Advent Invitiations

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Prayerfully Evaluate Your Holiday Priorities


Schedules and spending can get carried away this time of year – make sure your values are reflected in your calendar and checkbook.  Explore one of these thought-provoking resources, then talk about what it inspired in you with a close friend who can help you put it into action.

Time Required: varies

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Celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas (Dec 6th) 


Origins: St. Nicholas was a 4th century bishop of Myra and the patron saint of children. Born to devout Christian parents in the Asia Minor, Nicholas was known for giving to the poor and served as the inspiration for the figure of Santa Claus in the USA. 


Try one of these! 

  • Instead of receiving gifts on this day, collaborate as a family to drop off a bag of goodies or presents at the doorstep of a family in need. Gift certificates or cash gifts in their mailbox with a note may be another way to bless your community. 

  • To remember the generosity of St. Nicholas, hopeful children can put out empty shoes on the eve (Dec 5th) of St. Nicholas Day. Parents place gold chocolate coins, fruit, gifts or other candies in their shoes for children to discover in the morning. 

  • Plan a special dinner (candlelight, perhaps),  decorate with red and white (the bishop’s colors), and retell the story of this saint.

  • Consider exchanging gifts that evening in order to take the emphasis off gifts on Christmas Day. 

  • Here is a PDF with history,  more ideas for kids, including a reader's theater an interactive play.

  • Here is a link with a bunch of picture books, resources and more ideas.

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Jesse Tree

A Jesse Tree is a decorative tree used during Advent to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’s birth. Each day of advent you place a symbolic ornament on the tree and read or talk about the Bible story associated with it. Since Advent is a season of waiting, a Jesse Tree will help to build joy and anticipation as you wait for Christmas. You can print and color your own ornaments out of paper, make your own out of other materials, or purchase a set off Etsy or something similar. Here are a few links – please note that the symbols and passages used can vary from set to set…make sure your ornaments and the passages match. 

Supplies needed: Bible, Jesse tree ornaments, daily readings to match and a "tree." This can be a branch, a small artificial tree, or a wall hanging.

Here is a free Jesse Tree guide and printable ornaments.

This one is based on characters from the Bible and has sticker or magnet sets you can buy.

Printable Ornaments to Color

We Wonder Advent Podcast - thoughtful, simple daily stories for advent - for children and adults.  Coordinates with Jesse Tree stories.

God With Us - a guide to using the Jesse Tree with symbols.  Make your own ornaments.

Here is a kit with all the supplies to make your own.  Guide included.

Time Required: 15-30 minutes each day of Advent

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Creative Expression

Do you like to write, draw, paint, make music or dance? 

Over the course of the Advent season, however often you wish (weekly? daily? just one time?) choose a word that encompasses Advent:


watch 

longing 

preparation 

hope 

promise

anticipation...

and write a poem, make a piece of artwork, choreograph a movement or write a music score to go along with the word.  If you feel courageous, share your work with your small group or a friend.

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Advent Wreath

Make or purchase a wreath, arrange 4 candles around it (one for each week of Advent) plus another 1 for Christmas Day in the center.  Set aside a time each week (Sunday morning breakfast? Wednesday dinners?) to read and consider the week’s theme as the candles are lit. There are many different ways to do this…

Supplies: Advent wreath & candles, lighter, Bible and weekly guide

Time Required: 15-30 minutes each week of Advent

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Decorate Your Home


Creche (Manger Scene) The Bridge on 8th Street in downtown Holland has some beautiful choices – then act out the story with the figures and your child(ren).  Expand on the theme:

  • Follow the Blessing for the Creche Liturgy. 

  • Pull out cardboard, fabric and a glue gun to build on the set – incorporate the road on which Mary & Joseph traveled, the homes where they were turned away, a hillside for the shepherds and other parts of the narrative.

  • Start with an empty manger in the creche. Every time someone does an act of kindness in your home, someone can place a piece of straw in the waiting manger. Our faithfulness now prepares the way for Christ to come, like preparing a soft bed for the Christ child.

  • Set up a manger scene (animals, human figures, etc.) gradually as advent progresses, but place the magi far from the creche. They move closer each day until arriving at the manger scene on the Feast of Epiphany (Jan 6). This movement serves as a reminder that even those who begin the journey far off are welcomed to the Christ Child.


Hang origami stars up from the ceiling for epiphany or on the tree for each day of Advent.  Use colorful magazine pages to make inexpensive and beautiful decorations.  You could make a trail of stars for little ones to follow to the Christ child on Christmas morning.


Make a banner out of paper or cardboard with a favorite line from a Christmas song or Bible verse.  There are several beautiful designs online you can customize to your style. String it across your dining room!


Set an extra seat and special table setting at your dining room table throughout the season of Advent to make a place for the Lord.  This can serve as an ongoing symbol of our welcoming and longing for him to be present among us and for his return.


Decorating the Christmas Tree - Just as we prepare a house for a guest, the process of decorating a Christmas tree can serve as a reminder to intentionally welcome the Christ Child into our lives. 

  • Week 1: Make room! Clean out and give away excess clothes, books, kitchen equipment, toys and electronics

  • Week 2: Reflect. Clean and arrange spaces for quiet, for reflection, for prayer and for sleep. Put on music while you clean and maybe light a candle. Finish with a celebration meal. 

  • Week 3: Move the bare tree into your home, keep the tree fresh and watered, but spend time waiting and expecting before decorating it. Maybe even start decorating it on Gaudette Sunday (3rd Sunday of “joy” in the advent wreath), adding a little to the tree each day until Christmas Eve. This can symbolize the gift of rejoicing on the journey nearing the light of Christmas.

  • Christmas Eve: Finish decorating the tree, maybe by adding figures of Adam & Eve to remember the gift of creation and our broken humanity. Invite friends to join the decorating and talk about how the tree is a sign of evergreen grace and the mercy of God made flesh in Christ. 

  • Blessing for the tree: God of Adam and Eve, God of all our ancestors, we praise you for this tree. It stirs a memory of paradise, it brings a foretaste of heaven. Send your Child, Jesus, the flower of the root of Jesse, to restore your good earth to the freshness of creation. Then every tree of the forest will clap its hands, and all creation will bless you from these shining branches. All glory be yours, now and forever. Amen. 

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Advent Readings & Listenings (various ages)

  • Keep in step with the global church and read our daily lectionary passages. This schedule is sent out on Slack on Mondays.  Prioritize time in the morning, lunchtime, and/or evening to center on the Word.   

  • Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is a daily advent devotional for adults that has caught my eye with it’s great reviews.  

  • Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers together with Nouwen's Own Words.  Short, thoughtful, daily readings and invitations for Advent & Christmastide.

  • The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

  • We Wonder Advent Podcast - thoughtful, simple daily stories for advent - for children and adults.  Coordinates with Jesse Tree stories.

  • If you have young children, try one of these resources:​

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Books, Video & Music for Advent & Christmastide

Picture Books:

  • Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent” by Arnold Ytreeide -there are more in this series

  • A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy

  • The Lost Angel by Elizabeth Goudge

  • Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon

  • Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson (very mild crude humor, the audiobook is really fun)

  • The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

  • The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park

  • Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by: Richard Schneider

  • An Orange for Frankie by: Patricia Polacco

  • The Trees of the Dancing Goats by: Patricia Polacco

  • The Friendly Beasts by: Tomie dePaola

  • The Little Drummer Boy by: Ezra Jack Keats 

  • The Legend of the Poinsettia by: Tomie dePaola

  • The Night of Las Posadas by: Tomie dePaola

  • The Animals’ Christmas Carol by: Helen Ward

  • The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi

  • “Third Gift” by Linda Sue Park  

  • Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey 

  • “A Savior Is Born: Rocks Tell the Story of Christmas”  by Patti Rokus 

Movies:​

  • The Nativity Story (DVD 2006) 

  •  Bible Project (Online Videos) Hope, Peace, Joy, Love - These engaging videos are about 2-3 minutes long and offer material for great discussions about the four weekly themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The presentation is visually engaging to captivate younger eyes, but the content is intriguing for disciples of any age.

Music:

Many ideas for adults on this website.