Saturday, December 17, 2016

Holy-days {Advent 2016}

[edited version of last year's Advent post]

Simple. Focused. Intentional.

That is our motto for this time of year.

If you want bunches of ideas for celebrating Christmas, you should probably go to Pinterest. We are more about cutting out a lot of the hoopla -- going for special and memorable (yes) but simple. It is Jesus' birthday; so, we focus on Advent ("waiting with hope") and then throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Simple as that. This will be the first year we will be home on Christmas Day! Here is what we have been doing so far this month:

Devotions: Advent is where we put most of our emphasis, because what is this holy-day about if we do not prepare our hearts waiting for the Christ-child to come? You can see our Advent wreath (carved out of wood, with 24 candle holes, and there's a movable donkey carrying Mary). We light the candle  after moving the traveling one forward. This year, we are using a new book -- Rembrandt: The Christmas Story (it's not a daily devotional but something we can work through sporadically throughout the month).

Activities: Our days have been so topsy turvy this month -- lots of unexpecteds, thank goodness no school to teach this month! Sometime in the course of each day, we:
  1. Read a daily Advent devotion from Advent Storybook (short with good insights!) 
  2. Aolani colors an ornament and hangs it on our Jesse Tree 
  3. Read together a Christmas book. I arranged and stacked all of the Christmas books we own according to our schedule. Then, I hid the stack and each day we get out the book on top. 
  4. This year we are doing an Advent Calendar. I came up with 24 things to do, one for each day leading up to Jesus' birthday. I adjusted the calendar so that the daily activities suited our monthly plans (i.e., we baked cupcakes for Micaiah the day before his big birthday party). However, when plans change and I need to switch activities with another day, I can and have, several times already, very easily (which is great)! We've missed some, but I hope to work those in and double up some this week. The list of this year's activities are below. 
  5. Schooling: I'm taking seven weeks off from schooling the kids (Thanksgiving week until after the new year), so we have more time for Advent stuff and traveling.  The kids are loving this winter break!
  6. Our Advent devotional in the evening with Daddy (depending)
  7. Reading Christmas Around the World at bedtime (depending)
  1. Decorate our home while listening to new Christmas album (Josh Garrels)
  2. Make paper plate wreaths 
  3. Put together Christmas care package for missionaries 
  4. Watch new Christmas movie under blankets (The Promise)
  5. Make a paper garland 
  6. Invite family friends over to celebrate St. Nicholas Day by reading his biography and watching the Veggie Tales about him 
  7. Make play-dough candy canes 
  8. Make clothespin reindeer 
  9. Make a birthday treat for Micaiah 
  10. Micaiah’s LEGO birthday party 
  11. Make paper snowflakes 
  12. Make snowflake window art 
  13. Make and decorate gingerbread cookies 
  14. Watch Christmas movie marathon 
  15. Pick out Jesus’ birthday gift 
  16. Interview each family member on record 
  17. Call grandparents and sing a Christmas carol 
  18. Play hide & seek in a tree lot 
  19. Make and give apple bread to our neighbors 
  20. Act out the nativity story 
  21. Make a pillow bed on living room floor and watch Christmas cartoons 
  22. Go on a Christmas light scavenger hunt 
  23. Make a birthday cake for Jesus 
  24. Go on a prayer walk and deliver cookies

Decorations: Most noticeably, we do not have a Christmas tree. We are not totally against them; we just choose (for several reasons) not to erect one at this time. We have other items (ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...) on display and hanging around. We keep the Christmas music playing. Also, we simply hang the Christmas cards we receive on ribbon with clothespins.

Treats: Our treats are sporadic this year again -- banana cupcakes, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin ale, apple bread, cake, ice cream, vanilla drinks, etc.

Presents: Last year we began to do it differently. Whereas we use to not exchange presents amongst just ourselves, we asked our extended families to work in "Christmas presents" with other events -- like new year's or increase birthday or summer or a new school year or a visit or other holidays. We want to teach our kids that just as they get presents on their birthday, Jesus gets the gifts on His birthday (see Matthew 25:45) -- just keeping it simple (and imitating St. Nicholas!). After I had collected like a dozen gift catalogs over the past month or so, we spread them out, allotted each person an equal amount of money, and let them go! Yet, we do buy a few New Year's gifts for ourselves as a family and some friends that are to encourage faith and witness (such as Voice of the Martyrs' prayer calendars) for 2017. [Yes, our kids get gifts from us throughout the year as does Jesus, but we all know that birthdays are special for the birthday person ;)]

CHRISTmas joy to you in your celebrations and preparation for the coming of the King!