Updated: Recently (this is in November 2011) our small group at church has been studying Gospel in Life by Timothy Keller. One session focused on worldviews, and one of the worldviews listed was the "religious" worldview, as opposed to the Christian worldview. I realized that many of my attitudes truly reflected more of a religious worldview than a grace-centered Christian one, and the activities in this post reflect that. We may still use some variant of this during Advent this year, but I will frame it as our practicing kindness just like God showed kindness to us, showing our gratitude to Him by emulating Him in our own small way, practicing during this season so we can develop habits to last all year. Since our family focuses on Jesus as the Light of the World during Advent, we can think of these activities as encouragement to let the light of Christ shine through us. We should *not* in any way think of good deeds as preparing ourselves for anything--Christ has already done the work of propitiation and the Holy Spirit does the work of sanctification.
Several years ago we constructed an Advent calendar out of toilet paper rolls. We've been putting Jesse Tree scriptures in each box, but this year I plan to fill the tubes with colored slips of paper, one per child per day with a good deed suggestion on it. (Each child will have a designated color. Each day's calendar opening will have one slip of each color, so that each child will get a new slip each day.)
Here's my tentative list of deeds:
Make a card for a teacher at church
Clean one kitchen counter
Write a special note for each of your siblings
Say "thank you" whenever someone does something for you
Help your brother make his bed
Tell each person in the family "I love you."
Help your sister with her chore.
Tell your sister something you really like about her.
Tell your brother something you really like about him.
Tell your mom something you really like about her.
Tell your dad something you really like about him.
Clean up next to your bed.
Put a nice note on each person's pillow.
Take your dirty laundry basket to the laundry room.
Help Mom with a chore.
Help Dad with a chore.
Fill the bird feeder.
Let someone else go first.
Fill someone's water glass.
Put away all the dishes, not just yours.
Find a beautiful leaf and give it to someone.
Put the shoes in the sunroom back in their bins.
Pick up the coats from around the coatrack and hang them up.
Clean your desk.
Also, we have a rack in our fireplace to hold wood, but we don't use it, so I'm going to make it a manger for the Advent season. Each time a parent notices a child doing something praiseworthy, that child will be given a piece of hay to put in the manger. The idea is to fill the manger with hay before Christmas, at which time we can have a ceremonial placing of the baby in the manger.
This all ties in to the idea of preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus, focusing on the idea of his second coming which we are awaiting.