Rachel Campos-Duffy: Start Advent off right with a Christ-centered craft for kids

A cross-county trip with the Capitol Christmas Tree

Truck driver Theron Schmalzried joins ‘The Daily Briefing’ to discuss the journey of a lifetime

This year, government officials used the pandemic to curtail Thanksgiving traditions and family get-togethers. 

One governor asked citizens to do a very uncharitable thing — turn in their neighbors for having too many family and friends around the table. 

This week, as we enter the sacred Advent season, the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ, many churches sadly remain closed, and one expert predicts that as many as one in five U.S. churches will not survive the economic impact of months without worshippers or donations.

Christmas concerts and nativity plays have been cancelled and in the season of caroling, no one will be surprising their neighbors with joyful Christmas songs on their doorstep.


Government health experts have even told families not to sing indoors! Meanwhile, England’s World Health Organization regional representative Dr. Hans Kluge has proposed canceling large Christmas celebrations altogether, or to be more precise, “postponing” them for six months. 

For many years now, Christians have been rightfully concerned about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas in our culture but, until now, our personal and family faith traditions had not been as hard to hold on to as they have been in the age of COVID.  But that’s precisely why we should insist on keeping them and even adding a few that bring more meaning to this holy season. 

One of the first things you can do is bring back Advent – a season our modern, secular culture has virtually eliminated from our Christmas vernacular — the practice of preparing our homes and hearts for Christ. 

In my home, every evening during Advent, we turn off our lights, light the Advent candles, pray and sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” 

FILE — A boy lights a row of candles for the Advent season, a time of remembrance and reflection on the coming birth of Jesus Christ and the Christmas season.

Piercing the darkness with Christ’s light is a concept even children can grasp. My kids’ favorite Advent activity (besides, of course, opening their chocolate Advent calendar windows every day!) is making a bed for the baby Jesus.

Parents will be happy to know that this craft, unlike so many others, is simple and easy.  Busy parents will be happy to know that it’s possible to impart your faith without hot glue guns, vacuuming glitter, or scrubbing the table for 30 minutes after the craft is done. 

Here’s how it works:

1. At the start of Advent, which begins this year on Sunday November 29th, let the kids choose a baby doll from their toy box that reminds them of the infant Jesus.  If you don’t have one, it can be fun to shop for one with your kids. You’ll be enlightened by the conversations about what Jesus looks like to them.

2. Find a little basket, cradle or box to use as a “manger” for the doll.  If you use a shoebox you can wrap it in brown paper and let the kids decorate it with pictures of the Nativity story. We keep our basket in our living room, under the family altar where we gather for evening prayers and to light our Advent candles each night. 

3.Teach your child or children how to swaddle the baby with a little blanket.  Imagine, I tell them, how Mary swaddled her precious baby on that cold night in Bethlehem. It’s such a joy to see how they swaddle the doll with care.

4. Nearby, keep a bag or big jar with hay or straw. Tell the children that every time they do a good deed (especially for a family member) they can open the jar and place a piece of straw under the baby Jesus.  — The goal is to do many good deeds throughout Advent so that the baby Jesus can have a soft, warm bed on Christmas day. 

I am always amazed by how much my kids get into it.  Believe it or not they actually try to find things to do for each other.  And sure, they definitely get a little competitive about it, but even in that there are lessons we can help them understand as we gently correct them. 


You’ll be surprised that even the older ones have a desire to earn their straw to make Jesus as comfy and cozy as possible.

Our children also remind us to put a straw under Baby Jesus after we do even the smallest things for them, which is a sweet reminder, too, of all the little sacrifices and gestures we do for our family that mean so much to them.

This simple little tradition can teach so much about our faith, family and the true meaning of Christmas.

Children learn that love and charity begin in the home and that Christmas is about baby Jesus, not snowmen, reindeer and presents. 

They learn about the tenderness that Mary and Joseph bestowed on baby Jesus and see for themselves that it feels good to do kind things for others. 

Most importantly, in actively preparing a bed for baby Jesus, they discover firsthand the meaning of Advent – to prepare our homes and hearts for the birth of our Lord and Savior.

It’s the best way to put this pandemic in its proper perspective.

We should never forget that we are a country founded by Christians who risked everything for religious liberty.

The Pilgrims did not come to America seeking gold or wealth. They took that perilous trip on the Mayflower so they could worship God freely. 


This Christmas, when the world is telling us not to, we too must be intentional about holding on to our family’s faith and our spiritual traditions. They are, in a now popular phrase, essential and we must lovingly pass them on to our children. If we don’t, who will?

It’s the most Christian and American thing to do.


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