5 resources you need this Advent season

2018’s best Advent calendars (no chocolate included)

It can be hard these days to find an Advent calendar that offers more than tiny squares of chocolate.

Largely belonging to Christmas past seem to be Bible-based Advent calendars – with 25 little windows opening to reveal a character in the nativity story, culminating (of course) with baby Jesus on Christmas Day.

But there is hope for those seeking a meaningful Advent experience, with the increasing emergence of digital Advent calendars. Some offer downloadable resources, while others deliver a daily devotion to your inbox. They can be a great way not only to remember the true story of Christmas, but also to carve out quiet times during this hectic season.

The Eternity team has compiled a list of some of this year’s best Advent calendars. But before we launch in, let’s recap on the origins and purpose of Advent.

Advent means “coming” or “arrival.”

Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus.” meaning “coming” or “arrival.” The season of Advent commemorates the coming of Christ into our world, and is traditionally celebrated over four Sundays in the lead-up to Christmas (although the period is a bit longer for Eastern Orthodox churches). The exact origins of the celebration are unknown, but the centuries-old tradition is likely to have begun about 1500 years ago in Europe. Much like the season of Lent before Easter, the original emphasis of Advent was on fasting and prayer. Today, Christian denominations have different traditions, including wreath making, lighting candles and the use of particular music.

The Advent calendar is said to have originated in 19th-century Germany. By the early 20th century, printed versions of the calendar began to emerge. Notably, the chocolate Advent calendar did not show up until 1958, with Cadbury capitalising on it and popularising it in the 1970s.

Now, back to 2018 and the resources to make this Advent season meaningful:

For the traditionalist

Sweet Honeycomb's Advent Calendar

Sweet Honeycomb’s Advent Calendar. https://sweethoneycomb.com.au

The “Names of Jesus” Advent Calendar is a reimagined hard-copy calendar, launched last year by Lara Beeston from Sweet Honeycomb. This neat little pack includes 24 hand-designed cards, each calligraphed with a name of Jesus, as well as little wooden pegs and twine to string up all the cards. In addition to making a beautiful Christmas decoration, Beeston discovered another purpose for the calendar: “Although I designed the calendar to teach my kids, I realised I was also benefiting from it. It was a great way for his truths to sink further into my life. Spending time each day thinking about Jesus and the different aspects of his character felt like a teeny Bible study.” To accompany the calendar, you can also sign up for 24 emailed daily reflections that give insight into the name of Jesus on each of the cards.

For the whole family

Focus on the Family – a global Christian ministry for families – has some great Advent resources, including a selection of downloadable calendars. These include a Bible reading, short devotion and an activity for the kids on each day. This year’s free Advent calendar, titled “Knowing Him by Name”, also focuses on the names of Jesus. Another free resource that will provide loads of fun is the “O Holy Night” build-it-yourself nativity scene and Advent calendar. Also available are other resources such as a colouring-in Advent calendar.

For the stressed out

The brand-new Stress-mas Advent Calendar could be a lifeline for those feeling overwhelmed by “Christmas crazy,” or are dreading the family tensions that often flare up in this season. Designed by Christian psychologist and coach Krystyna Kidson, this free digital calendar delivers quick tips on stress mastery via email every day of Advent, from December 1 to 24. Each email has questions to ponder and reflection prompts. There are two versions available – one that is explicitly Christian, while the other can be more easily shared with those who do not follow Jesus. Head here for the secular Stress-mas Advent Calendar.

For the art lover

One of the artworks in Mike Frost's Advent series – 'The Annunciation' by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

One of the artworks in Mike Frost’s Advent series – ‘The Annunciation’ by Henry Ossawa Tanner.

“Four beautiful paintings. Four Advent reflections. One great story of faith, hope, joy and peace.” This is Mike Frost’s introduction to his unique Advent resource, designed to help those who do not come from a liturgical background: to experience the richness of Advent. Frost – a well-known author, missiologist and Morling College lecturer – says: “You might like to use these four paintings, each from different eras, as stimulus for thinking about the well-known story.” Images of the paintings, accompanying Bible passages and devotions are available here.

For the peacemakers

Common Grace’s digital Advent series is now in its third year. This year’s focus is “Fear Not”, exploring Jesus’ call to move beyond fear and become peacemakers in our world. The devotions are crafted by 25 Christian contributors, including CEO of Christian Super Ross Piper, Hope 103.2 radio host Stephen O’Doherty, and Meredith Lake, author of the 2018 Australian Christian Book of the Year, The Bible in Australia. Sign up for free here.