Countdown to Christmas
How Advent prepares us for Christmas
by Alexandra Palmer
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the meaning of Advent and the Christmas story.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Countdown to Christmas) and the means to display them.
- Show Slide 1.
Ask the children to put up their hand if they have an Advent calendar at home. If there is time, ask the children what sort of Advent calendar they have.
Explain that the pictures are of various Advent calendars from years gone by. When the Advent calendar tradition began, there were only little pictures behind the doors. However, nowadays, there is much more variety, including chocolate Advent calendars and ones that we can fill ourselves.
- Ask the children, ‘What does the word “Advent” mean?’
Listen to a range of responses.
The answer is that for Christians, Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. It starts four Sundays before Christmas Day.
- Ask the children, ‘What do Christians celebrate at Christmas?’
Listen to a range of responses.
The answer is that Christians celebrate the birth of God’s son, baby Jesus, at Christmas.
Explain that Advent calendars were invented to help count down the days to Christmas. Tell the children that you are now going to show them a special Advent calendar of your own, which tells the Christmas story and provides some reminders about getting ready for Christmas.
- Show Slide 2 and then click to reveal the image.
Number one reminds us that Christmas is coming, and trees will start to appear in the shops.
- Show Slide 3 and then click to reveal the image for number two.
The candy canes remind us of the special treats that we look forward to at Christmastime.
Click to reveal number three and then click again to reveal the image.
Many people will be writing Christmas cards and sending them in the post.
- Show Slide 4 and then click to reveal the image for number four.
Many people will be untangling the Christmas lights and putting them on the tree.
Click to reveal number five and then click again to reveal the image.
If we have snow during December, we could find ourselves outside building a snowman!
- Show Slide 5 and then click to reveal the image.
The Nativity starts with Jesus’ mum, Mary, receiving a visit from the angel Gabriel, who tells her that she is going to have a very special baby: God’s own son.
- Show Slide 6 and then click to reveal the image for number seven.
The Christmas stocking reminds us that we need to write our letters and Christmas lists.
Click to reveal number eight and then click again to reveal the image.
We must remember to wrap our presents too!
- Show Slide 7 and then click to reveal the image for number nine.
We also need to decorate the Christmas tree.
Click to reveal number ten and then click again to reveal the image.
We can all look forward to the special Christmas food!
- Show Slide 8 and then click to reveal the image.
When Joseph found out that Mary was going to have a baby, he was so upset that he didn’t want to continue with his engagement to her. Then, one night, Joseph dreamt that an angel told him who the baby was and that they should call him Jesus. This led Joseph to understand the responsibility that God had given him, so he decided to marry Mary after all.
- Show Slide 9 and then click to reveal the image for number 12.
People look forward to singing special Christmas songs about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
Click to reveal number 13 and then click again to reveal the image.
When people visit Father Christmas in shops, they are often greeted by Christmas elves.
- Show Slide 10 and then click to reveal the image for number 14.
Children look forward to a visit from Father Christmas.
Click to reveal number 15 and then click again to reveal the image.
He travels to children’s homes on a magical sleigh, which is pulled by reindeer.
- Show Slide 11 and then click to reveal the image.
When Mary was pregnant, the Romans decided to carry out a census, to find out how many people there were in their empire. Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem, which was where Joseph’s family were from.
- Show Slide 12 and then click to reveal the image.
Unfortunately, when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, everywhere was full, so they ended up staying in a stable.
- Show Slide 13 and then click to reveal the image for number 18.
It was in the stable, surrounded by animals, that Mary gave birth to baby Jesus. She laid him in a manger because there was nowhere else for him to sleep.
Click to reveal number 19 and then click again to reveal the image.
God used a host of angels to announce the news of Jesus’ birth to some shepherds, who were looking after their sheep on a hillside near Bethlehem. They hurried to the stable to see the newborn baby Jesus.
- Show Slide 14 and then click to reveal the image.
In those days, shepherds were incredibly poor and were considered to be the lowest of the low. The fact that they were Jesus’ first visitors showed that Jesus was here for everyone.
- Show Slide 15 and then click to reveal the image.
Sometimes, we can get so excited about getting presents that we forget the real meaning of Christmas.
- Show Slide 16 and then click to reveal the image for number 22.
The three wise men travelled a long way to visit baby Jesus. To make sure that they arrived at Bethlehem, the wise men followed a star that God used to guide them.
Click to reveal number 23 and then click again to reveal the image.
After the shepherds, the wise men were baby Jesus’ next visitors. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, which all signified something.
- Gold was a sign of Jesus being a king.
- Frankincense was used in worship, so it showed that Jesus was going to be worshipped all over the world.
- Myrrh was a perfume that was used when people died. This meant that Jesus was going to have a special death.
- Show Slide 17 and then click to reveal the image.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, King Herod ruled over Bethlehem. When the wise men told him that a king had been born, Herod was very jealous. He wanted to hurt Jesus, but God spoke to the wise men in a dream and told them not to return the way they had come. In this way, the wise men avoided seeing Herod on their way home, and Mary, Joseph and Jesus were able to escape to Egypt.
Time for reflection
Ask the children what they like to do on 25 December. Most of them will probably talk about opening presents!
Ask the children what sort of presents they’d like to get this year. Answers will probably include pets, toys, games, sweets and so on.
Show Slide 18 and then click to reveal the image.
Explain that most Advent calendars have 24 doors, but some have 25. However many doors they have, the last picture in traditional Advent calendars often shows baby Jesus. This is to remind us that on Christmas Day, Jesus was God’s present to us.
Thank you that we can use the time of Advent as a time to prepare and think about why we celebrate Christmas.
Thank you for the fun and enjoyment that we have at Christmas.
Thank you for the fun of opening our Advent calendars.
Thank you for the joy that we experience as we make our Christmas preparations.
In all the excitement and business of Advent, please help us to pause to remember the real meaning of Christmas.
Thank you that at Christmastime, we can remember your amazing love for us.
‘Away in a manger’, available at: https://youtu.be/AnwO_0DrpCk (1.59 minutes long)