoSayGive: What is your favorite memory of doing this tradition? 

Shannon: I don’t know that I can pick a favorite, but one might have been singing carols and passing out cookies at a retirement home. The joy that the songs of children brings to the elderly can’t be described.

DoSayGive: How long have you been doing it? 

Shannon: This will be our 4th year to do it. When we first started, not every day was serving someone else. Every few days would be fun treat or activities for the kids. Each year we would have less of those until it became 25 days of serving others.

DoSayGive: Where did you get the idea? 

Shannon: This might sound cheesy, but it was an answer to prayer. I had been looking for a fun advent calendar to do with my family. At the same time, I was praying the the Lord would help me teach my kiddos (and me) to be less focused around Christmas and more focused on Him. This idea “just came to me” – meaning, the Holy Spirit revealed it to me as an answer to that prayer. The chalk board underneath our calendar says, “Jesus came to SEEK, SAVE and SERVE.”  That is what I want  our family to be about – seeking people who are hurting, leading them to the One who Saves and serving others because of the way Christ ultimate served us by dying on the cross.

I asked Shannon for a sample Advent calendar for my readers. Feel free to print the one below or use it to inspire your own advent service calendar. Again, most of these service things are small and doable. Shannon created it so that it wouldn’t be something she would stress about. She also said she finds ways to incorporate service things into activities they are already doing to make it more maneagable. Read on and you’ll understand:

ServiceAdventCalendar

What a sweet month for that family! I will be giving more examples of traditions like this one this holiday season. But please note: these ideas are not to overwhelm or make you feel like you are missing out, but rather they are to give inspiration and encouragement. Like I said in a previous post, doing too many holiday traditions and activity can actually backfire. Always choose wisely what is right for you and your family and savor and enjoy those special things.

 Let me know if your family does something unique with your Advent calendar. There are so many different kinds of Advent calendars I always love to hear new ideas!

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4 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Advent Calendar

  1. These are great ideas. We have heirloom advent calendars that we use with our Advent Nativitree ornaments ( http://etsy.me/11okQhW ). Like Shannon, this is something I started when my boys were old enough to start thinking about Christmas and presents, and I wanted them to be focused on the coming of Jesus. They’re old enough now though, that adding this component of thinking of others would be a great addition to our tradition. And these would easily fit in our advent calendars with our ornaments. (We even have a retirement home literally at the end of our street. My youngest goes there weekly with his class; it will be a nice thing to do that as a family.)

    Thanks for sharing,

    Mary

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