Saturday, October 23, 2010

Advent Calendar

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
Hug someone
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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Advent Wreath

Our family Advent plan hasn't been significantly revised in several years at least, so this year we're revising it.  My first order of business has been the "ceremony" surrounding the Advent wreath.  Each evening during Advent we light the candle(s) for the week and read a scripture, talk about the theme for the week, and usually sing a carol related to that theme.  Each week we hang an ornament on a small Christmas tree, to reflect the theme for that week.  This year I think I want to have a theme song or chorus for all of Advent, if I can find something suitable.  I have changed the scriptures we're using and the theme for each week, and I may even ditch the pink and purple candles in favor of natural ones--I'm not sure about that yet.  I am still not sure about the symbol we'll use for each week, partly because I don't have my ornaments accessible right now and I'm not sure I have suitable ornaments for the symbols I've tentatively chosen.  Three of the four scriptures correspond to portions of Handel's Messiah, so we'll probably incorporate that as well.

Expect this post to be revised periodically, up to the beginning of Advent 2010.

Much of what we're doing this year comes from "Celebrating the Church Year with Young Children," a favorite resource for spiritual training.

Our intro for each candle-lighting "service":
We are in the season of waiting and hoping.  Our Advent wreath reminds us of our waiting, because each week we wait for a greater and greater light.  The prophets [week 4: gospel writers] are very special friends of God.  They tell us God’s word to help us know the wonderful things happening for us.

Week 1
Scripture:        Isaiah 9:2
The people walking in darkness
                        have seen a great light;
                        on those living in the land of the shadow of death
                        a light has dawned.
Music:             Messiah Part I, No. 11
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Art:                The Light of the World, William Holman Hunt

Symbol:         Sun or star or candle
Crafts:             Toilet paper roll candles
                        Light holes craft from Preschool Art, p. 131

Week 2
Scripture:        Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Music:            Messiah Part I, No. 12
                      O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Art:                Adoration of the Lamb, Jan van Eyck
Symbol:         Crown

Crafts:             Print out crowns to decorate
                        Fabric transfer from Preschool Art, p. 115
Week 3
Scripture:        Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
       though you are small among the clans of Judah,
       out of you will come for me
       one who will be ruler over Israel,
       whose origins are from of old,
       from ancient times.  “
Music:             O Holy Night
Art:                 The Census at Bethlehem, Bruegel
Symbol:          Bethlehem star, most especially the Natal Cross
Crafts:            Black paper silhouettes of buildings on dark blue paper, then put glue in star shape and sprinkle with glitter.
           Stained Glass Melt from Preschool Art, p. 116

Week 4
Scripture:        Luke 1:26-38
One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”

 Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. Then the angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

 Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not married!”
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God's power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. Nothing is impossible for God!"

Mary said, "I am the Lord's servant! Let it happen as you have said." And the angel left her.
Music:                 Handel's Messiah Part I, No. 8
                            Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Art:                     The Annunciation, Titian
Symbol:              Angel or bell or fleur-de-lis
Crafts:               Paper plate angels
               Finish making Christmas gifts