Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Wreath

Our church has an advent wreath at Christmastime. The wreath consists of 4 taper candles (3 purple and 1 pink) and a white Christ candle in the center. (Our wreath is missing the white candle right now.)

The word "advent" means "coming". The during Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we stop to remember that we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus to earth.
Over the years we have used several different Advent Devotionals, some kid-friendly, others a little challenging. One devotional that I have used the past several Christmases is Looking Forward to the Nativity. It isn't an "Advent" devotional that speaks directly to the meaning of each candle, but it is a great devotional that begins with creation, speaks of sin entering the world, and our need for a savior throughout the generations. Another book we have used is Christ in the Carols. It is a great devotional too that tells the meaning and the history of the various Christmas carols. I usually just read one devotional, and then use the other to sing carols with the family. (Courtney and I made the wreath many years ago from a wreath, picks, candle holders and ribbon. She picked out all the pieces as a 2 year old and we've been using it ever since!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Stockings

Growing up we always opened Christmas stockings and gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. It was always something I looked forward in and as a child I believed in Santa.

When I got married and started having children I began to wonder how the whole "Santa" thing would be handled. I wanted Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ and I wanted everything we did to point our children to the true meaning of Christmas. I loved the idea of hanging stockings by the fireplace and the fun of opening them on Christmas morning so we decided to do "Santa" a little differently.

I made stockings for each of the children reflecting some aspect of the birth of Christ, or his ministry here on earth. The stockings all held practical gifts (a new toothbrush, toothpaste, chap stick, a small toy, or a small Bible, or a Christmas book). The first stocking I made had a nativity scene with an angel and the word "noel". I stitched the patches on and then went around the fabric pieces with paint to keep them securely in place.
For the next stocking, I made it in blue (since it was for a boy) and put a star on it for the star the wise men followed and put a lion and a lamb on it. The lion and the lamb both point to Christ as Jesus is the "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" and the "Lamb of God".
For the third stocking I put on a cross to represent the reason for Christ coming to die on the cross for our sins. I also added a shepherd because Jesus is our "Good Shepherd".
For the fourth stocking I put a crown on it because Jesus is the "Prince of Peace". The patch on the bottom of the stocking has Jesus as a babe in the manger.
For the fifth stocking I put the three wise men at the top of the stocking and pictures to represent the gifts they brought to Jesus.
For the sixth stocking I put a cross with the lamb on the top patch, to once again represent Jesus as our sacrifice. At the bottom I put a picture of the cup and the bread to represent the Last Supper and Communion.
Now, the question is what will I put on the last stocking? Yes, my youngest has celebrated two Christmases without a stocking (well, at least one that is homemade). I'm not sure what to put on the stocking to continue to tell the story of Christ. Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Ornaments

I love Christmas ornaments and decorating the tree! It is something I look forward to as soon as the tree emerges from the downstairs storage room.

When I was growing up our tree was adorned with wooden ornaments my mom had painted. We also hung the metal icicles that twirled and caught the lights from the tree. Our first Christmas we didn't have a tree, so we hung ornaments that Tom's mom had handed down to us from the railing in the hallway. It didn't quite meet my need to decorate!Once our children were born they each received a "baby's 1st Christmas ornament". After that, we continued with the "Hallmark" collection up to 5 years old. Once our children reached their 6th Christmas we let them choose their own ornaments...that is, until some very unusual ornaments were chosen.

I knew that I wanted their ornaments to go with them once they left the house...something for them to take with them to adorn their first Christmas tree, but I also wanted their ornaments to reflect what Christmas really means.
From then on, I began shopping for ornaments to give to my children at Christmas time (usually I would shop for ornaments the day after Christmas and find some great deals for the next year!) As I searched I would look for ornaments that would have a symbol of Christmas...a star, a nativity scene, a cross, etc).
I also bought them each a small Rubbermaid storage box to keep their ornaments in. Each year there is much anticipation once the boxes are in sight. It is such a delight to hear their excitement as they open up their box and dive into their ornaments. They love it and I enjoy hearing their memories from one Christmas to the next.

I also love that once they leave home, they will take the story of the true meaning of Christmas with them. Perhaps they will be able to share with a neighbor or a friend what their ornaments mean. And I hope that they will be able to begin to influence the next generation for Christ with something as simple as a Christmas ornament.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Jammies

One gift on Christmas Eve...

When Tom and I first got married we discovered that our ideas about Christmas and gift giving were different (big surprise!). My family always went to my Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. We always had potato soup for dinner, Grandma's special pies for dessert, and after all the dishes were washed, dry, and put away we would open Christmas presents. The only thing left on Christmas morning were stockings to open.

Tom's family did things quite different. They didn't open any presents on Christmas Eve. Everything was done on Christmas morning followed by a big Christmas dinner.

Well, we had to come to terms with our differences and to begin forming our own traditions. At first we celebrated with my family on Christmas Eve and his family on Christmas Day.

Once our daughter was born we started to do things a little differently. One family we knew told us they always opened one gift on Christmas Eve...a new pair of PJs. I loved the idea. We still could open up a gift, and everyone would have nice, clean jammies for pictures on Christmas morning.

The first several years all the jammies were very Christmas-looking. But as the years have progressed the PJs have started to be just new, not necessarily looking like Christmas. It is amazing how something so simple, is something that all the kids have looked forward to each year!


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