Tag Archives: Advent

Great Joy

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Joy.  That was part of this morning’s devotional around our Advent wreath.

advent wreath 2012

Joy.

When Joseph and Mary held Jesus, they were like any other set of parents….. their hearts were bursting with joy.

nativity cake

I can remember falling in love all over again the moment my two children were placed in my arms for the first time.  That kind of love mixed with joy can not be explained only experienced.

Joy.

We sing carols exclaiming the joy of the world during this time of the year.  We celebrate that joy.  We capture it and give it to others.

god's hug

Joy.

Joy isn’t only involved in wondrously treasured moments.  Joy can be found in the underlining of every sorrow.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…. James 1:2

As Mary held her baby, she didn’t focus on how God’s plan of salvation would occur.  She focused on the joy that this baby will bring to anyone who possesses grace.

mary

Jesus found joy in the outcome of His death, not the agony He would face.

advent wreath cross 2012

Joy.

Honestly, I never realized that underneath my pain, sorrow and anguish; joy resides.  Joy.  I reflect on trials today….. I want to peel back all that dark unpleasant affliction and find Jesus’ joy.

candles 6

My miscarriage…… heartbreaking and painful.  And underneath it is joy because that sweet life was born in heaven and into the arms of Jesus.  Joy because what if something was life threatening and painfully wrong…..my baby never had to suffer.

Mary found it.  Her heart broke under the heavy weight of Jesus’ agonizing death.  Under the confusion and grieving, she found joy in knowing that God’s plan was underway.  She touched the joy when Jesus approached her at the tomb.  She understood the joy knowing that Jesus was alive and at the right side of God.

Joy.  Sweet Joy.

lent candles wk 5

 

wild flower 7

 

maundy thursday meal c

What ever you are experiencing right now that is bringing you such agony…. peel back all the yuck and find the joy.  It is there.  Jesus saw it in His trial and death.  If it was there for Him, it is there for us to embrace.

love

Find it.  Embrace that JOY!

Turning It Up a Notch

Can someone please tell me where November went?  I mean wasn’t it just yesterday that we had summer vacation?  This Sunday Advent begins.  I have planned Advent activities for the family for years.   And well, it was fun and meaningful.  But my kids are not “kids” anymore…..One is a full fledged driver license carrying teenager and the other is a preteen, right smack in the middle of awkwardness.

So now, Advent is gonna have to be turned up a notch…..especially in the activities area.  So, I really have to step back and rethink how we are going to celebrate Advent…..teenage style!

I don’t know…. maybe I am just being a little Bible thumping….. but is it just me  or has Christmas lost it’s worth?  Hang on…. hear me out.  Or better watch this little video….

Did you see how many 0′s were in that number???  My teens are at the age where commercialism and materialism becomes a focus.   In the past, I emphasized how to rethink Christmas giving……something homemade, recycled, or even limiting the number we shower our kids with to 3….. like Jesus received.  Yes, I threw a lot of Jesus in my advent planning but I never actually thought of the worth of Christmas.

What exactly is the worth of Christmas? Gifts? A meal?  Credit Cards? The best deal?  Or is it Worship…… worshiping Christ.  See when we go all materialistic we are robbed of our worth.  It becomes an idol, something we give power, other than God.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself only worshiping God in church.  That’s why we have Advent services in church and a Christmas eve service…… I mean that is putting Christ back in Christmas, right?

Ahem…..

So what does worship really mean to you?  That’s the real question.  I want my kids to understand that Christmas isn’t just a time of year but a lifestyle worth living.  I want them to appreciate, to have gratitude, and to see Christ around them….. to feel it and to express it.  I don’t want it to be watered down to just singing a few hymns and going to church so we can cross that off our to-do list……Christ in Christmas, CHECK!

Anyone with me? Isn’t it about time we put down the credit cards and pick up the idea that we are truly God’s servants?  I want my family’s worship, showing of  reverence, to be reserved only for Him……not long lines, wrapping paper, and decorations.

So, how do I do that?  Not put up the tree?  No gifts? Hmmmm….. guess I need to reevaluate what gifts mean to us.  Is it something or someone?  Is it a service or something to receive?  Is it filled with honor and gratitude or is it just something to give so we feel nice because it is expected?

I have probably thumped enough for today….. just think about what Christmas is worth to you and your family, and then come visit tomorrow for some ideas that might be inspiring…..

God bless……

Getting Ready!!

As soon as the dishes are put away on Thanksgiving Day, I will be finding my Advent wreath!

Check out this 2009 “First Week of Advent” activities:

The first Sunday of Advent is known as the Prophecy Candle which symbolizes God’s planning for Christ’s birth long before it actually happened.  This week’s Advent activities will have a “get organized” theme.

God planned the birth of Jesus.  He picked the family and tribe in which he would be born.  He arranged the timing of his birth, the place and eventually Jesus’ death.  God has already destined Jesus’ second coming…. or second Advent if you will…..God announced his plans long before it actually took place.  Just like the second coming….. He has already announced how the end will come……

So, here’s my pondering question…… Do you plan your Christmas?  Would it be a perfect Christmas without all the planning you do ahead of time?  Around my house, we are planning Christmas in like…..January!!  So this week let’s plan our hearts to be centered around Christ during our Advent activities!!

First Sunday Home Ceremony:

At our house, we like to have this Ceremony prior to dinner.  The table is set and we gather around the table.  Our ending prayer will bless the meal.

1.  Describe Isaiah:  Who was Isaiah?  What did he do?

2.  Talk about the Book of Isaiah.

3.  Read Isaiah 11:1-10

4.  Talk about the passage.  What did it mean??

5.  Light the first candle

6.  Sing a Hymn.  May I suggest, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

7.  End in Prayer

First Week’s Activities:

During the week, we try to do the activities just after dinner.  As the kids are clearing the table, I am gathering my notes and my activity objects.  Then we gather around the table to do our activity.

Monday:

Item:  A brick

Readings:  (We each get a scripture)  Nehemiah 1:3, 2:18, 6:15-16   Malachi 3:1  and Revelation 22:20

Discussion:  The brick represents the Wall of Jerusalem.  The wall was all around the city.  The wall was torn down and all of God’s people were scattered and taken as slaves into different lands.  In order for Jesus to be born, the Bible says that the people would return to Jerusalem.  And 400 years before Jesus’ birth, the rebuilding began.  When the wall was finished, the waiting for Jesus began.  It took many many years for the people to be ready for Jesus.  Are we ready for Jesus to come to us this Christmas??

Tuesday:

Scripture:  Proverbs 4:26

Items:  pencils and paper

Activity:  The Bible says that we should plan things carefully.  Just like God planned things very carefully for the first Christmas, we are going to plan for this Christmas.  We each have a piece of paper and a pencil.  When we are done, we are going to discuss the ideas we have written about Christmas and we will make a plan….. and stick with it!

Three things we did last year for Christmas that I’d like to do again.

Three new things I’d like to try for Christmas.

Wednesday:

Scripture:  Matthew 25

Item:  Dirty Clothes (really nasty dirty)

Activity:  Plan a special gift for someone outside of your ring of family and friends.  Perhaps, it is the lady who checks you out at your local grocery store.  Perhaps, it is for a family in a homeless shelter.  Perhaps, you can contact your local school and get information about a student who needs items.  Or focus on a shut in from your church……and I don’t think you have to shower them with gifts…. perhaps just a little reminder that they are loved.

Thursday:

Scripture:  3 John 13-14

Items:  Things to make a Christmas card.

Activity:  Make Christmas cards for family and friends who live far away.  John wrote to his friends that he could not be with them…. so we are sending God’s message of Christ to our family and friends far away.

Friday:

Scripture:  Luke 1:1-20

Item:  Envelope with card in it… the card will read:

What was it like for Zechariah to be unable to speak?  To help us understand what he felt, we are going to eat supper without speaking…. total silence.  There will be no talking.  His silence was broken only by prayer after his son John was born….. ours will be broken by prayer after we eat.

Activity:  Eat in silence.

Discussion after prayer:  retell Zechariah’s story.  Read verse 20.

Saturday:

Scripture:  Matthew 2:1-11

Activity:  Star gazing

Discussion:  Talk about the Magi seeing and following the star.  Talk about how God had to plan the star to shine.  It appeared at the right time and at the right place.  Take the family outside and really look at the stars.  Go inside and have hot chocolate!!  YUMMY!!

I  really hope you will join us in celebrating the Advent season.  You will be amazed how you and your family will make lasting memories that will last a life time!

God Bless…..

*** resources:  Christmas Out of the Advent Box, by Benjamin R. Husted25 Days, 26 Ways, by Ace Collins ; and The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Lambert

Two Weeks!

Two weeks until Advent begins.  I am so excited!!  I just love the Christmas season.  I sing.  I dance.  I wrap.  I decorate.  I celebrate.  I love.  Yay!!

So like….. I went way back to 2009 and found my post about the Advent wreath.  Hope you enjoy it today…… Hope it inspires you to participate.

The most common symbol of the Advent season is the Advent Wreath.  It can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be, but it will have 4 candles around the perimeter and if you choose, one in the center. The four candles represent the four Sundays or weeks of Advent and the center one is known as the Christ candle.

On the first Sunday, the first candle is lit and each Sunday following you will light the previous Sunday’s candle(s) along with the current Sunday’s.  The Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve. The colors and the names of the candles may differ by Christian denominations.

Regarding the colors I have found 4 variations:

  • Four white candles and one red as the Christ candle
  • Four red and a white Christ candle
  • Four purple and a white Christ candle (these are the colors I use)
  • Three purple,  a pink (for the 3rd Sunday), and a white Christ candle

The candle names also vary but the one I have found in the majority is :

  • First Sunday:  The prophecy candle, with a theme of planning
  • Second Sunday:  The Bethlehem candle, with a theme of preparation
  • Third Sunday:  The Shepherd’s candle with a theme of sharing
  • Fourth Sunday:  The Angles’ candle with the theme of joy.

Think of the Sundays in these terms:  God planned for Christmas, then the prophets announced his plan, He made preparations centered in Bethlehem, the shepherds shared what they had seen and heard, and the angels announce,  ”Joy!” To simplify:  We plan for Christmas, prepare for it, share it, and rejoice in it!

Our wreath becomes the centerpiece for our table.  It becomes a nightly tradition to openly discuss Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth.  We have scripture readings and a small devotion each night.

God Bless……

Just One Month

Can’t believe that 2011 is this close to ending! Where did the time go?  I am still in February!

((sigh))

Time flies.

Won’t be long until my kitchen will smell like homemade yummies!!  Our “kitten”-almost grown cat- Matthew (we so lovingly call Toot!) will be playing in the Christmas tree before we know it.  Thank God I finished my shopping back in January!!  I know…. I know…. over achiever!

My intent for today’s post is not to remind you that another year has slipped you by…… Nor to shame you for not taking advantage of early Christmas shopping….

But….

To help you get a jump on Advent.

See, I’m trying to help!!

Here’s a post I did back in November 2009 about Advent……  Enjoy!

I don’t know about  you but there are times when I am walking around in Wal-Mart doing my weekly shopping in September and I begin seeing the Christmas inventory on the shelves, I actually hang my head and it has to shake in disbelief.  Commercialism has converted Christmas to consume our time, energy and money in spite of the the Carols ringing in the air.  I don’t know about you, but to me, the sheer joy and meaning of Christmas has been replaced by the beeping of a cash register.  I think it is time to really take a look at an old fashioned tradition to get our hearts and minds in sync with the true meaning of Christmas.

I am talking about Advent.  It is a tradition that my family, growing up, did not practice.  I had never heard of this time of the year until we started going to our present church.  And over the past 8 years we have grown to love and cherish this tradition in our home.

Advent is a Latin word that means, “the coming.”  It is a special time for personal retrospect and growth.  This age old tradition takes place on the four Sundays prior to Christmas.  This year, it begins on November 29, 2009 and runs through Christmas Eve.  Advent is a season of reflection that can bring meaning to our season.  Many families already have Advent calendars and candles.  The calendars may have tasty treats and are used as a Christmas countdown.  But, how do we truly reflect on our faith while observing these traditions?

For the next few days leading up to the first Sunday of Advent, I will take  you on an adventure exploring the idea of Advent and many traditions you can begin with your children.

But first, I want to talk about 3 important reflections that are important to your understanding why Advent is a sacred tradition before you begin this in your home.  Remember it is a time of personal retrospect and growth as a believer……

1.  Reflect the meaning of God coming to Earth as a human baby.  It is the most humble form God could use.  A helpless child being delivered into this world in a manger, humbles my heart to say the least.   God loved us enough to come into this world as a child, a human form.  This birth changed the world and it has left an impact on countless lives throughout time.

2.  Reflect how Jesus has changed your existence.  As I look over my life and reflect on how I have grown spiritually, I am overtaken by joy.  Take a moment and really inspect your life.  Consider how God’s power through Christ has empowered your life, your actions, your way of thinking and your faith.

3.  Reflect on the fact that Jesus is coming back.  Yes, He is coming back.  And the anticipation can be the fuel to our joy…… not our fear.  You can even think about it in the way of  ”Jesus is coming over for Christmas.”  If you think about your Christmas preparations in terms of God coming to spend the holiday with you, you can not help to change your perspective.  Would Jesus see Himself in your celebration?  Would He see Himself in you as you greet your guests, prepare your meals, or Christmas shop?  Would He see how His life has impacted your passion for life and for the season?  Try thinking about truly inviting God over for Christmas this year.

I would like to challenge you to really mediate and reflect on these three points as you begin your Christmas season.  You will be surprised in the changes you will be making……

God Bless……