Tuesday, December 1, 2009


We have our first ever Advent calendar!  It's very cute:

I hung it on the china hutch.  It would look nice above the fireplace, but the stockings are there:

(Note to self:  when making Christma stockings, save back some extra fabric in case you have another kid.)

I bought the calendar on Etsy, but it would be easy to make if you were so inclined.  I rushed around to get it up Sunday night, and then realized that it, like most Advent calendars, only had the numbers 1-24.  So December 1-24 it is.  That is a bit confusing to me, when Advent actually started Sunday, but oh well. 

General thoughts on Advent, for the other Evangelical rookies out there.  I'm fairly new at this, and these help clarify the intention of the Advent season:
Our whole life is an Advent, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people will be brothers and sisters.  An old song, quoted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes... and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The spirit of Christmas needs to superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world. Stuart Briscoe

   Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.
   An old abbot was fond of saying, ‘The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.’
   The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all. Edward Hays

   It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…Fr. Andrew Greeley

     …Christmas celebrates the dawn of the Light of the World. The powers of darkness are overcome by his coming to share our life. The long reign of sin is ended and grace has been poured out upon the earth. The Sun of Justice has arisen, and evil is vanquished."
     Perhaps the hardest thing to remember about Christmas is this. "It celebrates the incarnation, not just the nativity. The incarnation is an on-going process of salvation, while the nativity is the once-for-all-historical event of Bethlehem. We do not really celebrate Christ’s ‘birthday,’ remembering something that happened long ago. We celebrate the stupendous fact of the incarnation, God entering our world so thoroughly that nothing has been the same since. And God continues to take flesh in our midst, in the men and women and children who form his body today. And the birth we celebrate is not just the past historical event but Christ’s continuing birth in his members, accomplished by the power of the Spirit...
     …What we celebrate is our redemption in Christ and the transformation of all creation by the presence of the divine in our midst.  from the Catholic Sourcebook

Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5).  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I've observed Advent loosely for several years now, but this is my first time to intentionally walk the kids through it.  As a fairly newbie Advent celebrant, I was at a bit of a loss for what to, um, load the calendar with.  I've seen candy, tiny gifts, or devotionals.  I decided on a hybrid.  We are continuing with our usual family devotions through the season; it worked out nicely because we just finished reading the Old Testament (in this Bible) so we will be doing the Nativity story over the next week and the life of Christ will carry us past Christmas.  It doesn't strictly follow the traditional Advent schedule, but it will work for us. 

(If you are looking for a more traditional Advent devotional, check out Heather's or Kendra's.  For some general ideas about Advent and Christmas, check out Advent Conspiracy.)

In our family devotions we are just reading the Bible in order, as it comes.  No master schedule or anything.  For Advent I mapped out what stories will fall on which days this month and planned to elaborate on them a bit.  For the days of the birth of Christ next week, I planned crafts to correspond.  I think I'll tuck the craft components (or just a piece of paper with a picture or description) into the calendar.  We can open it after dinner most days; I can occasionally do crafts earlier in the day when our evenings are busy. 

The kids always have access to crayons and paint, etc. and use them several times daily; I don't often do an Official Craft Project with them.  But I thought it might help them remember the elements of the Christmas story, and they enjoy making Christmas decorations. General Christmas crafts will be on some days, and Christmas books as gifts a few days.  Other days the calendar will just have candy or stickers or something.

I found this list of gift ideas which has some cute ideas; some are a bit corny.  I pulled a few of them:

December 1 - A quarter! That equals 25 cents. But 25 also stands for the number of days till Christmas, when God gave us His best present. Jesus told about one woman's gift and the way she gave it. Read: Mark 12:41-44

December 2 - Grape Gum! Grapes make jelly and juice, raisins and wine. But Jesus didn't need grapes to perform His first miracle. Read: John 2:1-10

December 3 - Smiley sticker. Here's a smile! A smile usually expresses happiness. Jesus gave us many instructions to keep us happy. Read: Matthew 5:1-12.

December 4 - Gummy fish. Fish! Well, if you were surprised to find these fish, wait till you read the story today! Others were surprised to find fish, too. Read: Luke 5:4-7

December 5 - A birthday candle. As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday. However, Jesus talked about something else that is related to this candle. Light! Read: Matthew 5:14-16

December 6 - Bell.  You could make some noise with this. But it would not have bothered a certain man--until he met Jesus. Read: Mark 7:31-37

December 7 - Goldfish crackers. These would not go very far if you were really hungry! But Jesus could make much out of little. Surely He knew how to multiply! Read: Matthew 14:13-21

December 8 - Cotton balls These cotton balls would be helpful in a thunder storm, wouldn't they? We could use them for ear plugs to muffle the loud noises that thunder makes. But we know someone who doesn't need cotton. Jesus can control the weather. Read: Matthew 8:23-27

December 9 - Part of a map. People needing to use the other parts of this map are in trouble! Don't you get lost today! Read: John 14:1-6

December 10 - It's soap. Do you like to wash? Behind your ears? Washing turned out to be a happy time for a man who met Jesus. Read: John 9:1-7

December 11 - Heart stickers. Wordlessly, they speak of love, don't they? Jesus spoke some commands about love. Read: Matthew 25:17-41

December 12 - Cross stickers. We use the cross as a symbol, representing Jesus. Do you know why? Read: Philippines 2:1-11

December 13 - Ordinary salt. Yes, Jesus related salt to us and our behavior. He also gave us some advice. Read: Matthew 5:14 and Colossians 4:6. (Notice that He doesn't recommend pepper!).

December 14 - Sand.  Don't try to eat this! It's sand. It reminds us that Jesus knows something about architecture, about buildings--and building lives. See His instructions: Matthew 7:24-29.

December 15 - Silk flowers.  Flowers are pretty, aren't they? Jesus used flowers to teach us a reassuring lesson. Read: Matthew 6:28-34.

December 16 - Raisins! Many children are given raisins instead of candy for a snack. That's because they are a health-promoting and delicious fruit. Jesus told us how we can produce good fruit. Read: John 15:1-5.

December 17 - Seed packet. Jesus told a story about seeds that man planted. Then He explained it, revealing its deep meaning. Read: Matthew 13:3-8 and Matthew 13:18-23.

December 18 - Christmas carol. Christmas is just about a week away. And here is an appropriate song. Sing it loudly! Read: Psalms 100.

December 19 - A hard stone! Can you change this stone into a piece of bread? Do you think Jesus could? Jesus was asked to do just that. Do know how He handled it? Read: Matthew 4:1-4.

December 20 - Foil ball. Try to smooth out this piece of aluminum foil and use it as a mirror. It's hard to see your reflection plainly, isn't it? Many circumstances are hard to understand, but someday everything will be clear. Read: 1 Corinthians 13:12.

December 21 - Mustard seed. The mustard seed is the smallest there is! When it sprouts, it grows into one of the largest plants! See what Jesus said. Read: Matthew 17:20.

December 22 - Dove.  We've learned that the cross represents Christ, but do you know what the dove stands for? Read: Matthew 3:13-17.

December 23 - Piece of wool. The threads that compose this fabric came from the wool of a sheep. Jesus called Himself the good shepherd. Do you know who His sheep are? Read: John 10:7-18.

December 24 - A marble! Do you know what is sometimes called the "Big Blue Marble"? The world. God made the world for us. What does God continue doing to the world? And who is the world? Read: John 3:16.

December 25 - Picture of baby or baby doll. Isn't this baby cute? When he was born, he made a whole family happy. Jesus was born a baby, too. He came to make the whole world happy. Read: Luke 2:1-20. Enjoy your celebration today. Continue to learn about Jesus--and love Him forever! 

Here is the schedule I've come up with for us.  It's a blend of treats, crafts, and devotionals.  Days that correspond to our normal devotional reading are noted; other Scriptures that tie into that day's gift are also listed.  I apologize for the poor typing and formatting; I'm doing this quickly so it's just copied over from my notes.  I'm sure you understand.  : )

Tues Dec. 1:  quarters, 25 days (as Dec. 1 above).
Wed Dec. 2: candy or toy
Thurs dec 3: paper plate angel craft, (read Angel appears to Mary)
friday dec 4: window suncatcher christmas tree craft.  Fold black paper in half lengthwise.  Cut along open edge to resemble one side of a Christmas tree.  Leave paper tree folded in half and punch numerous holes all over tree.  Unfold tree.  On one side, glue assorted colors of tissue paper over holes.  Turn tree over.  Finish decorating with glue and glitter to make garland scallops.  Add a yellow construction paper star on top.
saturday dec 5: birthday candle, matt 5 light of world (as Dec 5 above)
sunday dec : stickers
monday dec 7: read census, journey, birth; do envelope manger craft
tuesday dec 8: read shepherds & angels, do nativity craft
wed dec 9: read wise men, make star w/ pipe cleaners or sticks & wire & paint
thurs dec 10: paint a rock; matt 4 (as dec 19 above)
fri dec 11: book
sat dec 12: stickers
sunday dec 13: bubble bath, john 9 (as dec. 10 above)
mon dec 14: snow globe craft
tues dec 15: dove, read baptism
wed dec 16: book
thurs dec 17: pine cone angel (glue feathers and a halo on a pine cone)
fri dec 18: read fishers of men; goldfish crackers
sat dec 19: read wedding at cana, flowers (silk or real?)
sunday dec 20: book
monday dec 21: candy
tues dec 22: stickers
wed dec 23: candy or toy
thur dec 24: candy

We'll see if I make it through as scheduled...this is way more crafty than I usually am.  If it makes me busy and crazy it will be the opposite of my goal and will have to change.  Gotta go put some quarters in bag #`1!


mandi said...

that is a really cute calendar. i like it on the hutch.

i also like that you are actually doing devotionals with it. seems like so many advent calendars are just about gifts and whatnot...

Homemaker, MD said...

LOVE all this about advent, great quotes. we are celebrating it too and am enjoying doing the calendar at our house too. thanks so much for posting all this!!

Hendrick Family said...

Loved reading all this! The quotes are wonderful. I have come back several times to read them slowly. Those are the kinds you savor!

Such a cute advent calendar!