By having a purposeful and intentional Advent, it is possible to still enjoy Christmas when it comes around, and not be ready to call it over on December 26th!
The Why Behind Glitter & Glue
Advent or Christmas Craft day celebrations are joyfully awaited each year. How can we reframe our experience to include the glitter and glue and community-building, but do so safely? Remembering the “why” will help you and your congregation spend meaningful time together, learning and celebrating Advent together.
We celebrate Advent to help us prepare for the gift of Christmas, for the coming of joy, peace and love in the birth of Jesus, the Christ. Celebrating that joy, love and peace with throw-back crafts and activities is an antidote to the greedy, must-have-more message that our consumer culture brings to this time.
Crafts, Food…and Celebration
A great Advent celebration for families will have three aspects…crafts, food, and celebrations.
There are some overlaps – food might be used for the celebration, a craft can involve food, and more. Above all, the crafts, food and celebration should reflect the joy and peace that Christmas should bring to us.
As the organizer, your job is to collect ideas, materials, and assist families in finding time to participate, and then helping them share with their entire congregation.
If doing it as individual families, you can plan to do it apart but together by scheduling a certain weekend and if possible, providing some of the supplies. However, you can also give the information to families and allow them to celebrate on their own schedules and timeframes.
One great idea is to intentionally set out to incorporate Scripture, prayer and celebration in our days and weeks of Advent. Using an Advent Wreath and an Advent devotional is a great way to see the coming of the Christ Child as more than just one day in December. You can find resources and background information on Building Faith or you can adapt this one from the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand.
One way to look at this is to start with a scripture or a theme, which could help you discern which ones you’d like to use, or spark your imagination to include others not listed here.
Waiting/ Preparing – ““The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:5-6)”
“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3
Isaiah 9: 6-7 And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Paper Chains – Count the number of days until Christmas. Make that number of strips of different colored paper, or even just regular paper if that is all that is available. Divide the strips among family members evenly or as appropriate. On each strip have someone write or draw something that they love about Advent/Christmas. Make a chain with the writing on the inside, and then each morning, take turns opening a chain and talking about what is inside! Every so often, think about someone in the Bible who had to wait. Abraham, Sarah, Naomi, David, and of course Mary! Wonder together about why they had to wait, and what they might have learned in the waiting time. What can we learn while we wait for Christmas to arrive? Why does Advent help us to do that?
Preparing for Christ’s coming
Window Clings – Create a mixture of 2 TBLS of white glue, 2 drops of dish soap together and add food coloring. You might want to divide your mixture, or make several batches and add a different color to each. Your “canvas” is a plastic page protector (you could also use a gallon Ziploc bag as well) . If you have young children, you may want to lay a template or design underneath the page protector. Using a paintbrush, use the glue mixture to paint an Advent/Christmas design. When dry, peel from the paper and place on a sunny window! Wonder together about why we decorate our houses for Christmas. What is the meaning behind our Christmas symbols (you could look up Chrismons and other sites about Christmas decorations) ? Each person could talk about what decoration brings the most joy to them.
The coming of Christ – The Light of the World
Matthew 2:10-11, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned
Stars – Create a star out of paper- heavy paper or construction paper- there are templates available online, or cut your own! Tear up small pieces of tissue paper. Cover the star with glue and as you crumple a piece of tissue, place it on the star. If the youngest members can’t manage the crinkle part, just have them place small pieces of tissue on the star. It will still look wonderful! A great tie in to scripture would be to talk about Abraham and the stars, and the star of Bethlehem. Wonder together about why God chose to use stars to show hope. What do we think of when we see the stars? What are we hoping for? Need a Christmas movie? Veggie Tales “The Star that saved Christmas” or The movie “The STAR” might be good choices.
The JOY of Christ
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
“Shout for joy, daughter Zion! . . . The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst” (Zep 3:14, 15).
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14).
Isaiah 52: 7-8
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Poinsettas – Poinsettas have lovely traditions around them, and your children may enjoy the story by Tomie De Poala, The Legend of the Poinsetta. For supplies, you’ll want two kitchen sponges, red and green paint, and a piece of heavy paper. To make poinsettas, cut leaf shapes (think ovals with pointy ends) out of ordinary kitchen sponges. Dip them into the paint and then on the paper. Do the green shapes first, and then do the red paint on top. For the center, you can use a piece of yellow paper to decorate, or even a dash of glitter! One legend about this flower is that two poor children wanted to decorate the creche scene at their church, but all they had were wildflowers/weeds to bring. Instead, God turned their gift into a beautiful flower. What gifts do we bring to God? How do we show the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives during Advent (and always!) Why not look up Galatians 5:22-23 and read together the gifts the Holy Spirit brings to us?
Why not have a Christmas Tea? Eating together is a wonderful way to celebrate our family in Christ. Talk about the times we see people eating together in the Bible. From the Angels in the tent, to the disciples on the beach, eating is an important part of our spiritual connection to each other. Ask each other who they might invite (if possible) to have tea with you. Wonder together, for fun, who they would ask to share a meal from the Bible.
Make a batch of Christmas Spice Tea. This is a great “retro” tea to have on hand, and even to put in a pretty jar and give as a gift!
2 – 27 oz. Jars of Tang Orange Drink
12 oz. Lemonade dry mix
1 cup Instant Tea
2 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon Ground Cloves
2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together. Use 2 to 3 Tablespoons per mug of hot water to enjoy!
Make it a celebration by baking (or buying!) your favorite cookies or treats. Make it extra special by making your favorite sandwiches on very thin bread and cutting into fancy shapes. Or even just cut into triangles and cut off the crust! Bread and butter sandwiches work well for this, or even fun fillings like jam, cucumber or pimento cheese are all great tea sandwiches!
Have your tea at the table (maybe bring out the fancy Christmas dishes!) or spread a tablecloth on the floor and have an Advent picnic!
Decorate the Table: Why not make some great placemats for your Advent and Christmas dinners?
Take a piece of paper – legal size if you have it, construction paper or printer paper if you don’t, and allow your kids to decorate it with crayons, markers, stickers, or even cut up pieces of wrapping paper! This is a great craft to do for each other as members of you family, but also for those who aren’t with you – easy to drop off on a porch or to mail to far away family/friends. Older kids or youth may enjoy creating a mosaic type design, while younger kids may just need some simple outlines to get them started. Of course, freestyle is amazing as well!
Need an activity at your Tea?
Easy Gingerbread houses – Using a paper plate as a base, use graham crackers and frosting to create simple gingerbread houses- the simplest being two graham crackers leaning up together making an ‘A” shape. Using frosting, decorate the outsides with candy (whatever is handy!)
Sing some carols!
If your family knows them, you can sing along to your favorite music and play your favorites. If your family isn’t as familiar, there are some fun online sites you can explore: http://the-north-pole.com/carols/, https://www.tistheseasonto.be/, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC0mpeaGXhc&app=desktop, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF_KkO2UcGA
Whatever you offer your families, and whatever timeframe they choose to participate, be sure to give them the opportunity to share their celebrations. Providing a social media outlet to post pictures of completed crafts or events is a great way to encourage participation and generate excitement. Use social media to post pictures of completed crafts or the prepared food, have a zoom singalong for carols, or even do a drive by Advent Parade.
Anne Louise Harrington Shelton is a family minister, curriculum writer, and mother of 3 grown sons. She is eagerly awaiting the Holy Spirit to indicate where she should bloom next.