Pass Down the Faith, Please

A Young Dad on What to Do with the Kids for Advent

Passing down faith to my two teen and pre-teen kids is tough. Since I’m still figuring out the ropes myself, I’m sometimes limited in what I say or do to help them get charged up about the relentless pursuit of God (perhaps I should start by using different terms than “relentless” and “pursuit”).

A case in point is the Advent season, and how to make it relevant for them. It shouldn’t just be the few weeks in December before their Christmas break. Not on my watch, it won’t.

Although the Advent season (the four weeks or so before Christmas) and the Christmas story are rife with mysterious comings and goings, they still lend themselves to young audiences because they offer such a great story. An angel appears and says, “Do not be afraid.” Mary and Joseph schlep around Bethlehem, where their baby is born in less than comfortable conditions. Cows moo. Sheep bleat. The people rejoice. End of story…or rather, beginning of story. It can be told over time in a variety of ways.

One thing we’ve done this year is the four of us sit around our natural, realistic-looking, metal Advent wreath. We light the candles and read a brief prayer or suggestion from some of the Advent materials the wife grabbed from the back of the church. Here’s a good one from December 3, which was tied to the reading for that day:

Faith is a gift, not a personal achievement. Thank God for this gift today.

Often, we’ll discuss what we read. The beauty of this quote is that it’s full of deep meaning, yet simple enough or kids (and me) to understand. But the important thing, and the experience I hope they’ll remember is that for a time, we were all together. Following this course allows faith to be explored and revealed by all of us, not just me. We’re in it together, and it’s a dialogue, not just a one-way communication.

One thing I’ve learned is not to be too heavy. Between you and me (and don’t tell them I said this), I can be a bit much. In my attempt to share the deep meaning of the season, I admit I can get a bit out there and it can be confusing. But is it my fault that I only have the limited English language to describe what is essentially a mystery?

In any case, I’ve realized that the more uptight about this stuff that I get, the more it will turn them off and give it a negative association, which is the last thing I want. So if my son, during the lighting of the Advent candle, starts to play with the lighter, I’ll wait until just before the smoke detector goes off before saying anything, rather than immediately react.

I don’t have to strike the Moses pose of handing down the heavy stone tablets of faith to a couple of young people who would prefer to worship the golden calf of Nintendo.