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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.
Its’s the first weekend in December. Somehow. It seems like fall just arrived last week and suddenly we’re here. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. But it also quickly becomes the craziest time of the year, between decorating, holiday parties and celebrations, gift gathering and this crazy longing to make everything magical.
So that last part about the making things magical really isn’t written on our December list. But it sure creeps in quickly. And somehow it seems to bully everything important that really is on our hearts and calendars.
I think it’s part of why celebrating advent is so special to me. I can so quickly get caught up in the excitement and frenzy of it all, that I lose sight of the foundation of this season and this very life we’ve been given.
I want to share a quick advent wreath today that you can put together with your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews … you get the idea. Not that you need something else to do, but more as a way to spend time together focusing on Christ and His gift to us.
You only need a few basic supplies and about 30 minutes to begin a journey that can help you slow down, breathe and treasure this Christmas season together.
Gather a few items …
.. A 6″ or 8″square of wood
.. A piece of 60 or 100 grit sandpaper
.. A 3′ to 4′ length of Christmas evergreen garland
.. 5 votive candles in glass holders
.. Hot glue gun and glue
.. Ribbons and Christmas picks to decorate your wreath
When we’ve made these with groups of kids and families, we purchased a length of cheap 1″ x 6″ pine and cut it into squares. It is a good idea to sand off any rough edges once your
wood is cut. Garland can also be picked up in a 9′ length and cut into 2 or 3 sections depending on how full you want your wreath. I used a 6″ square of wood and a 3′ length of garland for the wreath shown in the pictures.
The kids are great at the wood sanding and garland fluffing. As soon as the wood is sanded, glue the bottom of one votive candle holder to the center of your wood square and the other four about 1/2″ from each corner. While you are gluing the kids can start fluffing the garland. Wrap the garland around the votives until the wood is no longer visible. Once you are pleased with the garland, go back and add some hot glue on the wood to press the garland into and secure it to the board. Now you can add ribbon or picks if you prefer a little more color on your wreath.
You’re done! Seriously! It’s a quick project and reminder to slow down together and focus on Christ as Christmas day approaches.
**Be sure to move any stray garland away from the flame before you light the candles each week. Garland, ribbons and picks can get jostled from day to day and the last thing you want to do is start a fire.**
Our absolute favorite books as the kids were growing up was an Advent series by Arnold Ytreeide. They are historical fiction books about four different kids on exciting adventures that lead them to Jesus on Christmas morning. They also include weekly scriptures and questions to consider as we move closer to Christ’s coming with each passing day. Ours were always left wanting to know where the adventure would lead next, and we enjoyed the family focus of sitting down and reading together at the close of each day .
Whether you choose to celebrate Advent together or not, I pray that you find time to slow the time and focus on Christ’s coming together. Enjoy your first weekend in December!
I’m pretty much an easy mark for all things Christmas. The music began November 1st and the tree went up not long after that. Then there’s all the other trees and garlands and candles … You get the idea.
But I must say, I told Steve the other day that as much as I love decking the halls and the coziness of the season, those things are not what I’m really looking forward to this year.
This. This is actually what I feel such an excitement about. It’s really not just about the book either, though I highly recommend it. It’s the walking through Scripture to see the big picture of Christ’s coming. This seeing Christ’s heart for mine and how His coming has given purpose to every one of my days.
As written on the book jacket, “Beginning with Jesse, the father of David, The Greatest Gift retraces the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day’s profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn’t blurred past you but your heart’s fully unwrapped the greatest gift you’ve always yearned for.”
The book comes with downloadable ornaments to print out and hang on a Jesse tree each day in December as we journey to the coming of Christ on Christmas morning. Wanting to add this to our advent preparation each year, I decided to use wood for our ornaments.
I wrote this post a few years ago, but wanted to share it today, with some pictures and updated instructions for how we made the advent ornaments that are included with the purchase of Ann Voskamp’s book. Just in case you decide you want to join in the preparation for His coming this year…
I picked up two pieces of 8″ x 36″ x 3/8″ thick beech wood from Hobby Lobby that Steve and I ripped down the middle and then cut into 4″ squares. Technically, he gave me a quick lesson on the circular saw and the “you go girl” pep talk to convince me that I couldn’t really mess it up. A circular saw is quite positively NOT the recommended tool for this project, but it is what we had, and therefore what we used. We did add some tape and drew our cutting line on it in hopes that the wood wouldn’t split too much. It mostly worked.
In the end some of the blocks kind of looked more gnawed at as opposed to sawed, but it’s all good. As it turns out, I rather like the imperfection of it all. They’re a little more rugged and even authentic when I think about the humble entrance the King of Kings made into this world. It just seems to fit.
But, I digress …. After the squares were cut I sanded the rough edges off and whitewashed them with some leftover white paint from the garage. I thinned it with some water and painted 2 coats on each block. I printed the 4 x 4 ornaments onto card stock and used a thin layer of Mod Podge on the back of each paper and the front of each block. There were a few bubbles to press out once the card stock adhered to the wood.
As soon as they were dry, I inked them with some StazOn in a medium brown. Somehow I convinced Steve to drill the holes at the top. I was a bit concerned about getting the wrong angle or drilling too close to the edge. I really didn’t want to mess them up and have to start all over on any of them. I opted for the rustic look of a jute twine loop to hang them. They usually hang on our staircase garland until we read each day’s devotion and move them to the tree.
However your family chooses to celebrate, I pray this holiday season brings great joy to you and yours as you prepare for His coming.
You’ve seen it. On a bookmark or mug or greeting card or plaque or …. You get the idea, right?
It’s a well loved and oft-quoted verse. And for good reason.
It’s Biblical. It’s the perfect expression for those we love.
The not so warm and fuzzy part of this verse is also Biblical.
Do you see it? The tough part of this verse? It’s there, plain as day. But for years I’ve missed it. Perhaps I just wasn’t looking for it. Or more likely, I simply didn’t want to see it. It so much nicer to just stick with the warm and fuzzy.
Then I read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And all my reasoning and excuses for clinging to unforgiveness crumble at this call to giving thanks instead.
It’s all part of the choosing to give thanks. The conscious choice to take every thought about every person God has allowed to cross my path, and to give thanks for them.
This choosing thanks doesn’t come easy for me. Not when we’re talking about those we really prefer were not part of our story. The sandpaper people who seem to be in our lives to grind down our rough edges. You know who I’m talking about.
Bottom line, I haven’t always been given license to choose who is and isn’t allowed in my life. And for whatever reason, God has made them part of my story.
Right now, He is teaching me to be thankful for the sandpaper people when they come to mind. Every. Single. Time. That requires forgiveness and humility and setting my mind on His truth instead of my feelings. And it also requires a willingness to face every ugly thing about my own heart.
As I am learning to practice this sort of thankfulness in every moment, there is a joy and peace that simply was not there before. It’s not easy, and I definitely don’t get it right every time, but it is part of the journey.
And for that I’m so very thankful.
I don’t know your story, but I do know without a doubt that there are those who have had paths so tough that I can’t even imagine walking them. Please know that there is no condemnation in either this verse or the thoughts I’ve expressed.
My prayer for you today is that in time He will bring you to a place of healing. A place where you know that you know that He can be trusted. And that He can bring wholeness in the most broken of situations.
2 So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them.3 Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Since they were not able to bring him to[a] Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.5 Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
I’ve heard this account of Jesus healing the paralytic since I was a small child. I’ve understood that though this man struggled with paralysis, a condition that had to be more difficult than I can even imagine in his day, he was also blessed with some extraordinary friends. Friends who were willing to go to great lengths to love him. To carry him. To be a nuisance to others as they pushed through the crowd that day. To be so fully committed to their friend that they would conquer any obstacle to help him.
Yet, somehow I missed the heart of Christ when he healed this man. He healed the man because He saw the faith of his friends. It was their faith in action that captured Christ’s attention. Faith that was big enough to go out on a limb, push through a crowd, bust open someone else’s roof – all because they KNEW beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christ could heal their friend.
What if the paralytic had decided he didn’t want to bother his friends? What if he decided that his condition left him to “different” to even invest in friendships? What if he had instead pulled away from them altogether? Much less admitted that he needed their help?
It’s hard isn’t it? This admitting that we might possibly, perhaps, just maybe need help from others. But it’s also critically important. Without such vulnerability, this man’s friends would not have expereinced Jesus in such an up close and personal way. The crowds would not have witnessed the miracle. We could not read about it. The paralytic would not have been healed. all of us would have missed out on so much.
What has my own independence cost me? What have I missed out on because I don’t want to bother anyone else? Because I don’t want to admit I need help? Because even if I can admit my need to myself, I surely don’t want to tell anyone else?
Doing life together requires letting others into my sotry. the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s part of the design for our growth.
Whatever is keeping me, it isn’t worth exchanging for the benefits of walking with others. Who knows that the faith of my friend couldn’t be the door to my own healing, and theirs, and untold others. Who knows that my fait couldn’t do the same for them.
So next time I’m in need of a friend I’ll choose to reach out. To receive. To fully experience His reward in the comfort and healing. Won’t you join me?
This life is an interesting journey to say the least. It’s full of twists and turns that we never see coming. Some days those turns are like an exhilarating theme park ride. Others feel more like rounding a corner on a narrow road and meeting a semi-truck head on. The emotions may carry the same names, but the intensity and good or bad bent of those can be vastly different.
I love this passage. I doesn’t shy away from the fact that there will be hard seasons. Tough days. Beyond bearable moments.
Though these times are never our first choice, they do come and looking back they often result in tremendous growth. And with growth comes growing pains.
But notice something about these verses. Those times happen to be right in the middle of this passage. Just like life, right?
On the front end, God tells us not to fear because He has redeemed us. We are His. He has called us by name.
And at the close of the passage? Again He tells us not to fear. Because HE is with us.
There’s something to this settling of our hearts with this truth on the front end of life that can carry us through the tough seasons held in His firm grip.
Yes, we will go through struggles and trials and we may feel very alone in the midst of them.
But when we have chosen to walk with Him, we are NEVER alone. He is ALWAYS with us.
Sometimes He also gives us the added blessing of others to walk with us. They may not be able to carry our burden, but their companionship can make such a difference.
So what’s your journey today? Do you know that He is with you? He has summoned you by name? Have you answered?
Is He calling you to walk with another? Not even to carry their burden, but to simply walk beside them? To be there?
I pray that His words will sink deep into your soul today. Because we all know the hard times will come, if you’re not already in the thick of them.
Settle it now. Then you can approach life’s seasons with Him, instead of with fear.
Moses had already chatted with God at the burning bush, confronted Pharaoh warning of the plagues, led the children of Israel out of Egypt.
He had walked with God. He had talked with God. On a regular basis. He had faced so many fears, from stuttering to his own reputation to leading a nation of complainers.
God told Him to take them to the promised land, but God would NOT be going with them because they were a stiff-necked people. Constantly shifting from being smack in the middle of God’s provisions and deliverance to whining and fashioning their own idols. How wearisome!
But Moses continued to come to God. When he was distressed, needing direction, weary, angry, fearful or confused – He went to God. Over and over again. And he pleaded with God for these stiff-necked people, who no doubt, he also found to be frustrating. They couldn’t have been an easy group to lead.
After God’s instructions to go to the promised land, and Moses pleading with God, the Lord promised the He WOULD go with them. The next verse finds Moses saying that if God’s presence was not going with them, then he didn’t want to go.
So, going to the promised land wasn’t enough? If it was a choice between the promised land he had been leading the stiff-necked people to for 40 years without God’s presence, and staying in the wilderness with the presence of God, then Moses didn’t even have to think about it. He wanted to be wherever God’s presence would be.
The next thing God said in verse 14 was that He would give Moses rest.
It’s not my situation.
It’s not my circumstance.
It’s not the promised land.
It’s not the people I journey through this life with.
It’s His presence.
That’s where the rest is.
God pursued Moses for a very specific role in His plan for the children of Israel. In turn, Moses pursued God with a fervency of which most of us can only dream. In the midst of it all, Moses learned the truth that the relationship with God was the goal. To be in His presence. To be comfortable enough in His presence to experience deep rest.
That is the promised land.
Not a specific latitude and longitude.
It’s His presence.
Even when that leaves us right smack in the middle of the desert.
Oh that I would be less stiff-necked and more fervent in my pursuit of God.
That He alone would be my goal.
Not a place.
Not an accomplishment.
Not a feeling.
But Him alone.
In Him alone will I find meaning and purpose and rest for a weary soul.