Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Quick Advent Study

Although I had hoped to have my own prepared study to share this year I have not gotten it typed up sooooo I thought I would share this quick online version of one of the Studies we have done in the past. I actually can't find the one we own but this is a good starting point for a family study.


A Blessed Christmas

by Karen Caroe

INTRODUCTION
Every year from December 1 - January 6, we do a unit study about Christmas. This is one of the many we have done. This unit study is about the Symbols of Christmas. Every Christmas symbol ought to point to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our entire focus for this season is on Christ, His character, our service to Him, and our opportunity to spread His light to others.
RESOURCES
Celebrate With Joy by Sondra Burnett (1992)
THE UNIT
The following are the symbols we use, the scripture we study and the activities we do. You don't have to do them in this order. I change them around to accommodate our schedules and each Sunday of Advent, etc.
1) THE ADVENT WREATH--The circle of the wreath reminds us of God's eternal love for us. The 4 candles on the wreath are for each Sunday before Christmas. The center candle is for Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We do both. The lighting of the candles each week causes the light to grow brighter as the birth of Christ approaches.
Bible: Luke 2:19
Discuss the need for a quieter, slower season to think about the truths of God's word. Decide--as a family--how you can slow down, focus on Christ, and not get overwhelmed withe the "hustle and bustle"
Do: Make an Advent Wreath. We make ours out of greenery--real or artificial. The green reminds us that Christ lives forever and comes to give us that opportunity for eternal life.

2)BELLS--I love bells because they are so joyful sounding. In times past, churches were forbidden to ring bells to call people to worship. This is true in some countries even today.
Bible: Psalm 100
Discuss whether or not you ring the joyful news of Christ. or are you a noisy gong.
Do: There are many activities to do with bells. My children like to tie them onto ribbon and string them on the tree. We also like to make necklaces with them and sew them into the hem of our Christmas dresses. Collect all the bells in your house and see if you can '"play" a song with them.

3)CARDS--We enjoy getting Christmas Cards. Looking at the pictures and reading the sentiments. We also like to send cards that state clearly our belief about the preciousness of Christmas.
Bible: Luke 2:13-14
Discuss the possibility of these verses being the first "Christmas Card Greeting." Are our Christmas greetings patterned after this one. Should it be?
Do: Make Christmas cards for your friends and send them. Or make them for each member of your family. Also, each time you gather around the Advent Wreath--daily or weekly--read the cards you have received and pray for the sender and their family.

4) ST.NICHOLAS--look up in encyclopedia. This is NOT Santa Claus. Our children do not believe in Santa Claus and we have never pretended he was real. We do however teach them about the true Nicholas of Myra (Turkey) who loved God and gave to others without expecting anything in return. His example of giving should characterize our lives all year.
Bible: Philippians 2:1-11
Discuss: What should be our attitude toward others and how can we--as a family--show forth that attitude at Christmas? Be specific. Make a plan and do it.
Do: Choose a family, widow, shut-in, etc and secretly give them a small gift "from someone who loves you" each week of advent. ( Fruit, poinsettia, hand-made ornament, card--etc.) Then go and visit them on the 4th Sunday or Christmas Eve/Day.
Do: Exchange names in your family. Keep it a secret. Do nice things for that person throughout the season. (Make their bed. Take on a chore. Leave them a note, etc.)

5) GIFTS--God sent His son and that's the greatest gift of all. Gifts also represent the significant gifts of the Magi. If they don't show our love for our family or friend, then they shouldn't be given.
Bible: Matthew 2:10-11
Discuss: The wise men Worshipped Christ BEFORE giving gifts to him. We need to be sure worship comes before the shopping and giving of gifts. How can this be done?
Do: Wrap a box and put a slit in the top. Have family members decide how they can add $ to the box during the season. At the end of Epiphany (Jan. 6) or at Christmas--give the box to the church or a mission.
Do: Watch a video or listen to a radio drama or read "The Gift of the Magi."

6) ORNAMENTS--The very first tree ornaments were a display of God's provision to his people. Apples, cookies, etc. Also, candles to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.
Bible: Read James1:17
Discuss: What good gifts God has given you.
Do: Make ornaments that represent God's blessings. Or, make a small Christmas notebook that shows pictures of what God has given you, or make a Christmas banner that displays God's blessings to you.

7) CHRISTMAS TREE -- symbolizes that our God is eternal and we have eternal life through His Son when we put our trust in him.
Bible: Luke 2:52; IIPeter 3:17-18
Discuss: How do we "grow" as Jesus did?
Do: Put up your Christmas tree but enjoy it for a day or so before you put ornaments on it. Reflect upon its meaning. Then, plan what ornaments will show forth your faith and add to the tree throughout the season.

8) CANDLES -- Our home glows with light during this time of the year to remind us that Jesus came as the Light of the World.
Bible: Matthew 5:14-16; John 8:12
Discuss: How we can let others know that Jesus is the Light of the World. How can we show that light?
Do: Gather up different light sources and show how they work. What is brightest, most convenient, etc. (This is a home-school project.) Go into bathroom or dark closet. Show how a single little light clears out the darkness. Refer back to John 1.
Do: Plan some kind of 'outreach' for the season. Either taking the light to others or inviting them into your home.
Do: For homeschool, make some molded candles or rolled beeswax candles as gifts.

9) WREATHS -- We keep at least one wreath up in our home all year. The circle of the wreath is eternal. No beginning or end. That is the same as God's love for us.
Bible: John 3:16
Discuss: What things in your home are made with a circle. Find what qualities of God can be symbolized by a circle.
Do: For home-schoolers, use the circle to teach shapes, the numeral zero, practicing writing the "o" letter and learn it's sounds.
Do: Make a wreath to hang in your home. Give a wreath to someone.

10) HOLLY -- My favorite symbol. The holly leaves represent the crown of thorns that Christ wore. The berries represent his blood and the evergreen color is for eternal life. This is the "completion" of the Christmas story.
Bible: II Corinthians 8:9; Hebrews 12:2
Discuss: Everything Jesus went through because of his love for us.
Do: Place some holly around your nativity scene to remind you of the "whole" story.
Do: Make this great recipe: 1 stick of butter, melted in a large pot with some marshmallows--kind of like making Krispie Treats. Add A LOT of green food coloring. When you have a nice green color, remove from heat and stir in about 6 cups of corn flakes. They need to be all covered with the green mixture. Put them out in "clumps" on wax paper and stick a red hot in the middle of each clump. Let them cool. Store in fridge in airtight container. Use to decorate your holiday plate or add to goodie boxes. You will not believe how many compliments you will get on this. If possible, place a little note with them telling about the holly symbol for Christmas.

11) POINSETTIA -- The poinsettia has a lovely history. It was first called "The Flower of the Holy Night" because a Mexican legend tells of a little boy who had nothing to give the baby Jesus. As he prayed, a flower grew at his feet. He quickly picked it and gave it to Jesus. We have the name today because of a man named Poinsett--the American ambassador to Mexico--who is given credit for introducing it to the US.
Bible: Matthew 6:28-30
Discuss: How God has shown his loving care through the beauty of creation.
Do: See how many scriptures you can find that refer to Jesus as a flower.
Do: Get a poinsettia for your home or give one to a shut in to enjoy.
Do: For homeschool, spend a couple of days finding out how Christmas is celebrated among Christians in Mexico. Learn to say, "Feliz Navidad."

12) SHEPHERD'S STAFF -- We call it a candy cane. But truly it is a shepherd's staff. The colors symbolize the blood and purity of Christ. If you can find the ones that also have green in them, that represents eternal life.
Bible: Psalm 23:1-5
Discuss: Jesus as our shepherd
Do: Hang candy canes on your tree. We do this every year and we never call them 'candy canes' anymore. When people come to visit, we ask them to take a shepherd's staff off of our tree. Then we tell them why we call it that and what the colors mean. It is a beautiful, non-offensive way, to share your faith with others.

13) X-MAS -- I grew up being told that this was the
way to take Christ out of Christmas but actually that is not correct. It is part of the Chi-Rho cross which is the ancient Christian symbol formed by the Greek letters X (Chi) and P (Rho). These are the first 2 letters of Christ's name in Greek. X-MAS really means "celebration of Christ."
Bible: Luke 1:30-33
Discuss: Why would people want to take Christ out of Christmas? How can our family be sure to keep Christ in all the celebrations?
Do: Make a Chi-Rho cross out of poster board. Cut it out, spread with glue, sprinkle with glitter.
Do: For home school. Learn to write the Greek Alphabet. Look in a Greek New Testament. See if you can copy a short verse. Learn to say the Greek Alphabet. Why was the New Testament written in Greek? Also, check out how Christians in Greece celebrate Christmas.

14) CAROLS -- Most carols are were poems that were later put to music. A carol is a song that tells of Jesus' birth. "O Holy Night" is a carol. "Jingle Bells" is not a carol--it is a song.
Bible: Psalm 33:1-3
Discuss: What does God think about the praises of his children? What other verses tell us to praise and how to praise?
Do: Learn all the verses to a new Christmas Carol or an old favorite. Break into teams and play "Charades" with the titles of Christmas Carols. Make up your own Christmas Carol.
Do: For Homeschool, write a poem that could be used as a Christmas Carol.

15) CAROLERS--Legend has it that the first American carolers were a group of Huron Indians who gathered around a manger scene to sing songs. Later, groups of carolers would sing at homes which had a candle in the window.
Bible: Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16
Discuss: How do these verses apply to celebration of the Advent?
Do: Organize a caroling party.

16) STAR--God proclaimed his truth in creation by lighting up the heavens with a star that announced the birth of Christ the King.
Bible: Look up scriptures that show other ways God has revealed himself through creation.
Do: For homeschool, study stars. What are they? What are some of the constellations?
Do: Make star ornament(s) for your tree.
Do: Make cookies shaped like stars.

17) MANGER SCENE--Supposedly St. Francis of Assisi had such a desire to have been present at the birth of Christ, that he re-created the scene.
Bible: Luke 2:6-7
Discuss: Where were you born? What were the surroundings? How do they compare to those of Jesus? What would you think about Jesus if he had been born in a palace? Why was he born in a stable?
Do: Begin making your own nativity scene. Make it as a banner or as a set. There are many patterns, cutouts, etc. available.

18) ANGELS -- God's messengers were the first to announce the birth of the Christ child. Also, at this time of the year especially, be open to hospitality for you never know when you may "entertain angels unawares."
Bible: Hebrews 13:1-2
Discuss: How do we serve God by practicing hospitality? Who in the Bible "entertained" angels?
Do: Decide as a family how you will be God's messengers at Christmas. Make a plan to help others who aren't as fortunate as you are.

19) BABY IN THE MANGER--The Christ child. Our purpose for celebrating.
Bible: Luke 2:7; 11-12
Discuss: Why did God decide to put His son in a feed trough?
Do: Make a poster or banner with the different names of Jesus.
Do: For homeschool write and design a "birth announcement" for the baby Jesus.

20) MARY--The mother of Jesus.
Bible: Luke 1:26-38, 46-56
Discuss: List the qualities of Mary you believe she had that caused God to choose her to be the Mother of His Son.
Do: Put Mary in your nativity scene.

21) JOSEPH--The earthly father of Jesus.
Bible: Matthew 1:18-2:23
Discuss: Why God thought Joseph would be a good husband and father.
Do: Add Joseph to the nativity scene.

22) SHEPHERDS -- The first to "hear" of the birth.
Bible: Psalm 68:10; Psalm 74:21b; James 2:5
Discuss: The 2 "classes" of visitors that came to see Jesus. What can we learn from each group?
Do: Make shepherds to add to your nativity. Lean a shepherd's staff against the stable to remind you of this symbol.

23) LAMBS--Symbolic because we picture them as being with the Shepherds who came to see Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb of God and he came to redeem his lambs (us).
Bible: Luke 2:8, 15-16; John 1:29; John 10:14-15
Discuss: What are the qualities of sheep?
Do: Add sheep to your manger.
Do: Make some sheep ornaments for your tree.
Do: Bake some cut-out sheep cookies.
Do: For homeschool, find out more about sheep and shepherding. Where in the world is that still done today? What are some wool products?

24) WISE MEN -- These were men who studied the stars and prophecies looking for signs of God's promised Saviour. The gifts they brought were prophetic of Christ's life on earth.
Bible: Proverbs 9:10, 16:16; James 1:5
Discuss: What is the opposite of wisdom? How can we grow wise? as parents. as children. Decide what areas of life you can work on to help you grow wiser.
Do: Make replicas of the gifts brought to Jesus. Put them on your tree. Find out why each gift was significant.



A NOTE ON CHRISTMAS EVE/DAY
We, in our family, work very hard to maintain a "ritual" of traditions. Some are from the way my dh and I were raised, some we began with our own children. I believe in these volatile times that the focus of Satan's battles is the breakdown of the family. Traditions serve to strengthen and solidify the ties of children to their parents and to the past generations. They also prepare the ground for strong relationships when your children have children. We must not weaken our greatest defense in the spiritual battles around us--the family. We ALWAYS keep a few of the traditions every year. Sometimes, we try something new. We don't know if it will become a tradition until the next year. I encourage you to celebrate Christmas Eve and Day with traditions that have been or will continue to be in your family for years to come. God was the first to establish "traditions" for His people, Israel, because He knew the strength in teaching His ways to our children and our children's children.
THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
Traditionally, Christmas celebrations didn't begin until a couple of days before Christmas and they continued until the Epiphany (January 6). The 12 Days of Christmas begin on December 26. Many families do not even open gifts until the Epiphany.

Here are some suggestions from activities we have done. (For homeschoolers, we do not homeschool at all during this time. It is our big break)
1) Each night focus on a different Christmas Carol. Ending with We Three Kings. See if you can find a carol book that will give you information about the origin and history of the carols.

2) On the 1st night (Dec.26) give 1 small gift to someone. The next night give 2 gifts to the same person or 1 gift to 2 different people. Continue this through 12 nights. (Tree ornaments, homemade cookies, candies, tracts, gift booklets, bookmarks, etc.)

3) Have a 12th night party and give small gifts to your guests.

4) Each night, move the wisemen of your nativity set closer and closer to the manger. ( We all know they didn't come to the manger but it's the idea that they progressed toward the Christ Child)
CONCLUSION
It is my sincere prayer that this unit study will minister to your family in a special way this year. Perhaps giving you new ideas for traditions or allowing you to see the symbols of Christmas in a new light. I pray you all have a blessed and spirit-filled Christmas this year. God Bless You!

  

Blessings to you and your homes,
 

2 comments:

gotjoy3 said...

Gae,

Oh, thank you som uch for sharing this. I am so excited to incorporate this. Blessings.

Gae said...

Dear Chrissy,
Glad it was of use to you
Blessings
Gae

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