Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Creating Advent Traditions

Advent is probably my favourite time of the year. I didn’t grow up with any advent traditions (other than perhaps a chocolate calendar), but they have evolved in our own family as we have worked to focus our attention on “the reason for the season” in our commercialized society. There are so many creative ideas out there, and most of our traditions have stemmed from ideas we found online or through other people. So, as I write about our family traditions in hopes of inspiring you to create your own, please know that few, if any, of these ideas are original ;)

Advent Books:

There are many quality advent books out there, and we have a whole slew of them. But when our oldest children were about 5 and 6, we were introduced to a trilogy of advent stories by Arnold Ytreeide that have become fixtures in our life. Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, and Bartholomew’s Passage are fictional adventure stories that use the experiences of three children to remind readers of the hope, peace, and joy brought by faith in Christ – not just at Christmas, but throughout our lives. Each chapter ends with an exciting cliff-hanger, and a commentary about how the events of the story correspond to our own lives. Scripture passages also point our attention to the biblical perspective of the season we celebrate. These stories (which can be scary at times, so be forewarned!) have become so ingrained in our family’s traditions that when we tried using something else for our evening readings last year, we all felt something was missing and didn’t even end up finishing the new book we tried.

Part of our enjoyment of these stories comes from the rituals we have established around our reading time. As suggested by the book, we incorporate the lighting of traditional advent candles (three purple, one pink, and one white) using a special pewter advent wreath we acquired at an after-Christmas sale.

Each of the children also has a votive candle in a decorative holder that is used to provide light for the reading, and which they may take to their room to fall asleep by when the reading is done. But perhaps most enjoyable for all is the chocolate fondue we have each Sunday of advent during our evening reading of Ytreeide’s books! There’s nothing like yummy food to create wonderful memories!

Jesse Tree:

Another tradition we have developed is the use of the Jesse Tree. A quick Google search of this name provides a number of descriptions and explanations, one of the loveliest being that of Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience, who has written her own book about it. The outline of symbols and scriptures we have used for the last several years is found here. Over time, we have made many of our own ornaments to suit the symbols, or collected pre-made ones that represent the depicted concepts.

Coat of Many Colours (Joseph)

Stone Tablets (The Ten Commandments)
Dark Sky with Stars (Promise to Abraham)

Dove (Creation)

Tongs with Hot Coal (Isaiah)
In the past, we have incorporated this tradition into our school day as part of our morning devotions, but this year we’re going to try doing it as a family at supper time -- if nothing more than to be able to enjoy the lit tree in a darkened room! (That part didn’t work so well in our sunlit learning lab.) 

 I confess that I sometimes struggle with explaining the significance of some of the symbols in relation to the Christmas story, so one of my creative ambitions is to one day write my own advent story about the Jesse Tree so that the connections are clearly conveyed. Stay tuned – but be prepared to wait a long while! ;) In the meantime -- I've just discovered that Ann Voskamp is offering her e-book free -- so that's what we'll be using this year! Do check it out for yourself! (It includes lovely paper ornaments that can be printed and laminated, so you don't have to worry about finding ornaments at the last minute if you wish to start this year.)
Surprise Boxes:

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, so a few years ago when I came upon someone’s idea of creating surprise boxes to incorporate biblical concepts while counting down to Christmas (I'm afraid I can't find the source), I decided to build it into our school day during advent. We started our tradition using matchboxes decorated with Christmas paper, but last year I “upgraded” to some little bamboo boxes from the dollar store that provide a little more space for our treasures.

Somewhat like the Jesse Tree, symbols are used to relate a concept about Christ’s power in our lives today. But these symbols are special treats that can be consumed, used, or treasured by the children. For example, a glue stick is used to accompany a reading of Colossians 1:16-17 and illustrate that Christ is the “glue” that holds us and the world together. (We also watch Louie Giglio’s video clip about laminin – a powerful illustration!) Or little packets of salt are used to illustrate Matthew 5:14 and Colossians 4:6. Just so my children don’t become bored with the same old “surprises,” each year I challenge myself to come up with some new "treats" to illustrate the various truths about the significance of Christ’s coming, and his power in our lives today.

If you haven't created any advent traditions with your family, my hope is that this post might inspire you to do so! And if you have -- please tell me about them! Leave a comment and/or a link below!

I shared this post here:
The Humbled Homemaker:
Desiring Virtue

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for linking up with us at A Christ-Centered Christmas. I loved reading your post! We share a lot of the same things! I look forward to reading more of your blog.


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