God Made A Promise: Our Family’s Advent Tradition


Every year I look forward to December 1.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving our family goes out for breakfast, then picks out a REAL Christmas tree. The same morning we begin playing holiday music.

But we wait until December 1 to begin our readings from God Made A Promise, the advent book I put together several years ago.

When my kids were still babies, my friend Tracy helped me think through creative ways to help my family focus on Christ during the Christmas season. She shared an idea she had been trying out on her own family.

She had come across the text from an out-of-print book by Dorothy Van Woerkom called, When All the World Was Waiting: An Advent Book for Children. The book was a collection of 27 short paragraphs, each telling a small part of the story of how God’s people waited for Messiah for so long, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Tracy made 27 ornaments, each corresponding to a paragraph. Then each day throughout Advent their family would read a paragraph together, then pull out the corresponding ornament and hang it in a designated place in their home.

I LOVED this idea. But I didn’t love Van Woerkom’s text. So for several years I wrote (and re-wrote) my own version. In God Made A Promise, I tell the story of God’s faithfulness in sending us the Savior He promised, from Creation through Christmas morning.

It’s nothing fancy: just pages printed from a Word document. My ornaments are pretty lame—I might be the world’s LEAST craft-y person. We display them in an old-school, store-bought Advent calendar. But my kids don’t care. We’ve read through the book every Christmas season for years now; it’s become one of our family’s most important and well-loved holiday traditions. And we start again tonight!

My Advent book contains 25 daily readings. Each night in December, we read a chapter together as a family. Then we draw out that day’s ornament from this wall calendar and hang it on our tree. Throughout the season the kids will search for these ornaments among the others, and we review parts of the story told so far.

Many friends have asked me over the years if I would share with them what I wrote, as well as my list of ornaments. Of course I am always happy to—my idea was borrowed in the first place! If any of you would like me to send you a copy, feel free to email me using the form below.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? What helps you focus on Christ in the midst of the ever-increasing busyness of the season?

4 thoughts on “God Made A Promise: Our Family’s Advent Tradition

  1. Sounds like a Jesse Tree! We made one 4 years ago – found a list of stories online, I (B) drew out a picture for each, laminated it. We put a tree up on the first sunday of Advent and then put one of the ornaments up every evening up until Christmas day. We just tell each other the story, but this year it has been extra fun because we have a 2 year old. Harder to tell the stories, but she really likes the pictures (i.e. for Adam and Eve I told her that God gave them a REALLY long time out!) I can tell this will be a favorite tradition for years to come.


  2. Keri, thanks for the link…you have great ideas!
    B & K, yes: I often describe my Advent tradition as “a Jesse Tree for Protestants.” 🙂 I do appreciate the Catholic value of beauty, often displayed in their Jesse Tree art. Especially some of their stained glass windows. In the beauty department, my advent stuff is sorely lacking. B, I need some of your artistic talent!


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