Celebrate with Joy: Week 1

christmas joy

Image by ishane

What is Christmas? It is not a winter festival. It is not the inevitable annual energy drain. It is not a few holidays to give us a break. It is not a time to fill our children’s heads with “visions of sugar plums.”

Christmas is a season of holy days (the original meanings of “holidays”), filled with rich symbolism. It is a many sided object lesson using the Symbols of the Season to give us glimpses of heaven’s glory. It is a time to fill our children’s heads with “visions of God’s incomparable Gift.” Christmas is profound truth wrapped in plain packages.

What are some of these profound truths? Eternity in an infant. Heaven’s bridge in a baby. The God-man in a manger. Every man’s hope wrapped in homespun handiwork. Enough material for a lifetime of meditation.

celebrate-with-joy-coverThese are some of the opening thoughts in the book Celebrate with Joy: Transform Your Christmas Season by my dear friend, Sondra Burnett. Many years ago, when her girls were still young (her four lovely, homeschooled daughters are now grown) she had a vision to write a book that would encourage and equip families to transform their Christmas from a time of frazzled (and often meaningless) activity into a time of meditation, family togetherness, special memories and most of all, growing in understanding of and love for the magnificent God who came to earth to become a sacrifice for all.

This year, I have decided to use Sondra’s book in order to learn some unique ways to teach our children about the meaning of Christmas, and to help our family to celebrate Christmas in a deeper and richer way than ever before! Each Tuesday for the next 5 weeks, I will be sharing something from the book that I have gleaned or that we are doing as a family. For those who would love to have a resource like this for your own family, I will also be selling copies of Sondra’s book (more on that in a minute).

Chapter 2: Advent… With Your Family

This chapter is just brimming with different ways to celebrate the season of Advent, which typically lasts from Nov.30 until Dec.24 (some traditions begin it slightly earlier). Sondra notes that “Advent preparations put our Christmas celebrations into proper perspective. Observing Advent causes us to take the time to spiritually prepare ourselves and grow into the joy of Christmas.”

Here are a few of her ideas:

advent wreath with candles

Image by Collin Anderson

Advent Wreath- The wreath is a popular and familiar symbol of advent, with 4 candles to be lit throughout the 4 weeks of advent. It is meant to give us a focal point and to be used during times of worship and adoration. Many churches include an advent wreath in their service or somewhere at the front of the church, and having one in your own home is a wonderful way to make advent more tangible. Wreaths are traditionally made of evergreens, with 3 purple candles and 1 pink candle (though you can use any color you like). However, there are many different options- a decorated styrofoam wreath, an artificial evergreen wreath, even a bread dough wreath, or you could simple make your own with fresh evergreen boughs. I have a wreath made up of small branches of wood, woven together. I am going to decorate it with sprigs of evergreen and put candle holders in its center. A large candle can also be placed in the center to light on Christmas day.

Advent Devotions

There are so many possible variations, but here are a few that Sondra offers:

1) Use your Advent wreath with the traditional 4 candles, and each week, have a special family devotional time where you light one additional candle per week (1 the first week, 2 the second week, and so on).

2) If you are starting late or the month has become busier than intended, you can use the wreath each day for 7 days, during the week that precedes Christmas.To use this variation, you might like to use 7 candles instead of the traditional 4.

3) Another option is to use 24 candles (you may not want to use a wreath, but perhaps set up your 24 candles in a larger display that includes your wreath, perhaps on a side table or the top of a piano). As you follow a daily advent devotion for 24 days, you can light 1 new candle each day. You could also include your nativity scene in a display like this.

sunday-advent-devotional

Celebrate with Joy includes a wide variety of Advent month devotionals to choose from:

  • 4 slightly longer family devotions for use with your wreath, to be done each Sunday leading up until Christmas
  • Advent activities: a traveling advent calendar (for those who will be on holidays for much of the time), an advent chain (a paper link chain that is hung up somewhere prominent, and each day you remove one link to show that Christ’s birth is approaching), advent chain memory verses (writing one memory verse and decorating each link on the chain), using an advent calendar (that you open daily) as a way to remember to pray for some specific people during this season, making an advent scrapbook or spiritual journal, etc… so many unique ways to add to this special time!
  • Advent daily devotions. There are two different plans included, each of which has 24 devotions: 1) Names of Jesus and 2) Symbols of the Season. Short and simple, these offer verses to read, questions to discuss, objects for an object lesson, or an activity to do.

Personally, instead of the Jesse Tree that we did last year, we are going to try something different and instead use the Names of Jesus daily devotional, which includes a few verses and a simple object lesson. I am going to create a Names of Jesus Garland with the names from the devotional, and we can add a new name to our garland each day.

names-of-jesus-advent-devos

For those looking for some devotionals to begin with their family right away, here are a few links to some that I have found online (and please note that I have not been able to go through each one and check for sound doctrine, so be discerning as you select one!):

  • Over @ Kitchen Stewardship, Katie is putting up an Advent Daily Dose, which will be “a very short reflection, encouragement, lesson or challenge for you to read every weekday of Advent.” As well, her first daily dose included a couple of links to Jesse Tree devotionals available (free) online.
  • Last year I posted on doing a Jesse Tree, and in the post I linked to where you can purchase a wonderful ebook of devotions as well as simple paper ornament cutouts.
  • Family Jesse Tree Devotions @ Reformed Church in America website

Better yet, you can purchase Sondra’s book, Celebrate with Joy: Transform Your Christmas Season for only $24.95 US including shipping!

Celebrate with Joy is a 192-page spiral bound book that includes:

  • Advent resources, as discussed above
  • Symbols of the Season- their meanings, how to use them
  • A look at Christmas traditions- their value, ones worth keeping, how we can plan to establish unique family traditions
  • Gala Gatherings- meaningful Christmas parties and get-togethers, including ideas for evangelism as well
  • Grateful Giving and Gifts From the Heart
  • The Twelve Nights of Christmas- celebrating from December 25-January 6 (a lesser known Christian holiday called Epiphany)
  • More Than Just Recipes

Books can be purchased through my site only, and will be sent directly to you as quickly as we can get them out so that you can still use them for as much of the Christmas season as possible! Supplies are limited, so if you’d like to get one, make sure to place your order quickly.

How will your family be celebrating Advent? Any other creative wreath ideas?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. For the past five years my husband and I have read and reread the devotional, “Preparing My Heart for Advent”, by Anne Marie Stewart. While it’s designed to be a women’s devotional, it really isn’t gender specific. There are daily readings from November 1st through January 6th, and each year we glean something new from Anne Marie’s in-depth studies. Christ’s birth becomes nearer and dearer to our hearts with each passing day of the Advent season, and our eyes have been opened afresh to the beautiful way all of Scripture is tied together.

  2. I think my comment got flagged as spam because it contained an URL…oh well :) Loved the post!
    .-= Mrs. Taft´s last blog ..Unconventional Advent Wreath =-.

  3. I love this post :) Here’s what I did for our advent wreath this year:
    http://tinyurl.com/y8vnalu
    .-= Mrs. Taft´s last blog ..Unconventional Advent Wreath =-.

  4. I love this time of year! We are celebrating Advent by the lighting of the candles and special time to focus on Christ on Sunday evenings. Also, every day of December I do a giving activity with the children to teach them the meaning of Christmas, God’s love, serving others and gratitude. We call it the 25 Days of Giving. I’ve been writing about it on my blog and I’m excited that this year it is a bit viral!
    .-= Andrea ´s last blog ..25 Days of Giving Kick-Off =-.

  5. I bought this book YEARS ago and have done the Names of Jesus many times. This year I printed them on paper chain links and we take one down each day to learn. I have six kids and three are married and those kids were home when we started using this book. Now the younger three have joined in the traditions. I would highly recommend getting this books.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  6. I was wondering, do your kids believe in Santa Claus? I’m struggling with whether or not I want my daughter (almost 3) to believe in Santa or not. Your thoughts?

    • @Kate, No, our kids don’t believe in Santa Claus. We don’t mind if the topic of Santa comes up or if a book mentions him, but we’re very upfront about the fact that Santa is not real, is just a made-up story, and that Santa and gifts are not the point of Christmas, but rather Christ is! With gifts, we make the focus more on blessing and loving each other by thoughtfully giving gifts instead of trying to pretend that they magically come from Santa or wherever. This way they learn about giving to others, they’re not disappointed when they learn the truth, and they don’t get hung up on the gift aspect of Christmas.

      Personally, I really don’t think it’s a necessary thing to teach our kids about and can even be detrimental to how we celebrate important holidays like Christmas (or Easter, with the Easter Bunny, etc.). We want our celebrations to remain pure and focused on why they are truly important, and not to get watered down with the godless ways that our culture celebrates them.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    This is a great book! I bought it from Sondra at our state homeschool convention a couple of years ago. She is a joy herself! I also appreciate her ideas on Halloween alternatives (more of a Reformation Day type celebration that includes young people learning about a hero of the faith & then dressing up like them & presenting their life).

  8. THis book sounds great! I wish they were available for longer though since I always have to save up (would take me several months…it would have to be used next year I guess) for something like this.

    We don’t have any plans on ways to celebrate, we’ve been trying to figure this all out. Thank you for sharing what you are doing!

  9. You are always on top of what us mommy’s are thinking of. Thank you for your timely posts–advent, coffee, onions, etc. they are so relevent. I linked to your Jesse Tree post of last year. Thought I’d mention that we simply use a barren branch from a decidious tree and stick it in a pottery jug. It is free and creates a lovely effect once the bare sparse branch becomes full of the ornaments which we cut out of felt.

  10. I just found your blog and love it. Thank you for being a “natural, down-to-earth” mommy that keeps things Christ-centered. It’s a breath of fresh air and I appreciate being able to glean from the wisdom that you share.

  11. Sounds like a great book…I will check it out! Today, I posted about the Jesse Tree…it’s like the advent candle but very kid friendly!

    Great post…
    Sandy Toe
    .-= sandy toe´s last blog ..Our {Jesse} tree-Tradition For the "heart" =-.