Monday, November 4, 2013

Preparing for Advent {Make Your Own Advent Calendar: Part 1}

{Each week of November, I'm reposting part of my popular series on Making Your Own Advent Calendar.  
Haven't made yours yet?  Want to get started?  Keep reading to find out how...}

Ever since I came across this idea in Noel Piper's book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, I wanted to make one.  

In this wonderful book, Noel expounds on and gives practical examples of the Piper family belief in creating “God-centered traditions, Bible-saturated family patterns, and grace-laden heirlooms”.  I couldn’t agree more.  

Here’s some of what Noel says about the season of Advent:   

We are a people of promise. For centuries God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life.  At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made--that he would make a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas.  It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes on the first Sunday in December.  

For four weeks, it’s as if we’re reenacting, remembering the thousands of years during which God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus.  
That’s what advent means-- “coming”.  Even God’s men who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating” (v.11).  They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.  

In fact, God revealed to them that they were not the ones who would see the suffering and glory of God’s Christ.  “They were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (v.12).  They were serving us.  We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan.  The centuries of waiting are over.  We have the greatest reason to celebrate.

And yet we are still waiting.  Our spiritual redemption came to us with the baby of Bethlehem.  Nevertheless, as Romans 8 says, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (v.23).  There is suffering and tragedy still, even for Christians.  Someone we love is dying.  We may be in pain.  Sometimes we have trouble believing God’s promises.  In other words, our redemption is not complete.  We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies--waiting for Jesus’ second advent, for him to come again.

So here we stand in the middle.  Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been, waiting for the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect.  And at the same time, Advent is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming.  

~Noel Piper, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, pp.76-77 (emphasis added)

A family Advent calendar is one way Noel's family keeps Christmas Christ-centered.  So, I’ve made one for our family, and it's the part of "getting ready for Christmas" my three preschoolers are already looking forward to.  Our calendar hangs on a prominent wall in our house all during the month of December, and is something personalized and special to our family that we will keep for years. 

(Initially I contacted Desiring God to see if they were still selling them (why reinvent the wheel?), but… alas, they’re not making them anymore.)  

So, back to square one: making it myself.  I googled Noel’s calendar and found a bunch of sites with pictures of her calendar, and also came across another creative mother who’s already made one for her family, who freely offered felt patterns and instructions.  And when my parents made the trip two years ago all the way over here to Central Asia to visit, I asked my Mom bring a bag of colored felt and some good craft glue

Want to make one for your own family?  Just follow my step-by-step instructions in the posts in this series to create your own beautiful Advent Calendar your family will enjoy year after year!

Make Your Own Advent Calendar: Part 1

Getting Started

1. Map out your Advent Calendar on paper first.  This will help you figure out the basic proportions of your finished manger scene compared to the places where the pieces will be stored.    

On our calendar, I put the title at the top, with the completed 25-piece manger scene to be assembled underneath (the kids will place one piece each day), and places to store all the pieces at the bottom in rows.  Feel free to arrange your calendar any way you want.

2. Next, print out the  paper patterns and cut out enough pieces to see how they will fit on your background.  My initial end result looked a little crowded; in the end I cut my actual felt characters down a little smaller.  

3. If you like, go ahead and make an initial list of the colors of felt you want to use for each character.  This will save time later and also give you an idea of how much of each color felt you will need.

4. Find a simple alphabet pattern online, and cut out paper patterns for the letters in the title: “The Christmas Story”.  

Part 1 complete!  Great job!  

See you next week...


{For a copy of the Christmas story divided into 25 pieces, email me at}


How are you planning to celebrate the season of Advent as a family?  

Leave a comment with a description of an Advent memory, an idea for an Advent tradition, or an insight into the meaning of Advent.  I’d love for this post to become a collection of creative ideas for celebrating the season of Advent with your children! 


  1. Hi! Sounds like a great book by Noel Piper. I am contemplating doing the Jesse Tree devotional on Ann Voskamp's website. I want to talk it over with Tyler and make sure it is for our family right now, you know what I mean? I think Micah is old enough, but I want the other two to still be engaged. We'll see...

  2. HI!! I just got finished making my advent calendar..i went off of was geat..thank you for your posts on them.but i was wondering what story you used..could u email me the story that you use with your calendar?? Thanks!!!! my email is

  3. I like that book too, Carolyn. I'm glad you finally got to make your calendar.

    We just made a Jesse Tree banner. The "tree" is glued down but the little symbols will be removable like your nativity figures. I'll post a photo on my blog eventually.