"This is really about love and celebrating Christ."
That is how Amy Jones describes the 25-day Advent calendar she created and is giving away free to anyone who wants a copy, as part of an effort to put Jesus Christ into the center of Christmas.
The calendar came about after her local LDS ward made a request.
"In 2006 my Relief Society president asked me to do this for Super Saturday," Jones said, referring to a Mormon women's group activity day. "It is something I have kept on using every year, and updated and revised."
The calendar includes a Christ-centered devotional for each day of December leading up to Christmas day. The ideas are based on daily LDS devotionals Jones holds with her children as part of their home-schooling.
"It is basically to give families an opportunity to set up a focused experience every day for Christmas, whether it is singing a song or using quotes," she said. "It is a way to bring a family together to keep focused on the meaning of Christmas."
The calendar is easily tailored to the needs of individual families. The devotionals do not build on each other, so if a family misses a day, or does not start until halfway through December, there is no problem. Each lesson can be short, or lengthened, and includes quotes from scriptures and Mormon General Authorities, a song, and a suggested activity, such as making cookies to take to neighbor.
Planning a short daily devotional in December makes it easier to avoid being sucked into the money-oriented aspect of modern Christmas shopping, she said.
Anyone can download the calendar for free. The calendar makes a great gift idea when printed up and presented in a binder for family, friends, or LDS visiting teaching or home teaching families, she said. There is a list of inexpensive supplies that can be purchased to accompany the activities as well.
"I always print up about 20 a year," she said. "It is a nice, inexpensive, thoughtful gift."
The calendar is given away on the LDS Holistic Living website, a group co-founded three years ago by Jones with her friend Becca Price. The group puts on conferences and retreats.
"LDS Holistic Living was kind of conceived out of a demand, to be honest," Jones said. "Becca and I were having so many friends and family coming to us with questions. We realized this is something in demand on a wider scale. There is a such a large group of us who are holistically minded. It is time to get together and network and collaborate and grow."
To get the LDS Holistic Living Advent calendar, visit ldsholisticliving.com and click on "downloads" and then "free downloads."