Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unto us a Child is Born

The weekend of First Advent is always a bit of a whirlwind for our family, because we usually celebrate American Thanksgiving on the Friday or Saturday before and then turn around on Sunday to re-decorate for Advent. Remembering all the things we are thankful for is actually a great prelude to Advent, but I have to mentally switch gears fast to begin some of our Advent traditions.  I don't stress out if I don't have everything out for the first Sunday of Advent (I never do!), but I do try to have our Advent candles and one Advent calendar ready to go. 

After our Thanksgiving celebration on Friday, I ended up with a cold on Saturday and had to cancel some plans outside of the house. That turned out to be a blessing, because the children and I put together our Advent candles. 

We made four Advent candles out of beeswax plates and decided to place a Christmas candle in the center, which we've never done before. It will be nice to have a special candle to light on Christmas Eve. 


If you have read my blog before, you will probably recognize the Advent calendar below. My children are now 9 and 12 years old and have sadly out-grown some of their other Advent calendars, but they still treasure this one. 

Each year I set it up a little differently. This time, I used my purple and white underlay (from the Godly Play story "Faces of Easter") to distinguish the journey from the arrival. The 24 stones and seashells representing each day are from a very special family vacation that we were able to enjoy earlier in the year. 

The prophets point the shepherd and the sheep in the direction of Bethlehem. Usually it's the Three Kings making the journey here, but we used the shepherds this time.

Mary, Joseph and the little donkey await the baby who will appear on Christmas Eve. 

On each Sunday of Advent, we have a simple family tradition. We gather at the table and light the appropriate Advent candle and read a passage of Scripture having to do with the theme of that Sunday. Today, we focused on one of  prophets, who showed the people long ago, as well as us now, the way to Bethlehem. We turned out all the lights and I read Isaiah 9:2 about the people who've walked in darkness seeing a great light. Then, my daughter lit the first candle. We wondered together about how darkness can be a metaphor for separation from God. 

Then, we copied Isaiah 9:6 into our prayer journals. (My kids really don't like to sit still unless they are doing something, so the writing keeps them engaged!) 

For to 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, Prince of Peace.

Then, we wondered together about which name of Jesus we liked best in this passage and why. Afterwards, my husband had us listen to the part of Handel's Messiah, where the choir sings this verse. 

I hope that your First Advent was peaceful and joyful, but even if it wasn't, you can still make the journey to Bethlehem this year. And you can take comfort in knowing that it most certainly wasn't peaceful for Mary Joseph so many years ago.

Happy First Advent!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Getting Ready

My dear friend and co-teacher in the Godly Play after-school clubs, Melinda, recently told me a story about a recent visit to another church. At the end of the regular service, the pastor quickly transitioned things into a communion service without giving her much time to switch gears and get ready for it. As a result, she felt a bit rushed and jolted. I laughed and said, "It's Godly Play! We've spent the last 6 years teaching children to 'get ready', so they can fully experience what God has for them. It's in your blood now!"

Next week, she and I will begin "getting ready" to experience the mystery of Christmas with a group of 14 children at Advent Club. And this week, we've been getting us and everything else ready for the after-school club to begin. : )

I don't think I'll ever get tired of accompanying children on their Advent journey. I need to see things through their eyes and hear with their ears as much as they need to see and hear what I have to show them. Hand-in-hand we come closer to the mystery of the living God being born into our world as baby. 

With the backdrop of the recent events in Paris and the many homeless families from Syria seeking refuge in our city, we need more than ever to come close to this mystery and be saturated with hope and love. 

May your Advent wherever you are be blessed!