I have been seriously chomping at the bit to get posting about Christmas. I am always sooooo excited and like to plan early. This year, I am going to take a little bit of a different approach so here you go. Christmas Post number one:
If there is one thing that the Anglican Church does well, it is Advent. There is a great sense of anticipation that has been spoiled by many traditions. December first comes (sometimes sooner) and suddenly stores (and churches) are blaring Christmas Carols – Joy to the World, Come All Ye Faithful and many other such songs when in actuality, Christ, symbolically, has not yet been born.
Advent is defined as the coming or arrival of something anticipated. “(It) symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. ….Advent is (traditionally) marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance” (Dennis Bratcher-http://www.crivoice.org/cyadvent.html).
There are four Sundays in Advent beginning with hope, followed by peace, joy and love, often symbolized by an advent wreath. And although many evangelical churches light the candles and do the readings, little further thought is giving to the meaning of the Advent season and the preparation aspect of Christmas.
A few weeks ago in Mom’s time out, we were discussing Christmas traditions and why we do what we do. The idea came forward of having a theme each year. A carefully planned out theme can bring so much more meaning to your family’s holiday season and make it not quite so stressful. The wheels in my head got turning and since that conversation I have created four themes that I would like to share with you.
Starting with HOPE
Hope is symbolized by the star. You know the famous star – the star of Bethlehem acted as a compass for the Magi and it heralded the birth of the long awaited Messiah.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
The star is a powerful symbol in scripture, not only in Matthew 2 but also in Revelation when Jesus is named the bright morning star representing a beacon of new life and hope.
So let’s break it down:
If you have small children talk about how in the beginning God created the stars. He knew even then that he would use one of those stars to lead the wise men to the baby Jesus.
You can talk about the star that led the Magi to Jesus and then talk about how Jesus is the light of the world, the bright morning star.
This would be the theme to discuss the origins of the Christmas Tree:
The origin of the Christmas tree is traditionally associated with St. Boniface from the town of Geismar in Germany. That is about where the similarities in various stories end. Many stories however say that a couple was about to sacrifice a baby at the bottom of a large oak tree. St. Boniface cut down the tree to prevent the sacrifice and a fir tree grew up at the base. He said that the tree was holy and a symbol of the Christ child and His promise of eternal life.
Aside from this particular story it is known that in the late Middle Ages Germans and Scandinavians would place evergreens around their doors and in their homes to show their hope for spring to come.
Many sources say however, that it was Marin Luther who is responsible for the institution of the Christmas tree. They say that he was out in the snow-covered woods and was so awestruck by the beauty of the forest that he cut down a small fir tree and took it home to decorate it.
There are further stories of Queen Victoria loving the tradition of the Christmas tree and after her marriage to Prince Albert, it becoming a wide-spread custom in Britain.
No stories seem linked although some see the Christmas tree as a pagan tradition because of the passage in Jeremiah 10:2-4 where it talks about the customs of the people being in vain. It says they cut a tree out of the forest and deck it with Silver and Gold.
That being said, apparently in 2000, the city of manager of Eugene, Oregon ordered that Christmas trees could not be displayed on city properties because they were regarded as a Christian religious symbol.
I personally see the Christmas tree as a beautiful way to decorate our living room at Christmas time and to hold up our wicker star, symbolizing the hope we have in the Advent season.
One of my favourite activities with Jakob is potato stamping. Stars are simple shapes that can be cut easily into potatos and easily recognized. Get a big roll of paper (like and end roll from a newspaper company, or IKEA even sells big rolls of drawing paper for their easels. Stamp on colourful stars and you have innovative homemade wrapping paper.
For children that are a little bit older this is a great opportunity to go to the Planetarium. If you live in the Calgary area where we don’t have one try stargazing, Friday nights at the Telus World of Science.
Other Star Ideas:
Sing twinkle twinkle little star.
Create stars to hang from the ceiling using cardboard and tin foil, popscicle sticks or just paper.
Star gift tags
Resources on Advent:
http://www.crivoice.org/cyadvent.html (says it so much better than I do)
A dear friend gave Jakob the Jesus Storybook Bible. While not condensing too too much this is a children friendly book that brings out the Gospel message throughout. I STRONGLY recommend it.
As I said, I LOVE Christmas. I like to be well organized so that two weeks before Christmas I can really just Enjoy the season and not be hurrying trying to get everything bought, wrapped, planned, cooked, etc. I also love connecting at Christmas time. It is a perfect time to recognize all those people in my life who have invested in me and my children. As a result I send out over 50 christmas cards. So I start now – begin compiling your mailout list to find out whose addresses you have and whose you don’t. I always figure it will take sometime for them to get back to me with their correct address so you need to allow for the lag time in order to get cards all written and addressed by the first week of December (which is when I like to have mine out by- that way they have time to enjoy them before Boxing day when all the christmas decorations get put away [Another pet peave because that is actually when the Christmas season is beginning but I will get into that later].
I also start thinking about gift tags. I also like to give out trinket gifts. Gifts that cost next to nothing but recognize the people around me. Last year I did Ginger bread men. Regardless, I wrapped them nicely, so they don’t show how little I spent on them with homemade tags. I like to start on them early so they are done. Just something to think about.
And one last thing, although I am sure that I have lost you. This year we are spending Christmas in BC. I don’t want to have to be worrying about buying gifts when I arrive out there on the 22nd and I don’t want to have to haul a suitcase for just gifts so instead I buy online and have them shipped to my Grandma’s house. So far, I feel like this has worked beautifully and reduced stress tenfold.