Thursday, November 15, 2012


Many years ago our family found the delightful and unexpected discovery of celebrating Advent. Advent, which means " a coming" or "any important arrival" begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is a time of celebrating the birth of Christ by reading Scripture, praying, singing or the incorporation of music, and the lighting of the Advent wreath. It is a celebration rich in tradition and symbolism.
The Advent wreath originated with the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic people who, during cold winter nights, gathered boughs of evergreen and lighted fires as a sign of hope for the coming spring. By the 16th century, Protestants were using similar displays of light to announce their faith in Christ, who is the symbol of everlasting light. The wreaths circular shape reminds us of God's eternity and His endless mercy, which have no beginning or end (Luke 1:33). The evergreen tells us that Jesus brings eternal life (John 3:16). The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His Son. With the lighting of the last candle, the circle is complete, just as we are complete in Christ.

The traditional candles are three purple (or blue) which symbolize the royalty of Christ (John 19:2-3) and the hope, peace and joy found in Him, one rose (or red) which symbolizes love, and one white candle which symbolizes the purity of our Lord (Rev. 19:8). The first candle is lit on the first Sunday of the Advent season and another each Sunday until all the candles on the ring are lit. The white Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to burn brightly with the other candles. Each lighting is traditionally accompanied by a Scripture reading.Many families place the Advent wreath on the dining room table and begin their Sunday dinner with an Advent celebration, enjoying the burning of the candles while they eat. At the conclusion of each Advent celebration, the candles are extinguished.

While there are many interpretations of the candles and colors of the Advent wreath, you should tailor this celebration to your family by selecting appropriate Scriptures and songs to help your family and friends understand the significance of each candle. This celebration is a wonderful way to keep your focus on the real meaning of Christmas by taking the time to quietly draw away from all the busy activity and purposefully focusing on why we are celebrating. This is also a wonderful teaching tool for your children to learn the true meaning of Christmas.  Please feel free to copy or print this celebration outline for your use.

Here is a simple outline for celebrating Advent:

Evergreen wreath, real or artificial
3 purple or blue candles
1 rose or red candle
1 white candle
candle holders for each candle

Select appropriate Scriptures and songs, perhaps a Christmas carol or two, that signify each of the symbols below. As you light each candle, read a portion of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Offer a short devotion and end with prayer. Allow family members and guests to be an active part of the celebration by lighting the candles, singing, reading Scripture, or leading in prayer.

Dim the lights, light the candle or candles as directed below, pray, read the passage of Scripture, ask questions relating to the passage if desired, Sing one or two Hymns or Christmas carols, close in prayer, asking God to keep your mind focused on Him during the coming week.

Sunday 1: Light a purple or blue candle. This is the candle of hope, which represents the hope of the coming Messiah. (Example: Isaiah 9:6-7; "O Come, All Ye Faithful")

Sunday 2: Light two purple or blue candles. This is the candle of peace, which represents the peace Christ brought into the world. (Example: Luke 2:1-7; "O Little Town of Bethlehem")

Sunday 3: Light three purple or blue candles. This is the candle of Mary's joy, which represents how Mary felt about being used by God for such a special task. This candle also represents the humility she felt in being chosen to bear the Christ child. (Example: Luke 2:8-14; "Hark the Herald Angels Sing")

Sunday 4: Light the three purple or blue candles and the the rose or red candle. This is the candle of
love, also called the shepherds candle, it stands for God's love and faithfulness. (Example: Luke 2:15-20; "While Shepherds Watched")

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day: Light all the previous candles and then light the white candle in the center. This is the candle of Christ, which symbolizes the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah. (Example: Galatians 4:4-7; "Joy to the World")Indeed, celebrating with and Advent wreath offers the opportunity to deepen the understanding of Christmas and the birth of Christ. Each week, as the number of candles lighted increases and the light burns brighter, we come nearer to the day of Christmas celebration and are reminded that Jesus is truly the Light of the world.

I tailored this idea of celebration to fit our family and incorporated a few other ideas. We rotate what we do each year and this year we decided we wanted to celebrate Advent. Our wreath rests on the table in front of our sofa which is a place we all gather each evening and a place we pass by frequently. I like to have it centrally located in a high traffic area as a visual reminder to help us keep our focus.

We add a few more items besides the candles to slowly build the wreath into a beautiful centerpiece that is complete on Christmas day. It is then transported to the dining table as a centerpiece for our family meals until the New Year begins. The wreath our family makes together brings beauty, light, and truth to the holiday season. As it is intended, this celebration, is a season of devotion, with reference to the coming of Christ in the flesh and to His second coming. In all 39 books of the Old Testament, there is an air of expectancy, hope, and faith. It is my goal to keep these things alive in my heart and in the heart of my family by celebrating Advent.

Since I designed our Advent wreath to have a scene in the center and needed it to be easily moved I made my own form and wreath which is a combination of artificial and real greenery. Our old wreath has seen better days so I had to make a new one this year. Below you will find step by step instructions to make my version.


*Styrofoam, 2 pieces, 1 5/16" thick by 11 7/8" wide and 17 7/8" long
*Toothpicks or Bamboo Skewers
*Craft Glue
*Floral pins
*Felt or fabric (optional)
*Artificial Garland
* Snips of evergreen branches, pine or cedar work well
*Five floral picks
*Artificial poinsettias, I found velvet ones at the Dollar Tree
*One stem of berries
*Thin gold wired ribbon
*20' x 20 square of gold satin fabric
*Straight pins
*5 candle holders
*Candles, I chose to break away from traditional colors and use four gold and one white candle.

*Cut foam into two half circles. Your full circle will need to be about 17" across. To make a cutting
pattern lay piece of foam a sheet of tissue paper and trace around the foam.*Trim excess paper away.*Fold in half matching the 11 7/8" sides and measure up 9", mark, and trim away excess.*Fold into a triangle, bringing the lower right corner up to the upper left corner, making sure the first fold is on the left.*On the fold measure up 9" from the triangle tip, move the ruler slightly keeping the point on the 9" mark and make another tick mark, repeat until you reach the outer edge.*Connect the tick marks and trim away excess.*Open up your pattern and trace onto both pieces of Styrofoam.*Cut out shapes using a knife. I advise cutting and sanding outside because it gets pretty messy.*From the excess cut off a hunk and use it to sand the smooth the curved cut edge by rubbing it like you would sandpaper. This will smooth out any irregular cut line and get rid of the black marker on the edge.

*Using toothpicks or bamboo skewers, insert several into the straight edge of the foam, add some beads of craft glue and press both sides together, creating a full circle. If your circle is slightly off just use the hunk of foam to sand the edges even again. To ensure a good hold place floral pins down the top and bottom center seam.*OPTIONAL: Trace a piece of felt or fabric the size of your circle and cut out. I recommend something like felt, fleece, or batting that does not ravel on the edges. Using straight pins, pin the circle of fabric to one side of the circle, this will be the bottom and will protect your table surface.

*Cut a 20" x 20" square of the gold satin fabric. Lay fabric right side up on top of circle, scrunch and pin fabric to foam circle with straight pins. Catch the pins under the folds of the fabric and they will not show. If you do not want a puddled look, just pin flat on the top edge and trim away excess. I like the pooled fabric look.*Cut a piece of garland to fit around the edge of the foam circle and pin in place with floral pins. Since I add springs of real greenery I don't worry about bits of the form showing. If you are not going to fill it in you might want a layer of garland on the outside edge and the upper edge to fill it out and to keep the form from showing. Fluff the garland.*Twirl the thin gold wire edged ribbon through the garland. You can substitute beads, tinsel, lace, colored ribbon, etc.*Evenly space 5 candle holders of your choice on the surface edge twisting two pieces of the garland around the center of the holder to hold in place.NOTE: Traditionally taper candles are used. This year I am using small stemmed glasses that I picked up at a flea market and votive candles. My tiny grandson will be present this year and for safety purposes I chose not to use the tapers.

*Every where there is a candle holder, on the outside edge, insert a floral pick, flower, or embellishment of your choice. I chose to use one off white velvet poinsettia with a gold center and a floral pick that contains a pine cone, a small golden beaded apple, berries, and holly leaves.*Cut apart the stem of berries into sprigs. Place sprigs randomly between the candle holders.*If using real greens, clip and place is bare spots to fill out arrangement. These may get droopy after week two and may need to be replace. You can use one strand of garland and then fill in with artificial greenery like ivy, holly, or evergreens, then you won't need to worry about replacing them. I prefer to add a touch of the real for the smell.

*Place candles in the holders.

*Place your center piece in the desired location.
We add to this wreath with symbols for each weeks devotional reading. Additional devotional materials are as follows:

Week 1:
*A white dove, purchased from a craft store*A lamb, we use a little ceramic pair I found in a flea marketWeek 2:
*An angel, mine is a gold wire one that I bought in the ornament section of Hobby Lobby and added a floral pick to the base.*2 yards White Wire Edged Ribbon at least 1inch wide

                                           *Gold glitter fabric paint in a squeeze bottleNOTE: To prepare ribbon in advance, use gold glitter fabric paint and write the message "Jesus Immanuel- God With Us" on the ribbon. I was able to write this four times on my ribbon. Allow to dry thoroughly.

                                                                          Week 3:
     *A star, mine a gold wire one that I bought in the ornament section of Hobby Lobby adding       a  floral pick to the base.*Something to represent the three gifts the wise men gave Christ, I found three ornaments at a local Christian book store adding floral picks to the bases.Week 4:
*A small basket or something to represent a manger that is to scale with your baby Jesus figurine, mine is a flea market basket made from corn husk*Straw or substitute excelsior, which can be purchased in a craft storeChristmas Eve:
*Figurines of Mary and Joseph

Christmas Morning:
*Figurine of baby Jesus                                                  The Babb Family Advent Celebration:

Sunday 1:
We light the candles in the candle screens in our entry windows and turn out the lights. We pray together. I draw attention to the wreath, explaining what it symbolizes, The circle of the wreath reminds us that God's Kingdom will have no end and that God Himself has no beginning and no end. He has always existed and always will, also the evergreen tells us that Jesus brings eternal life. We read Luke 1:33 and John 3:16.

I bring out the white dove and place it on the wreath while explaining that "The white dove on the wreath reminds us that the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and that the Holy Spirit is God's gift to us to comfort us and to help us." We read Matthew 3:16; John 1:32; John 14:25-27.

When my son and daughter were younger, we would incorporate a memory verse. Since the Advent ceremony is focused on light, I chose Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I

One of the guests or children lights the candle.

We all open our Bibles and read Isaiah 9:6-7. I explain that this passage shows the coming of the Messiah. I direct one of the guests or children remove the lamb from the basket and situate it in greenery of the wreath.

We turn to and read Isaiah 40:10-11. I explain the symbol, "Christ is our Shepherd, we are his flock. The lamb reminds us that Christ loves us. He gathers us to Himself and gently leads us. In John 10:11 Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." This little lamb also reminds us of what Christ did on the cross for us.

We turn to Luke 2 and read verses 1-8. I explain that the lamb also symbolizes the shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock, this is a picture of Jesus watching over and protecting us.

My husband closes in prayer. We listen to or sing along with "O Come, All Ye Faithful" If you or one of your family members plays an instrument why not let them play? My daughter plays the flute and often she would serenade us with beautiful music in an opening hymn.
(Here rests our completed wreath base. About an hour before we begin I will fill it with the fresh green and candles. I will post updated pictures later in the evening.)

We extinguish the candle flame and this concludes week one of Advent. We usually follow up with refreshments of some sort. Tonight we will dine together on homemade chicken noodle soup, a side salad, yeast rolls, with apple pie and ice cream for dessert. We will sit long and laugh much while love blankets us. I can hardly wait!

In the next few weeks on my Serendipity Sunday posts I will share the rest of our Advent traditions, posting pictures as we build our centerpiece and our anticipation at celebrating the birth of Christ.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

~The Holy Bible Isaiah 9:6~

Last week I shared with you one of our holiday traditions of setting aside a special time as a family to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. This year we decided to have family worship by participating in Advent. Discovering Advent was a delightful and unexpected discovery indeed. Advent is a period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, in other words, the period immediately before Christmas. The season of Advent serves as a duel reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they wait for the second coming of Christ. It is marked by a spirit of expectation, anticipation, and preparation. This is a time that our family looks forward to as we draw away from the busy work of the holiday season and focus upon the meaning of the manger.

To learn more about the meaning of Advent and how our family prepares for it, follow this link.

Last week we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath. The first candle is traditionally the candle of expectation or hope. It draws attention to the
anticipation of the coming of the Messiah that weaves its way like a golden thread through Old Testament history. We also added wreath symbols of a white dove, that symbolizes the gift of the Holy spirit and a lamb, which symbolizes Christ's care and watchfulness over us. This weeks candle is the candle of peace, which represents the peace Christ brought into the world.

This week we will have four guests joining our family and I so look forward to this evening. I invite you to join us in worship too. Following is an outline for our celebration tonight.

We have our worship time by soft candle light and the twinkling white lights in the garland draped around the room. Tea lights illumine the Nativity scene
and soft instrumental carols play in the background as family and guests arrive. The Advent wreath sets at the ready in the center of the room resting on a table in front of the sofa.

We will gather around the room and quite ourselves in a holy hush as someone opens in prayer. A review of last weeks ceremony and symbols will be for the benefit of those not in attendance last week. A guest will light the candle from last week as well as one for this week.

This weeks memory verse to remind us of the light of the world is John 8:12,
which states just that, "I am the light of the world."

We will open to God's Word and read Luke 1:26-37 as well as Isaiah 7:14 about the annunciation to Mary and the naming of the Messiah. The wreath symbols for this week are and angel and a white ribbon with the words, "Jesus ~ Immanuel ~ God With Us", written on it. After reading the passage, the symbols will be explained.

The angel represents the angel that came to Mary to tell her of the "advent" or great event to come, the birth of Christ. The angel is placed in the wreath.
The white ribbon will be twined through the evergreen boughs and the explanation given for its symbol. We know that the baby born to Mary was Jesus, but He was also called by another name, Immanuel. This name was given in the Old Testament to tell about Christ's coming. It means, "God with us." God is with us all the time. The white ribbon symbolizes purity and the virgin birth. The lettering is gold and reminds us of royalty ~ a king who arrived in a stable.We will share the ways we have been blessed with the gift of peace and God's presence this past year and close with a hymn story of Silent Night, quietly listening or singing along to a recording.

We will close in prayer being thankful for the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding and guards our heart and mind in Christ Jesus, for the protection He always offers, and for His presence which never leaves us.

Tonight's refreshments will be a selection of holiday sweets: homemade fudge, almond dipped pretzels, and smores have been requested along with hot mint chocolate cocoa, iced mocha, and hot tea for me! Thank you for joining us for this refreshing of the spirit, renewal of the hope that is found in Christ, and respite from the busy work of the season. I invite you to return next week and join us in worship for week three of Advent. I hope you each have a Merry Christmas!

The word Advent means "coming"or "arrival". The entire season of Advent is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in His First Advent and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in His Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking an over 2000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all creation can be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation (bringing something to its completion) of what we anticipate (being complete in Christ). Advent reflects emphasis on the past(Christ's birth), the future(Christ's return), and the present (accepting and celebrating God's truth about who Christ is and why He came) in the hope of eternal life. It is a most serendipitous to come to know these truths.

Advent is one of the few Christian festivals that can be observed in the home as well as in the church. In its association with Christmas, Advent is a natural time to involve your family in activities at home that directly connect with worship at church. Advent provides an opportunity for family devotion and prayer together. It helps to reinforce, strengthen, teach, and share your faith. I invite you to join us in worship this evening.

NOTE: By this week the fresh greens on your wreath may have begun to dry out. Before the celebration, you might wish to replace them with fresh ones which will last through the remainder of Advent.

Week three of Advent brings us to the lighting of the third candle on the Advent Wreath. We have lit the candle of expectation and hope as well as the candle of peace. This week they will be joined by the candle of joy. It marks a shift from the more solemn tone of the first two Sundays of Advent that focus more on preparation and hope to a more joyous atmosphere of anticipation and expectancy. This candle marks the joy at the impending Nativity of Jesus.This candle also commemorates the visit of the Magi, bringing focus to the joy of worshiping the new found King. It also symbolizes the joy of the proclamation made to the Shepherds who were aiding in the fields, and the adoration they expressed as they knelt before the Christ Child in the manger. It is also the candle of Mary's joy, which represents how Mary felt about being used by God for such a special task. It also expresses the humility Mary felt in being chosen to bear the Christ Child.

I am not sure who all will show up for tonight's celebration. My hope and prayer it that it will be wh
o most needs to be here. So, lets dim the lights as soft instrumental carols play in the background and worship the King! Greetings are exchanged and anticipation reigns as we open in a word of prayer. A guest will light the candles from week 1, week 2, and a new candle for tonight. If you have new guests be sure to go over the reason of the celebration and the wreath, candle, and symbol meanings.

This weeks memory verse will remind us of the light of life that is found in Him. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4)

We will open God's Holy Word and read Luke 2:8-14 as well as Matthew 2:1-12 which speaks of the angels appearing to the Shepherds, the Shepherds seeking out Jesus, the guidance of the star, and the visit of the Wise Men. The wreath symbols for this week are a star and items to represent gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After the reading of the passage, the symbols are explained.

The star represents the star that shown for the Shepherds in the fields while they were tending their sheep. The star is placed in the circle of the wreath.

The items that represent gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolize the gifts that were presented to the Christ Child by the Wise Men. It is said that these gifts were given because they were worthy of a King. The gold represents a King. The frankincense represents deity. This word means "God, His Supreme Being, and Divine Nature". And last we have myrrh, which represents the spices used in the Bible to anoint a person who was going to die. All of these symbolize who Christ was, a king, diving in being, destined to die for the sins of the world. Each symbol is placed in the outer circle of the wreath.With this these thoughts in mind, we will close in prayer and rejoice in music. Hymn stories for either one or both "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "Little Town of Bethlehem" will be shared. We will listen and if desired, sing along with CD recordings of both.Our evening will draw to a close with refreshments being served. Hearts full we will joy in this special time together. Thank you for joining our family in worship this evening. My hope is that this week you will be filled with abundant joy, overflowing, and spreading to all those you come in contact with. I invite you to return next week for week 4 of Advent. I will add the conclusion celebration to next weeks post which is traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

"In a manger in a stable, long ago on Christmas day, lay a tiny little baby on a blanket made of hay. The angels, they adored Him. The Shepherds, they watched over Him. The Kings, they bowed before Him. Hallelujah, His is born!"Welcome to the fourth and last week of the celebration of Advent. We have celebrated with expectation and hope, peace, and joy. This weeks focus will be upon love. Love usually refers to a deep feeling of tenderly caring for another person. The Christian understanding of the word "love" is that love comes from God. Over 2000 years ago love came down at Christmas time.

So often we associate Christmas with candy canes, Christmas trees, and pretty packages all tied up in bows. Family and friends usually gather in fellowship.
Gifts and cards are exchanged. Much food and goodies are consumed.

Trees are trimmed and gifts are wrapped,
and at the end our energy is sapped.
We have shopped,
until we have dropped,

and we still can't seem to find that perfect gift,
to give our loved ones spirits a lift.
Our focus is gone and carried away,

of the real reason we celebrate Christmas day.
The perfect gift cannot be found in the store,

or wrapped in a box or tied with ribbons galore.
It was not wrapped in gold foil or green bows,
but in swaddling clothes.
It could not be found under a tinsel laden tree,

but lying in a manger beside His mother, Mary.

This gift, the baby Jesus, is the ultimate expression of love. This expression of love was given with a purpose in mind. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life, For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16-17) God has a deep feeling of love for each one of us. His desire is to tenderly care for each one of us and His ultimate show of love is His provision for salvation.
With these thoughts in mind, let us gather together in worship. Once again the lights are dimmed, soft instrumental carols are playing in the background. We gather around the Advent Wreath and bow our heads in prayer. A guest lights the candle of hope and expectation, the candle of peace, the candle of joy, and tonight it is joined by the candle of love. This candle is also known as the Shepherds candle, it stands for God's love and faithfulness.

This weeks focus verse for memorization continues on with the theme of light. "This then is the message which you have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is not darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

We will now begin by reading Luke 2:15-20 telling of the Shepherds seeking Jesus and finding Him lying in the manger. Also, Luke 2:7, no room at the inn. This weeks wreath symbol is a manger and each person receives a bit of hay to place in the manger.

NOTE: If you have been following along with us, you might notice that the Scripture reading this week and last week overlap. My apologies, I made a typing error last week, the verses were supposed to be Luke 2:8-14 and I typed in Luke 2:8-20. I have corrected it in the previous post and wanted to let you know in case you plan to do this celebration in the future so the readings will correct.

The empty manger is settled on the gold cloth the middle of the wreath and each person is given a bit of hay, straw, or excelsior to hold. Here I want to relate a
story I read some years ago that leads back to that opening thought of the proper focus at Christmas time and the gift of love that we are to focus upon.A frazzled mother had been out Christmas shopping with the masses. She had elbowed her way through crowds, despaired over parking spaces, stood in line 20 people deep, and heard enough ringing bells to drive a person crazy. She came home dejected and deflated feeling like she had spent too much money on things she was certain no one would appreciate. She realized something was wrong.

Her schedule was loaded down with every event possible to cram into a Christmas season, concerts, parties, cookie exchanges, a tree lighting ceremony
, and even a church Christmas pageant. There was not any room for a single thing more. Somehow Christmas had taken on a life of its own. She felt she was being driven by an endless cycle of haves, wants, and musts.
She wandered outside to find her husband and son in the barn pitching hay to the animals. Her little son had gotten some of the straw up his sleeve and complained that it did not feel good, that it was not comfortable on your skin. When the mother did not respond her little son repeated that it did not feel good. The frazzled mother quipped, "Then don't put it up your sleeve!"
The little son persisted, saying that he was thinking, "Was Jesus really born in a barn and why did that happen?" The mother explained that they tried to find another place but there just wasn't room and that was just the way it was. The little boy said that this was not good. He picked up a handful of straw and walked toward his mother telling her to feel it saying that it felt bad.

The mother looked at her son and then at the small pile of straw he had placed on her arm and felt the prickle on her skin acknowledging that he was right. The little guy was troubled and said they laid Him in manger and that he knew that was a thing full of straw and not a place to put a baby. He went on to say that
they should have made room for Him some place better. He said this baby was God, he should have been born in the nicest hotel!The mother sat pondering her little sons words and something clicked for her in that moment. Her sons words pierced her heart. No room. No room for Jesus. That is what her holiday had been missing. She realized she had been the innkeeper, and had left no room for the Savior. She too had pushed the baby out and let unimportant things take over the place that should have been His. Her quest for the perfect Christmas had lost the meaning of the manger. She had forgotten the simplicity of the straw.

This pivot point is when this frazzled mother pulled out the Advent paper she had been given by a friend who promised she would be blessed for setting aside this time throughout her holiday. At the time she thought this was just four more appointments on an already full calendar of "have tos". She read over the paper and decided it was too formal for her family so she chose bits and pieces and formed her own Advent celebration.

She formed a simple wreath from evergreen branches gathered from her yard. She and her son formed candle holders from clay and tucked them around the wreath. Nothing fancy. And on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, her family gathered, not knowing what to expect. They dimmed the lights and lit the first of the five candles and opened in prayer. At the center of their celebration in middle of the wreath stood a canning jar filled with straw. A visual reminder of the miracle that happened in the manger. Jesus was restored to His rightful place that year ~ at the very center of Christmas.
Each person will place their bit of straw in the empty manger. We will bow and close in prayer, thanking God for using a hand full of straw and a little child to capture our attention and to bring us back into focus. We will ask forgiveness for pushing Him aside in all our plans and preparations from His proper place in our hearts and lives. We will ask that the meaning of the manger stay clear and with us in the coming year.

Tonight's hymn story and music will be "Away in a Manger."

                                         ADVENT CONCLUSION:CHRISTMAS EVENOTE: Have a candle for each guest present for an object lesson.

Begin by gathering around the Advent wreath and open in prayer. You may wish to do a review of all the candles and symbols and their special meanings. Light the candles of expectation and hope, the candle of peace, the candle of joy, that candle of love, and finally light the final candle, the candle of Christ. This candl
e symbolizes the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. With the lighting of this candle, the circle of light is complete just as we are complete only in Christ.

Scripture reading will be Galatians 4:4-7 about the fulfillment of prophecy.

The wreath symbols are Mary and Joseph. They are placed beside the straw
filled manger where they will wait in anticipation of the birth of the Christ child. The manger will remain empty this night. When Christmas morning arrives, the baby Jesus will have arrived and be in the manger.At this point in your celebration, explain that you want to approach the subject of light as Advent is a celebration of the light of the world, Jesus. Hand each person a candle and have a match or lighter handy. Please carefully supervise children if they are participating. Explain that John 8:12 says, "I am the light of the world." The point of having light is to banish darkness and as believers we are to reach out to those who still live in darkness.

Turn out all the lights and blow out the advent candles. Pose the question, "How much light does it take to overcome darkness?" The person posing the question
lights the candle they are holding and says, "It just takes one. Now lets illustrate how bright our lights can be when we each one reach one." Light the candle of the person next to you with your candle and say, "I am the light of the world and I give you my light." Have that person turn to the next person and light their candle, repeating the message, and continue the pattern until your circle of light is complete.

Explain, "As you can see we no longer sit in darkness. What started out as one small light has spread and grown brighter. We are to take our candles, and go light our world. This is the great command and commission we have been given."

Tonight's hymn story and music will be, "Joy to the World."

                                                              CHRISTMAS DAYWe do this first thing in the morning before presents. I get up before the family and turn all the Christmas lights are on, light all the candles, and place baby Jesus in the manger. When the family is ready to emerge, I cue Handel's Messiah, the Hallelujah Chorus as everyone enters and gathers around the Advent wreath. This music never fails to take my breath away!Even though it has been read in bits and pieces through out the celebration, we always read Luke 2:1-40.

Over two thousand years ago the people waited for a Savior and a King. A man in Jerusalem named Simeon expected the Messiah to come soon. When Mary and Joseph arrived, presenting baby Jesus to the Lord in obedience to the law, Simeon was there and took the child in his arms praising God. "Lord," he said, "I have seen the Savior you have given the world which you have prepared before the face of all people; a light that will shine upon all nations." (Luke 2:29-32) In this coming year let us keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, not just at Christmas when we celebrate His birth, but all year round. May we let His light shine through us. May we make pleasing Him a priority. May we strive in the coming year to live a Christ-centered life where He rules in our hearts, actions, and minds. May we each begin today to leave a Christmas legacy of sharing Christ's love and may we be thankful for His unspeakable gift to us.                                                         Merry Christmas to you all!

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