Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent 1 - The King is Coming!

Advent - Preparing for the King's Arrival!

Note:   Apologies in advance for the whacky spacing.  I tried to get the formatting to change, but some things are beyond my feeble grasp.   I tried.   Really!

We have a big birthday coming up near the end of December:    CHRISTmas!   That's right--the holiday when CHRISTians celebrate the birth of Jesus CHRIST.    

Long ago, some church-father(s) decided to organize the CHRISTian Church Year and our weekly worship and readings around the events of CHRIST's life.   Rightly then, for CHRISTians, our year begins with the season of Advent.    This is the special time of year when we prepare for the coming (thus "advent") of our King--Jesus CHRIST.   

There are two kinds of "advents" wrapped in one lovely package for which we CHRISTians prepare.  With great thanksgiving we look back and celebrate CHRIST's first coming as a humble little child in obedience to his Heavenly Father and so we celebrate his lowly birth (altho' we have no way of knowing His "exact" birth date).  We also anticipate the future coming when the conquering CHRIST returns at the end of time to triumphantly take us home to Heaven with Him.   

Happy Christmas to you!
Advent always starts the Sunday right after Thanksgiving.   Which means....this past Sunday (November 28, 2010--this year) was the first Sunday in Advent (part of the liturgical calendar for CHRISTians).

In future posts I'll share the history of the CHRISTmas celebration that takes place on December 25th, and I'll post some fun "trivia" about the holiday, so you can see how much you REALLY know about CHRIST's birth and the historical events surrounding that occasion.  And I'll be sharing the background on some of our most favorite CHRISTmas carols.  

For this post, though, I want to share with you some of the preparations you can do --in your own home-- that will help ready your heart, the hearts of your children and your December visitors for the celebration of the Savior's birth.   


The Advent Wreath ~ Evergreens & Candles

For our family, Advent means special devotions at meal-time.   We have an Advent wreath with four candles on our table.  The wreath sits flat (ours is made of silk boughs), the candles fit into a metal ring--within the greenery.   You can use a real wreath and use votives in small glass holders or tapers or pillars.    Traditionally, Advent candles are purple (3) and rose (1).   Or contemporary colors include using four royal blue or white candles.    Personally, I like tapers because they are visually more descriptive.    We've used  a variety of candle colors and sizes over the years.    

On the first Sunday of Advent, we light only one candle as we're sitting down to eat supper.   This adds a special significance to the meal (even if only eating sandwiches or leftovers!).   At the end of the meal, we have a special reading that goes with our Advent calendar.   Then we snuff the candle until the next evening.     The second week of Advent, on Sunday evening, the second candle is added along with the first.    The third Sunday, we add the third candle to the second and first; the fourth Sunday, we add the last one to the prior three.    The candles look like stair-steps by the end of the month--very pretty!    The first candle will be quite short by December 25, so if  you're using tapers, be sure to buy the really long ones!

A fifth candle --white-- can be added to the center of the wreath--and lighted only on Christmas Day and afterwards.  This is the Christ Candle.   More on the colors and meanings later.   

Your children will enjoy the mystery of revealing the latest "character" of the CHRISTmas account.    Even though our children have done this since they were toddlers, we had to come up with a revolving schedule (honestly it goes from one year to the next!!) so that they each had a turn at being first or last.   And even though my youngest child is now almost 15 years old, she gets excited to be the one to turn over the little banner on December 25--revealing the infant CHRIST!    So, plan ahead for this--and have a schedule that rotates through the children (and Mom & Dad!).    Even lighting and blowing/snuffing out the candles can be a big deal, so take that into account, too.   

Advent Devotions

One thing you can do to prepare is to locate and read from an Advent devotion book.    Advent devotion books typically are geared towards families with children and usually have activities or small tokens to emphasize the point of the daily reading.     We have several favorites listed here.   There are many more available at bookstores, these are the ones we love and use(d).    

Celebrate Jesus!  At Christmas:  Family Devotions for Advent Through Epiphany, Kimberly Ingalls Reese, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, c2000.   (Daily readings with songs and activities to emphasize the approaching birth!)

Tabitha's Travels:  A Family Story for Advent, Arnold Ytreeide, Vine Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan, c2003.  (This is a three- or four-part series of young people involved in the first CHRISTmas story---how they "happen" across Jesus.   Very engaging stories for youngsters!   Some of the situations may be a bit scary for little ones--there are "bad" guys in Bethlehem!)

Countdown to Christmas:  Devotions for Families, Laura K. E. Zimmerman, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, c1997.   (Includes 40 punch-out ornaments/disks ready to hang on your tree--or we hang along the dining room window, from the first Sunday of Advent to Epiphany.)

Your own church may publish an Advent devotional, too.    Sometimes the Sunday School leadership makes something like this available.   Or the publishing house associated with your church-denomination may have such spiritual aids available, too.    Be sure to ask your pastor or youth ministry leader.    

Short of that, you may find some Advent Devotions available on-line.

Finally I am including some Advent readings (Bible passages) which you may also feel free to use for your family!   See below....

Your Advent Calendar

Another devotional aid is an Advent calendar.    We've used various ones over the years.  One is a home-made job (see photos) which is becoming quite the family heirloom.    It's a big deal to be the person who turns over #25!   In fact I've typed up a rotation/calendar for the next few years, so we switch off from one year to the next and everyone gets a turn.  

The other Advent calendar we really liked was called "Jesse Tree" (as in King David's father:  "a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse").   We used the Jesse Tree as a lunch-time devotion when we were homeschooling our three youngest children.   I had it laminated, the kids colored the "leaves" (which had some iconic symbols), and each day we added another leaf to the Jesse Tree.    I wish I hadn't given this away!   
Anyway, use good judgment when buying an Advent calendar at the local department store; many Advent calendars on the market are hokey, "cute" and focus on popular culture (Santa Claus) rather than Christ.   Avoid this type of calendar.    You'll be better off buying one at a Christian bookstore.   Or try "Christian Book Distributors" (CBD) on-line--they have a good selection (or at least they used to!).   

A Home-made Advent Calendar

You can also make your own Advent calendar using the example I've posted as a pattern.  (photos at the far end of this post)  This home-made calendar starts on December 1st (rather than the first Sunday of Advent).   

From the banner a friend had posted in her classroom, I made photo-copies of each little banner and used those copies as a pattern.  Using felt, very sharp scissors and fabric glue, I made the little characters.  On the white "back" side, I numbered the little banners using some kind of glitter fabric gel pen and added some holly leaves & berries.    

I added a length of floss (knotted at each corner) so each little banner would hang from a button on the large background banner.    (See photos for better details.)

Feel free to use the posted photos as a pattern.   Or cut the figures out and have your children glue them to their own large piece of paper (daily), to create a stable scene fit for a King!

After I made the little banners, I used my Bible concordance to locate appropriate passages that corresponded to the figures on the little banners.    These are listed on the chart below.     

Advent Eating

Last of all on my chart is a suggested recipe to make for that evening's devotion.    These recipes (mostly) come from "The Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas" by Jeff Smith.    I came across his book about 10 years ago and loved the idea of coordinating our meals with the various characters within the CHRISTmas  account.      

According to the little bit of research I've done on foods of the Bible, Smith's ingredients are right on target and culturally appropriate. 
I thought this might help my family appreciate the types of foods Jesus or his peers may have eaten.   You'll notice that not every day on my calendar has a recipe suggestion.  Here's where you get to be the creative woman that you are and come up with some of your own ideas---if you'd like!

Sorry, I don't have all these recipes on-line or linked (maybe if I get a big chunk of time, I can post them).   The internet is a great resource to find recipes.    One of my favorites is which has something like half-a-million recipes posted for free use.   My user name there is "Debber" (click on members to find me); I've posted quite a few of my own recipes there.    Sorry, but I don't remember which of these I've posted.   Have fun--do your own thing!

Advent Calendar

Concerning the list of animals and people:   in lieu of a felt calendar or making a collage, try using  your nativity (creche) figurines.   You may not have every piece, so you can improvise for that evening.   

December dates ~ Character ~ Bible Reading for the Day ~ Menu Idea
1 ~ Bull ~ Leviticus 4:3 ~ Barley Soup
2 ~ Donkey ~ Zechariah 9:9 ~ Straw & Hay Pasta
3 ~ Cow ~ Genesis 41:2 ~ Baked Barley Casserole
4 ~ Birds ~ Matthew 8:20
5 ~ Lamb ~ Isaiah 53:7

6 ~ Sheep ~ John 1:29
7 ~ Sheep ~ Psalm 100:3
8 ~ Shepherd ~ Isaiah 40:11 ~ Green Olive Soup
9 ~ Shepherd ~ Luke 2:8 ~ Peasant/Artisan Bread in Wine (sop)
10 ~ Star ~ Numbers 24:17 ~ Rosettes

11 ~ Angel ~ Psalm 91:1 ~ Angel-hair Pasta w/Mushroom Sauce 
12 ~ Angel ~ Luke 2:13-14 ~ Honey Cake w/Sweet Water
13 ~ Dove ~ Matthew 3:16
14 ~ Camel ~ Zephaniah 2:3 ~ Date Pudding 
15 ~ Wiseman ~ Matthew 2:1-1 ~ Persian Meatballs

16 ~ Gift ~ Ephesians 2:8                                                      
17 ~ Camel ~ Matthew 19:25 ~ Fig Pudding                                            
18 ~ Wiseman ~ Matthew 2:3-8 ~ Currant Cake w/Rose Water                                
19 ~ Gift ~ I Corinthians 7:7
20 ~ Camel ~ Matthew 23:24                                             

21 ~ Wiseman – Matthew 2:9-12 ~ Rose Wine (red wine mixed w/1/2 C. "rose" jam)
22 ~ Gift ~ Romans 6:23 ~ Sesame Cookies
23 ~ Mary ~ Luke 1:26-38 ~ Salad with Cucumbers
24 ~ Joseph ~ Matthew 1:18-25 ~ Unleavened Brown Bread                                   
25 ~ Jesus ~ Revelation 22:12-16 ~ Milk & Honey Birthday Cake ...or... Babes Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes (cookies)     

If your nativity/creche figures include any of the following characters, here are some CHRISTmas-related Bible passages and recipe suggestions for your family to enjoy.....

Innkeeper ~ Luke 2: 4-7 ~ Barley Soup w/Parsley
Tax Collector ~ Luke 2: 1-5 ~ Lambchops & Sauteed Onions
Roman Troops ~ Luke 2: 1-3 ~ Grain w/Vegetables (Quinoa or Barley)
Beggar ~ Matthew 26:11 or John 12:8 ~ Gravy Sop

Reading for First Sunday in Advent (from "Countdown to Christmas") featuring the Messianic Rose

"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths;
guide me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are God my Savior,
and my hope is in You all day long."
(Psalm 25:4)  

Advent Calendar - Days 1-4 (Back)

Notes about the home-made Advent calendar:

Photos are NOT to scale!!!!   Please use your own judgment concerning how large or small to make these.    The little banners are in various sizes.    Note on the whole banner (above) that these smaller ones are fitted in sort of jig-saw puzzle-ish-y way to fit nicely and create a poetical portrait of the CHRISTmas account. 

The white felt (back side) and blue felt (front side) rectangles are the same size--glued together, then the figures are glued to the blue felt.    The larger pictures here (below) are roughly the "right size" but some of the scans did not stay the right size (I'm not techno-smart, so please don't ask me why that happened), so refer to the large banner for similar sized ones.   

The large banner (on which the little ones all fit) is roughly 29-inches wide by almost 40-inches to the point of the banner-bottom.    A 1/4-inch dowel holds it up.   There are three tassels made of embroidery floss; one at the point on the bottom of the banner, the other two fitted to the dowel ends.    A decorative rope knotted and fitted over the dowel holds the whole thing up (on a nail).   I've also hung this without the rope (it comes off or on, whichever way you prefer), using two nails for the dowel to sit on.

The dowel fits in a roughly 1 1/2-inch casing that I fancy-stitched with the zig-zag thing on my sewing machine, using a special thread in the bobbin side.   Fussy, but I liked the effect.  You could just as easily turn the casing to the back and hem-stitch.

Dowel, rope, casing, buttons, number
Use colors you like for CHRISTmas.   I chose blue and creamy white because I didn't want this to look like just another holiday thing.   I wanted blue to look more night-like, to set off the star and angels.   This color blue was closer to the royal blue that we use(d) for our Advent wreath the year I made this.    Black would've been my second choice except I was worried about fading and lint and pet hair, and a big honking black banner hanging on my wall, well, it just seemed kinda like TOO gloomy at a time of the year when we're all feeling perky and cheerful! 

I laid my finished little banners on the big blue banner, then placed the buttons (for hanging) with tape and THEN sewed them on with my machine--so they wouldn't wiggle around.   I used nice blue ones for the five that show (where #6, 11, 10, 12 & 5 banners hang), the rest of the buttons were just ordinary orphaned buttons from my button bin.  

For the little banners to hang from buttons, I knotted some floss (six strands....and since it's harder than the dickens to thread a needle with that thick of floss, cut it very long!).  So know the floss on one end leaving a bit of a tail on purpose, poke in the corner of the little banner, leave a measured amount, poke through the other side, knot artfully, then cut from main thread.  Measure carefully so the little banners hang nicely, at complimentary angles.    

Finally, I placed the little banners from their floss hangers and THEN with a black Sharpie jotted a small number (for the particular day of Advent/banner).   This is a great help when we first hang the banner each year, to get them in the proper position.   

And remember.....your banner is YOURS!   Don't try to copy mine exactly.   Your banner/calendar will become a lovely heirloom your children will cherish when they get older.  (Two of mine have already put "dibs" on this one!!!)      Have fun making this....don't let little things ruin your holiday spirit!

Days 1-4 (Front Side, note colors of floss)

Days 5-9 (front side) NOTE:  #7 sheep looking upward

Days 10-13 (front) floss over dove's head accident-oops!! Also this one did not "size" right.
Days 14-16 (front)
Day 17-19 (front) Here's the other one that didn't "size" nicely. 
Days 20-22 (front)

Days 23 & 24 (front) Mary & Joseph

Day 25 "Infant Jesus"
These smaller photos are provided for size-relationship purposes only....they are NOT to scale.    You can see from the larger photo (above) of the full banner, that many of these are quite the same width, but length is longer or shorter.   Others are smaller (like # 7 & 22) and similar width; refer to photo of the full banner, and then just use your imagination! 

Days 5-9 (back side)
Days 10-13 (back)

Days 14-16 (back)
Days 17-19 (back)

Days 20-22 (back)

Days 23-24 (back)
Day 25 (back)

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