Christmas Cards, Advent Activity 12

Christmas cards are fun to send out, well at least for me. Yes we has social media and can just put out a blanket greeting but it is much more personal to get a card in the mail. I have an assortment of cards and I pick out each one specifically for each person on my list. So how did we get this tradition of mailing cards to one another? Well Sir Henry Cole sent the very first card just before Christmas. His buddy J.C. Horsely thought is was a great idea and in 1843 he started selling Christmas cards. He quickly sold out of the first 1000 he made and thus the tradition was born! Most early cards had scenes of the Nativity and Christmas related imagery and the insides had greetings from bible passages like  “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people” Luke 2:10 and “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John 20:21.

Day 12 of the countdown to Christmas scripture. Luke 2:1-3 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman empire, this was the first census that was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria, so everyone returned to their home towns.

Candles, Advent Activity 11

Do you put candles in your windows at Christmas time? I do. Why? Well part to do with my Irish heritage and part because I think it is very pretty 🙂 Why because of my Irish heritage? Well in the 17th century when British conquerors came into Ireland they created laws to try to get rid of Irish traditions. Irish children were not allowed to go to school Irishmen could no longer vote, own land, or own a horse worth more than $25 and worst was that Irish priest were being driven from their homeland and persecuted for their faith. How horrible! But Irish families had a secret code for them on Christmas Eve; they would place 3 candles in their window to let the priests know it was safe. The three candles represented Mary, Joseph and Jesus. What a wonderful way to make the best of the situation and still practice their faith. It is a great example of never forsaking your faith due to unjust laws made by the faithless.

Day 11 of the countdown to Christmas scripture. Luke 1:46-56 And Mary said ” My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about 3 months and then returned home.

 

Angels, Advent Activity 10

Angels are so important to the Christmas story. Who did God send to Mary to let her know she had been chosen to bring our Savior into this broken, fallen world to save us from our sins? The angel Gabriel. Who convinced Joseph that it was okay to still marry Mary? An angel.  Who announced his birth? A whole chorus of Angels! They are amazing little messengers. We can be angels of God by doing good deeds. You could invite a lonely neighbor over for dinner and have a good evening. You could donate your time at a soup kitchen or serve Christmas dinner to our homeless and veterans at a local shelter. There are so many ways you can be an angel to brighten someone’s day/life. One way we play angel is every year we pick up a gift for a boy around my son’s age and donate it to the Angel Tree that Walmart or Kmart usually have up front. The gift usually consists of a toy the child requests on the tag and hat/gloves to help stay warm. We live in the Mid-West and those are a MUST living through our sometimes brutal winters. Please check out your local Salvation Army for details if you would like to be an angel.

Day 10 of the countdown to Christmas Scripture: Luke 1:42-45, In a loud voice Elizabeth exclaimed ” Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Today is Advent Sunday so we lit the 2nd purple candle, The candle of Preparation or the candle of Bethlehem (peace)- God has kept his promise of a savior who would be born in Bethlehem. Preparation means to “get ready”. Help us to be ready to welcome YOU, O God! Luke 3:4-6- As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

The Colors of Christmas, Advent Activity 9

I think the colors of Christmas are my favorite! Red, white, green, silver and gold. Did you know that each color has significant meaning for Christmas?

Red: Is for the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross.

White: Is for the purity Jesus had living a life free of sin and being the spotless Lamb.

Green: Is for the eternal life given to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Silver: Is for the silver coins that was paid for His betrayal and our redemption.

Gold: Is a reminder that God’s Son is a great and divine King.

As the seasons change God, the Master Painter of our world, gives us physical reminders of his great love for us. Through the red of Christmas berries, white of snow, green of the ever-green trees, silver of tinsel we put on our Christmas trees and gold of the trumpet the angels play.

Day 9 of the countdown to Christmas Scripture Luke 1:38-41 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. at that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of judean, where she entered Zachariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Outdoor Lights, Advent Activity 8

Don’t you just love driving around and looking at the Christmas lights? We have lots in our city and local area. We ohhh and awe at the imagination some folks have! Do you know who started this who idea of decorating our homes with lights? Edward Johnson. Just a few short years after the invention of the light bulb (1882)  he was decorating with colored lights! 13 years after that President Grover Cleveland plugged in the very first light up Christmas tree in the White House. After WWII American families could afford to decorate with colored lights and you know how us Americans are; we are competitive! So if our neighbor hung lights so did we! Our neighborhoods began to light up during the Christmas season.

Matthew 5: 14 & 16 reminds us “You are the light of the world-like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” Our lights help remind us that as christians we are to be the light of the world and do good deeds to gain praise for our heavenly Father.

Day 8 of the countdown to Christmas Scripture: Luke 1:37 For no word from God will ever fail.

X-mas Greetings, Advent Activity 7

How do you greet people this time of year? Happy Holidays? Merry Christmas? Feliz Navidad? I usually say “Happy Holidays.” However you say it I am sure it brightens that persons day. I prefer to say “Happy Holidays” simply because you never know specifically what he/she celebrates this time of year. They could be Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah, they could be pagan/druid and celebrate the solstice, or whatever their religious background “Happy Holidays” covers them!

Happy Holidays began as “Happy Holy Days”

“Merry X-Mas” I know this irks some because they see it as taking Christ out of Christmas ( I know it did me for a time till I read about it in this book )” X is the first letter- chi (Pronounced “kie”)- of the Greek word Christos, meaning Anointed One, or Messiah” – (excerpt from the book The Adventure of Christmas.) X-mas is just shorthand for Christmas. No harm no foul! 🙂

Here are some different ways to say “Merry Christmas”:

Italian- Buon Natale (bwon nuh-tall-a)

Maltese- Il-Milied It-Tajjeb (il-millit it-ti-yup)

Polynesian- Ia Orana no te Noere (yo-rah-nah noh tay noh-ay-ray)

Hungarian- Boldog Kara’csonyt (bahl-dah kah-ri chah-nyew)

Hawaiian-Mele Kalikimaka (meh-leh kah-lee-kee-mah-kah)

Chinese- Sheng Tan Kuai Lob (shung tahn kwi lub)

How many can you say? How many did you already know?

Day 7 of the countdown to Christmas Scripture: Luke 1:34-36 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age-she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.”

I really hope you are enjoying the Advent activities and I highly encourage you to purchase the book The Adventure of Christmas. Yes I do get a small kick back if you purchase via my Amazon link but that isn’t my main goal, I just love sharing the love of Christmas with everyone 🙂

 

 

The Star, Advent activity 6

“Where is the one who has been born the King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” Matthew 2:2, NIV

This is what the Magi, or wise men, were asking when they followed the bright star that shown over the birthplace of Jesus. Can you imagine being so drawn to the heavens that you would embark on a long and dangerous journey to find the reason? With the technology we have now we can see what the Judean sky might have looked like that night, which is a fun research project for older kids and families. This is something I would like to do once my son is a little older considering the conflict of opinions surrounding it. However it happened it was nothing short of a miracle for our fallen, unhappy world that Jesus had been born! According to Matthew 2:10 “The sight of the star filled them ( Magi ) with indescribable joy”

Our activity for this was to purchase a new star to go on the top of our tree. The book suggests making a star chain for your tree but we were in need of a new star 🙂

Day 6 of the count down to Christmas scripture: Isaiah 9:6 For unto 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, and Prince of Peace.

The Candy Cane, Advent Activity 5

Did you know that the candy cane was once used as a pacifier for fussy babies? Goodness! During the 1670s an unknown German choirmaster had the idea of bending the canes and handing them out to the tiny tots so that when they become bored with the Christmas pageant they could suck on them to keep quiet. I would say that was a smart idea! So as the legend goes, hundred of years later an Indiana candy maker wanted to improve of the candy cane. He wanted to add a large red stripe to remind us of the blood Jesus shed on the cross and smaller red stripes to remind us of the lashing Jesus endured while carrying his cross “by His stripes we are healed” Isaiah 53:5. The white color reminds us that Jesus lived a life completely without sin. The candy’s hardness reminds us that Jesus is our Rock to salvation.  The candy cane was already bent and it reminded folks of a shepherds hook and if you turn it over it looks like a “J” to remind us of Jesus and why he was born and the sacrifice he made to save us from our sins. What a powerful story to be able to tell now when you share a candy cane with your children and friends this Christmas season.

Now the activity we chose to do was the Reindeer Evangelists; we simply got traditional candy canes and dressed them up as reindeer, they are so cute! When we shared them with family and friends we also told them the story of how the candy cane came to be.

Day 5 of the countdown to Christmas scripture: Luke 1:31-33, You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the thorne of his father David and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

Ornaments on the Tree, Advent activity 4

Did you know that ornaments on the tree started out as decorations for the “forbidden fruit” tree in medieval European plays about Adam and Eve? Plays based on bible characters were performed throughout the year and December 24th was dedicated to Adam and Eve, the only problem was that in the winter you could not find fruit trees for the play so they placed shiny apples in the evergreens. The trees soon became more popular than the plays themselves! Eventually the plays went by the wayside, as things often do, but the German families continued to decorate their own trees with the shiny red apples and called them “paradise trees.” As time went on moms would hide sugary treats in the tree for the kids to find. They also placed tiny round wafers in the tree that represented the body of Christ that was broken on the cross to save us from our sins. What a wonderful reminder of God’s great love for us!

Now in our modern age we now longer place sweets, well maybe candy canes, but we do still decorate our Christmas trees wonderfully. In our home we purchase family ornaments and our son gets to pick out a personal ornament for his tree. When he leaves home he will have at least 18 ornaments to take with him for his own tree in his own home.

Day 4 of the count down to Christmas scripture: Luke 1:28-30 The angel when to her and said “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”

 

Lights on the tree, Advent activity 3

Who doesn’t like looking at lights on a tree? Be it all colors or just a soft white light. I remember when I was a teen, the boy I was dating, his family tradition was to sleep under the tree after getting it up after Thanksgiving. They always included me in this tradition and I loved it. Falling asleep looking up at the lights and feeling warm and safe.

So how did we get the tradition of putting lights on the tree? Well the story goes in the early 1500s a professor named Martin Luther was walking in the woods one December night and as he looked up through the evergreens he could see the stars, they looked like they were lighting up the trees! He was in awe of the beauty God had placed before him and wanted to find a way to describe it but wasn’t sure. Suddenly he decided to chop down a small evergreen and rushed home with the idea to place candles on the tree to try to capture the vision he saw in the woods. Once the candles were placed his children were in awe of the sight and so the tradition was born!

Well aren’t you glad we don’t use candles anymore! Thank goodness for modern technology 🙂 So our activity was to get our son his very own tree for his room.

Today is the 1st Sunday of Advent so the Hope candle or Prophecy candle was lit. We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep his promises made to us. Romans 15: 12-13

Day 3 of the Count down to Christmas Scriptures: In the 6th month of Elizabeth’s ( John the Baptist’s mother) pregnancy, God send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town of Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:26-27