With Thanksgiving so late this year it’s easy for Advent to sneak up on us! Don’t worry, we’ve got your back, and are bringing back our family oriented Advent devotional for you to use as a tool in your home again this season.
We understand Christmas is busy, so we have designed this devotional to be something you can do as part of your daily life to build relationships in your family—not another thing to add to your busy schedules. Here’s what each day will include:
- A short Bible passage to read today (usually about 5-12 verses)
- An explanation of what we’re focusing on in those verses
- A couple questions you can discuss as a family
- A challenge—a simple way for your children to start living out what you discussed
Every week will have a special focus or theme. For the first week (December 1-7), we’re talking about how to make your Christmas matter. To see why Christmas matters, we are looking at how Christmas fits into the story of redemption—a story that stretched from creation into eternity. When we zoom out and see the whole story, we see the real reason that Christmas is so wonderful: it’s when God himself stepped into our broken world to bring forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
All the content for this upcoming week is included below.
We pray this helps you and your family love each other more and love Jesus more this Christmas.
Our gift to you! Merry Christmas,
The Building Boys, Making Men team
Advent Calendar Downloads
This week, we are looking at how Christmas fits into the story of redemption—a story that stretched from creation into eternity. When we zoom out and see the whole story, we see the real reason that Christmas is so wonderful: it’s when God himself stepped into our broken world to bring forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
December 1: The Creation
When God created the world, it was amazing. He made so many unique and complicated and beautiful things. But the most wonderful part of his creation was his plan for people. God gives people a special role and a special relationship with him.
In whose image are humans (men and women) created?
What do these verses tell us that God is like?
Challenge: Go outside and enjoy God’s creation. Talk with your family about what you saw, heard, smelled, or felt outside today that was beautiful, surprising, or interesting.
December 2: The Fall
Even though God had created them and given them such a wonderful garden to live in, Adam and Eve disobeyed him. They rejected God’s plan for them, and that broke their relationship with God. But notice that God didn’t give up on people. He went looking for Adam and Eve in the garden, and he’s been seeking out and saving disobedient humanity ever since.
What did Adam and Eve do wrong?
How did their disobedience change their relationship with God?
Challenge: Just like Adam and Eve’s sin hurt their relationship with God, our sin hurts our relationship with God and with others. If you hurt a friendship recently—or if you mess up today—apologize to that person, and apologize to God. Praise God he hears our prayers and forgives us over and over and over!
December 3: The Promise
Even after sin came into the world, God didn’t abandon humans. He chose a special group of people, and he guided them through many leaders. But because people’s hearts were still sinful, they kept rebelling against God. Today’s reading is a promise that God would send a better leader: his own Son, Jesus, who would change people’s hearts and be the sacrifice for their sins.
- Yesterday, we talked about how people’s disobedience broke their relationship with God. What do you think it means that Jesus will be our peace?
Challenge: At the start of December, it can feel like a long wait until Christmas. But after Jesus’ birth was prophesied, the Israelites had to wait hundreds of years before everything was ready for Jesus to be born. Do something to get ready for Christmas, like making cookies, wrapping a present, or practicing Christmas songs.
December 4: The Baby
After centuries of waiting, God the Son became a human so he could save humans from their sin and bring them into God’s family. Jesus was finally born! But he didn’t come as a king in a palace, a general with an army, or a superhero landing with a flash of lightning …
Imagine you were one of the Jews living in Jesus’ time, waiting for the Savior promised in Micah 5 (yesterday’s verses). What would surprise you about where or how Jesus was born?
Verse 4 says that Joseph was of the house of David. Who was David? Can you think of why it matters that Jesus came from David’s family?
Challenge: With your family, map out a simple tree. Talk about how people in your family met God, and thank God for how he’s worked in your family. It doesn’t matter if your whole family tree loved Jesus or if your family is just getting to know Jesus—both of these stories show God loving us and changing our lives.
(Want to go further? Look at the family tree in Matthew 1:1-17 and count the generations between David and Jesus. Notice the amazing names and history. Praise God he hears our prayers and forgives us over and over and over!)
December 5: The Cross
God is just—he doesn’t let bad things go unpunished. But God is also forgiving. How does that work? By God sacrificing himself on the cross and taking our punishment so that we can be forgiven. What do you think it means that Christ died for sinners? Are you a sinner? What is the good news in these verses?
Challenge: Talk to God today and thank him for his love and his sacrifice on the cross
December 6: The Empty Tomb
1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Sin twisted the world with a lot of horrible things—like crying, hunger, sickness, and even death. But when Jesus died and took the punishment for our sin, he conquered sin and death! We can know for sure that he conquered them because he overcame death and rose again. That means that, if you trust in Jesus for forgiveness, you will be raised again after you die, and you’ll live with Jesus forever.
Because of sin, our world is hurting, and people suffer and even die. Where have you seen hard or difficult things in your life?
- (Parents, explain to your children that, because Jesus died and rose again, he destroyed the power of sin and death. Those who trust in him will rise again and live forever with Jesus, and he will end every bad thing, like hunger and sadness and darkness.)
Matthew 28:8 says that the women felt “fear and great joy”—why do you think they felt those two things?
- When have you felt these things?
Challenge: Go outside and look at the trees or the plants. Talk about how they look now and how you think they will look in the spring.
December 7: The Restoration
It’s been about 2000 years since Jesus went back up to Heaven—but he is still at work! He’s getting a place ready for us to come and live with him forever some day.
What parts of Heaven are you looking forward to?
What do you think Jesus means when he says he is the way there?
Challenge: This Saturday, help your family prepare the house for Christmas—and remember that Jesus is preparing a place for you!
How do you decide who to invite to your birthday party? The people we choose to hang out with says a lot about us. This week, we are looking at each of the people God invited to be part of the story of Jesus’ birth. We can learn a lot from each of them — and we can also learn about what’s important to God.
(Parents, if you have a nativity set in your house, you could show your younger children each person as you talk about them this week.)
December 8: Jesus’s Humility
Jesus is God the Son, so he has always existed. But at Christmas, we celebrate something wonderful that he did: he became a human and was born as a little baby. Think about that! He left the beauty of heaven, where he was worshipped, and he became a tiny, helpless baby. He worked as a carpenter until he was 30 and then taught and helped people around Israel. And then he died (in an embarrassing, public, and painful way) to take the punishment for our sins. That’s what humility looks like—loving somebody enough to put them in front of yourself.
Did Jesus’ story start at Christmas?
Humility means putting others first—like thinking of who needs a friend, not just who it’s easy to be friends with. Can you think of anybody you know who might need a friend (even if you feel too embarrassed or shy to be their friend)?
Challenge: Talk with that person who needs a friend—whether that means eating lunch with them, hanging out after school, or asking about their day at dinner time.
December 9: Mary’s Obedience
God is in control of everything, and he loves you more than you can imagine. You can trust him to give you good instructions, even when they are tough or confusing. Think about a little kid whose mom tells him to stop playing in the street. The little kid might not want to move, and he might not know that cars drive down that street—but if he trusts that his mom loves him and knows more than he does, he’ll move, and that will keep him safe!
How do you think Mary felt when the angel appeared to her?
Mary trusted God, so she obeyed him even when it was scary. What is something God wants you to do that is scary or hard?
Challenge: Think about that thing God wants you to do, and do it!
December 10: Joseph’s Compassion
Joseph didn’t understand why Mary was going to have a baby, and he thought Mary had done something wrong. But he didn’t want to embarrass her. Even though he was scared and confused, he knew that God showed compassion to him, so Joseph chose to be compassionate to Mary. He was compassionate. He wanted to protect her. Matthew 1:19 calls Joseph “a just man,” and his actions show us that justice isn’t only about being fair. God’s justice is about treating others with compassion and mercy, even when they mess up. Joseph treated Mary with compassion even when he didn’t understand, and eventually, an angel told Joseph in a dream that Mary had done nothing wrong — in fact, she was carrying in her belly the very Son of God!
What does it mean that Joseph was a righteous or just man?
How does God show compassion and mercy to you?
Challenge: It is hard for us to know the purpose and motive of others’ actions. Look for a way to show compassion today when someone does something different than you want or expect.
December 11: The Innkeeper’s Generosity
Can you hear the bustle of Bethlehem in the details of these verses? Caesar Augustus had ordered a census across the whole Roman empire, so thousands of people were on the move, returning to the towns their families were from so they could be counted. The inns were packed. About to have a baby, Mary and Joseph needed a place to stay. The innkeeper didn’t have any open rooms, but he gave what he could: a stable. He offered what he had, even when it wasn’t much, and God used his gift. That night, the stable housed God.
When Mary and Joseph asked for a room, what were the innkeeper’s options?
Are there any places where you feel like your help would be too small to matter? (For example, maybe you feel like you’re too young or too busy to help someone, or maybe you think you don’t have enough money to get the gift that’d really help someone)
Challenge: Round up the spare change in the house and add it up—you might be surprised by how much money is hiding in overlooked places in your house! As a family, choose a ministry or organization (or your local church) where you can donate the money so it will help people who need a meal or a place to stay.
December 12: The Angels’ Joy
Did you know that when verse 13 talks about a “heavenly host,” it literally means a heavenly army?
People sometimes imagine angels with long hair and flowing robes, like the angels in paintings and movies. But when angels appear in the Bible, they have to tell people not to be afraid of them. However, God’s heavenly army didn’t appear in the Bethlehem sky to fight something. These awesome creatures were celebrating God’s awesome plan for defeating sin and death through Jesus’ birth.
How would you summarize what the angels said to the shepherds?
What kinds of things you do sing about? Why do you think people sing?
Challenge: As a family, sing a Christmas song about Jesus today. If someone in your family plays an instrument, that’s a great way to start. Or you could turn on some Christmas carols while cleaning the kitchen, getting ready for school, or driving somewhere together.
December 13: The Shepherds’ Welcome
The angels could have appeared to anyone—to King Herod, to the priests and scholars in Jerusalem, to the rich merchants and tax collectors. But God sent them to appear to some shepherds working through the night. In Jesus’ day, shepherds were not who you’d expect as guests at the most important birthday party in the world. They were poor, they smelled like their sheep, and a lot of people didn’t trust them. In other words, they were outsiders. But God chose these outsiders as the first people to hear the news of Jesus’ birth and share it with others.
Are there times when you feel like an outsider? How does it make you feel to remember God found the outsiders and invited them to his celebration in Bethlehem?
Can you think of people who seem like outsiders to your group of friends? How could you reach out to them this week?
Challenge: Find one way to reach out to someone outside your group of friends.
December 14: The Wise Men’s Worship
What kind of gift would you buy for a toddler? The wise men brought Jesus pretty weird gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But each gift shows a reason the wise men had traveled so far to worship this baby. Gold shows that Jesus is our king. Frankincense was part of the incense that priests offered to God, so it shows that Jesus is our priest, offering sacrifices to God and mediating between God and us. And myrrh was used in burials, showing that Jesus would not just offer any sacrifice—he would offer himself as a sacrifice for us. The wise men hadn’t just come to see a baby. They were here to worship their king, their priest, and their sacrifice.
Each of the wise men’s gifts shows us a role that Jesus fulfilled. Can you think of any other roles he fulfilled or continues to fulfill? What are gifts that would symbolize those?
What has Jesus given to you?
Challenge: Think of something that God has given you (like time or talents or things) that you can give back to him—and then make a plan for how you’ll do that. For example, you could give back some free time by helping a friend, or you could give back some things by donating toys and clothes.
On this Thursday night, PDS is celebrating one of our favorite holiday traditions — singing part of Handel’s “Messiah.” Handel quotes a famous prophecy in Isaiah that tells us who Jesus is:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This week, we’re looking at that passage and a few other promised names for Jesus to learn more about the hero behind Christmas and why he’s worth celebrating. Along the way, we’ll see how we live out PDS’ 7 Virtues as we imitate Jesus and respond to who he is.
December 15: Jesus is the Immanuel (and our True Friend)
Read Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18–25
Immanuel means “God with us,” and that’s the best news in the world. When God first created the world, he would walk and talk with Adam and Eve every evening — until the day when they rebelled against God and rejected him. Humanity’s relationship with God was broken.
But praise God! God didn’t give up on us. He had his own plan for bringing people back into relationship with himself. For hundreds of years, he led his people faithfully, even when they did not follow him faithfully. He spoke to them through judges, priests, and prophets. Some people — like Abraham and David — listened to God and loved him. But a lot of people still didn’t really hear or love God.
So Jesus came even closer to us. He became a human, being born right into a community of sinful people. On the cross, he took the punishment for our sins. If we trust in Jesus for forgiveness, God sees us just as perfect and sinless as Jesus is, and he adopts us as his own children. We aren’t just part of God’s people — we belong to his family.
That’s why this promise is such good news. Jesus walked among the people of Israel, and he provided a way for all of us to be with God. He is near to us — he is our truest friend.
What does it mean to be a friend to someone?
How does it make you feel to remember that Jesus is your True Friend?
Challenge: The good news is that God is already giving us a way to be with him! Invite Jesus into all of your life including your toughest moments and your daily joys. Jesus (God with you)is your True Friend! Talk to God about your day — tell him about the good parts and the bad parts.
December 16: Jesus is a Son Given to Us (and the most Humble Hero)
Read Isaiah 9:2–7
Today, we’re focusing on one line: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”
Jesus loves you so much that he came to earth as a baby — helpless and messy and completely dependent on others. Sometimes we focus so much on God’s might that we forget his gentleness. Jesus knew what it’s like to be a child, and he invited little children to come and talk to him. He even said that grown-ups should approach him like children, with simple faith and trust.
Jesus showed incredible humility when he was born as a human baby. He is the ultimate example of a humble hero. He did what was best for us, not what was best for him. And Jesus invites us to follow his example and live as a humble hero: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
But Jesus doesn’t just give us his example — he gives us forgiveness when we mess up, and he gives us his love and his help every step of the way, on the good days and the bad days. He isn’t a far-away ruler — he came down to earth to save us, and we can come to him with anything, even little things. He wants to hear from you.
Have you ever held a baby? What does it feel like to hold a baby? Can you imagine God becoming so little and fragile?
What are some things Jesus did that show his humility?
What is one way you could follow Jesus’ example this week?
Challenge: Shine a spotlight on something good somebody else did today. (For example, you could compliment a teammate or a classmate, or you could tell your parents about something good your sibling did today.)
December 17: Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor (and our ultimate Pace Setter).
Read Isaiah 9:6, Proverbs 2:1–15
Wisdom isn’t the same thing as brainpower.
You could be the smartest person in the world. You could be a doctor, an astrophysicist, or a professor, but you’d still need wisdom. Wisdom is more than just knowing what your options are — it is knowing which path you should take.
Thankfully, we’re not left on our own to get wisdom. We have Jesus as our “Wonderful Counselor.” He has all the wisdom in the world, and he’s generous with it. We just need to listen to him, because “from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
John 1:1–2 tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” God’s wisdom became a person in Jesus. So what do these verses in Proverbs teach us about God’s wisdom?
It’s “pleasant to your soul.”
It’s practical. It shows you how to live — like how to make decisions, how to talk, and what people you should spend time with.
It’s protective. It keeps you from going down some paths that would lead you into traps of temptation and hurt you.
When we think about all the benefits of wisdom, it’s clear why Proverbs 2 says it’s so important to get wisdom. Proverbs 2 tells us to yell for wisdom in the streets and hunt for wisdom like it’s treasure. But we don’t have to. We have a Wonderful Counselor, and we can go to him for all the wisdom we need.
Can you think of one part of your life where you could really use some wisdom? Maybe a hard decision or a big question about what’s right?
What’s one thing you can do to seek wisdom from your Wonderful Counselor this week?
Challenge: Think of a decision or a question you have, and look up 3 verses about that topic. It might help to use a concordance at the back of your Bible, a Bible app on your phone, or a website like BibleGateway.com
December 18: Jesus is our Mighty God (which is why we can be Bold Adventurers).
Read Isaiah 9:6, Psalm 97
Have you seen wax melt? When you first light a candle, it looks like nothing is happening. But slowly, the center of the candle, right under the flame, darkens. It gets softer and softer. Then, an edge of the candle caves in, and the wax spills over, as slippery as oil.
Psalm 97:5 says, “The mountains melt like wax before the LORD.” Try to picture that in your mind — it’s hard to imagine. That picture shows us how powerful God is. Sometimes we forget that the same God who loves us, who hears our prayers, and who knows everything about us also rules over the whole world.
When we remember that, we should feel awe — that feeling of wonder, respect, and fear. But we should also feel safe. If that mighty God is our Savior Jesus, nothing can happen unless he allows it. Colossians 1 tells us that by Jesus, “all things were created, in heaven and on earth” and “in him all things hold together.”
Even if Jesus calls us to face something scary or difficult, we know that he is right there with us and that he rules over the universe. That’s the secret behind real courage, the kind of courage the bold adventurers live with as they follow God.
Are you facing anything this week that scares you? Or are there difficult things God is asking you to do?
How can you remind yourself that you have a mighty God on your side?
Challenge: Take a notecard and write down a verse about God’s power. Put it somewhere where you’ll see it when it’s hard to be brave (like in your backpack or by your bed).
December 19: Jesus is our Everlasting Father (which gives us the strength to be Noble Knights).
Read Isaiah 9:6, 1 John 3:1–3
If you believe in Jesus, God adopts you as his child.
It is good news — but sometimes we forget just how good it is. So let’s slow down for a minute to think about what it means to have God as your Father.
“The world and its fullness” belong to your heavenly Father (Psalm 50:12). Your heavenly Father “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8) and knows how to “give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11). And he holds you so tightly that “no one is able to snatch [you] out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
And God is not just our Father — he’s our everlasting Father. Young children depend on their parents for almost everything. But as they grow up, they learn to take care of themselves. Eventually, when their parents get older, they’ll be the ones taking care of their parents. But you never outgrow having God as your Father. No matter how old you are, God will always be your Father, and he’ll always take care of you.
That gives you the strength to become a Noble Knight. If we try to serve and protect our communities all on our own strength, we’ll run out of strength. But when we go to our heavenly Father for help, he’ll wrap us in his love and give us the strength to love others.
How is God similar to your human dad? How is he different?
How does it make you feel to remember that God is your everlasting Father?
Challenge: Practice being a Noble Knight by doing something for your siblings or parents without being asked.
December 20: Jesus is the Prince of Peace (and our example of a Servant Leader).
Read Isaiah 9:6, Psalm 46
Throughout history, many young princes have been known for stirring up wars. Excited by the power of their armies and too proud to accept the slightest insult, they would go off to battle recklessly — and hundreds of soldiers might die as a result.
But Jesus is different. He’s not some pompous prince; he is the Lord of Hosts. You might remember from last week that “the Lord of Hosts” describes how God commands armies of angels. But Jesus doesn’t use this power to show off. He is the “Prince of peace,” who uses his strength to bring peace between God and people.
Jesus gives this peace to those who follow him. When he told his disciples that he was going to return to heaven, he told them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
There are two important lessons for us here:
First, we can be comforted. If “the God of Jacob is our fortress,” what can break through those walls? If “the Lord of Hosts is with us,” we are really, truly safe.
Second, we can learn what it means to be a servant leader. Jesus is our Prince of Peace, using a position of leadership to serve us and do what’s best for us, even when it took a huge sacrifice from him.
Can you think of any places where you are a leader? (For example, you might lead by the example you set at school, the way you act on your sports team, or the way you treat your younger siblings)
In those places, how could you serve the people you lead in a way that gives them peace? If you are not a leader currently, what way can you serve people and set an example?
Challenge: Look for a way to help somebody that will comfort them and give them peace like helping a sibling find something lost or like shovelling snow off your neighbor’s driveway.
December 21: Jesus is Lord of All (and we get to be his Faithful Followers).
Read Isaiah 9:7, 1 Chronicles 29:10–13
God is so big and so good that he’s more than we can completely understand. While he created our human brains with powerful reason and imagination, our brains are still limited. We can’t completely fit our limitless God inside our limited brains. He’s not a puzzle we can solve or a picture where we can see all the edges.
To look at God, it’s helpful to focus on specific parts of who he is. It’s like looking at an incredible gem, one that’s so big and bright that you can’t see all its beauty at once. Instead, you turn the gem over and look at each angle and edge — each “facet” — and every perspective shows you new things that amaze you.
Here are some facets of God that David is talking about:
God is “forever and ever” (1 Chronicles 29:10). He doesn’t change. He is just as powerful and good today as he was when he first created the world, and he will be the same when you are 100 years old.
“Both riches and honor come from” God (1 Chronicles 29:11). Think about the richest or the most famous people you’ve heard of — every good thing that they have ultimately belongs to God.
“The kingdom” belongs to God, and he is “exalted as head above all” (1 Chronicles 29:11). God rules above every government and every earthly leader. All power comes from him.
That’s just two verses. God is so amazing — and the most amazing part is that he loves us!
Isn’t it wonderful that we get to follow a God who is so good and so powerful?
What is one thing about God amazes you? It can be something we talked about in today’s devotion, or something else that’s true about God.
How does talking about God make you feel?
Challenge: Turn on some songs about how amazing God is — good Christmas carols count!
Here are two suggestions:
December 22: Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.
Read John 1:35–42, John 4:25–26
Have you ever wondered where the word “Christian” comes from? It makes sense that it comes from Christ — but where does “Christ” come from?
“Christ” isn’t just a name — it’s a title. It’s the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means “Anointed One.” In Jesus’ day, any Jew would know that “Messiah” meant the Savior that God had promised to send, the one they were waiting for.
Some people say that Jesus was only a good teacher or a good example. But the Bible is clear that Jesus is the Christ.
In Luke 2:11, the angels told the shepherds that “Christ the Lord” had finally arrived. And in John 1, the first disciples also say that Jesus is the Christ. We don’t know exactly what Andrew heard when he went to see Jesus, but it was enough that he found his brother Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” He knew that God had finally sent the Savior they had been waiting for.
But the best witness is Jesus himself. He himself confirmed that he is the Messiah, the one God sent to save his people. But God didn’t just send Jesus to save the people of Israel — he sent Jesus to save all God’s children from their sins.
That’s why we’re called Christians — a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus as the Christ. Because Jesus is the Christ, we trust him as our Savior and follow him as our Lord.
If Jesus were just a good example, we’d still need to make ourselves right with God somehow — and on our own, that’s impossible! But because God sent Jesus to save us, we don’t have to earn our way to God. He’s already forgiven us, and he helps us to follow him.
Why does it matter that Jesus is the Christ?
When Jesus called his disciples, he asked them to follow him. For the disciples, that means leaving their jobs and following him around Israel as he taught and healed people. What do you think it means for you to follow Jesus?
Challenge: Thank God for sending Jesus as the Christ and spend some time today resting and enjoying time with your family.
December 23, 24, & 25: Celebrating Christmas Together
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
How does Jesus, in becoming flesh, embody glory?
How does Jesus, in becoming flesh, embody grace?
How does Jesus, in becoming flesh, embody truth?
Why did Jesus come to earth?
Why do you think he came to earth as a baby instead of as a grown-up?
How did people react to Jesus being born?
How does it make you feel to know Jesus was born to rescue you?