Family Activity: The Advent Christmas Gift Box

My wife April and I have struggled over the years to practice various Advent traditions including the Jesse Tree, various Novenas, and video series.  The Advent Gift Box is our own Advent tradition and it has been the one we have had most success with.

Here is how it works:

We get a gift box  with a removable lid and put it under the tree.

Each morning, or each Sunday — or whenever we remember! — we pray: “Let us prepare our hearts to meet Jesus when he comes at Christmas.” Then we open the box, and each of us picks out a slip of paper.

We pray: “This morning, I humbly accept the gifts you have given me, Jesus. Thank you for my time, my things, my talents and my family. During this day, please help me find ways I can give each of these gifts back to you by giving them to others.”

The slips of paper we use each has a gift and a practice for big kids, little kids and adult:

 

God gave me the gift of food.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — not complaining about being hungry between meals.
Big kids — offering up a sacrifice during a meal.
Adults — setting aside food to give away.

 

God gave me the gift of shelter.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — playing house.
Big kids — doing an extra chore that my parents want.
Adults — doing a small errand for the house that my spouse wants.

 

God gave me the gift of clothing.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — playing dress-up.
Big kids — helping with laundry: separating, sorting, folding, etc.
Adults — set aside clothing to give away.

 

God gave me the gift of my family.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — entertaining or playing nicely with a sibling.
Big kids — paying three compliments to each of my family members (morning, noon and evening).
Adults — spending some special time with kids.

 

God gave me the gift of a friendship with Jesus.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — saying a Hail Mary at each Nativity scene in the house.
Big kids — writing a letter to Jesus and putting it in the manger.
Adults — doing a family Gospel reflection.

 

God gave me the gift of my health.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — offering up a special treat.
Big kids — offering up dessert or TV.
Adults — offering a sacrifice.

 

God gave me the gift of my country and peace.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — praying for our troops
Big kids — reading something about America.
Adults — being peaceful all day.

 

God gave me the gift of my community.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — playing firefighter or police.
Big kids — picking up outside.
Adults — saying “thank you” to someone who works for the community.

 

God gave me the gift of priests and consecrated people.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — learning some of the things that priests do for us.
Big kids — writing a letter or e-mail to a priest or a consecrated person.
Adults — writing a letter or e-mail to a priest or a consecrated person.

 

God gave me the gift of my talents.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — singing a song about Jesus.
Big kids — telling a religious story, playing a religious song, or drawing a religious picture.
Adults — telling a religious story, playing a religious song, or drawing a religious picture.

 

God gave me the gift of free will.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — reading about Adam and Eve.
Big kids — choosing something difficult.
Adults — choosing something difficult.

 

God gave me the gift of courtesy.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — hugging my brothers and sisters.
Big kids — doing a good deed for each brother and sister.
Adults — doing a good deed for the family.

 

God gave me the gift of obedience.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — obeying right away.
Big kids — asking, “What else would you like?” every time I do something for Mom or Dad.
Adults — obeying God in something we’ve been avoiding.

 

God gave me the gift of responsibility.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — helping clean the playroom.
Big kids — doing a chore ahead of time without being asked.
Adults — doing something on my to-do list that I haven’t gotten to.

 

God gave me the gift of scholarly excellence.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — learning about a letter or number.
Big kids — doing an extra worksheet at school.
Adults — reading something by Pope Benedict to learn about the faith.

 

God gave me the gift of my friends.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — praying for my friends by name.
Big kids — writing a letter or e-mail or calling a friend.
Adults — writing a letter or e-mail or calling a friend.

 

God gave me the gift of my Godparents.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — praying for my Godparents.
Big kids — writing a letter or e-mail or calling a Godparent.
Adults — writing a letter or e-mail or calling a Godchild.

 

God gave me the gift of my Grandparents.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — praying for my grandparents.
Big kids — writing a letter or e-mail or calling a grandparent.
Adults — writing a letter or e-mail or calling a grandparent.

 

God gave me the gift of my toys.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — setting aside a favorite toy for the day.
Big kids — giving away a toy.
Adults — offering up something fun.

 

God gave me the gift of nature.
Today, I will give that gift back to him by:
Little kids — hearing a story about animals.
Big kids — writing a poem about nature.
Adults — reading a poem about nature.

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story on Ex Corde. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.