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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Advent Workshop—The Big Plan

This is the plan I have used for years. It is a casual evening. I provide a soup bar buffet. Guests mingle, eat, and craft.

Each craft station has a sign with step-by-step instructions and a finished sample. They are all simple, easy, do-it-yourself crafts. Each year I vary the crafts to keep things fresh. I also try to incorporate one service project.

Some of the children get together to practice a short skit. They read their lines from index cards. It is not fancy. Then we sing carols and have a wreath lighting demonstration.

I hang out in the wreath section to help people make wreaths. My kids make crafts and play with their friends. My husband hovers near the food.

Schedule of Events:
5:30 Arrival of Guests
5:40 Welcome, Prayer, and Explanation of Activities
5:45 Craft Centers and Buffet Open
6:45 Children’s Skit and Carols
7:00 Wreath Lighting Demonstration
7:15 Closing Remarks
7:30 Cleanup

Craft Centers:
Wreath Making
Jesse Tree Ornaments
Prayer Chains
Christmas Cards for Meals on Wheels
Christmas Story Bracelets

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Planning for a Christ-centered Christmas

Everyone's focus has shifted from Halloween to Thanksgiving (My second favorite holiday of the year).  I, however, am knee-deep in planning for Christmas (Stay with me.  I have a great reason).  November 28th is the first Sunday in Advent.  It is a special day in our house.  Each year we celebrate by hosting an Advent wreath making workshop.  This is a fun event that really emphasizes the heart of Christmas—Christ.  It helps keep us centered.  We use our wreaths throughout the season to countdown the coming of Christ, not Santa.  If you are not planning to host or attend a workshop, you may still enjoy this tradition at home with your family.

The Advent wreath has become a popular way to count down the days of Advent.  Many people don’t know that we have Martin Luther to thank.  He recommended its use as a way to educate children of his day. He certainly didn’t invent the wreath itself, because that goes back to ancient Roman times, and probably even earlier. People used wreaths as an Advent decoration long before Luther, but Luther used the wreath as a Christian-education device and thus popularized it. The Advent wreath in its present form started in Germany as a Lutheran family custom. Since Advent wreaths were originally used in the home, most of the ones you find for sale are small. They didn’t become popular in churches until the middle of the twentieth century. Now they are nearly universal. (You didn’t know you were going to get a history lesson today, did you?)
An Advent wreath is made from greens to symbolize continuous life and contains four candles— three purple and one rose. Often a fifth candle (white) is added to the center of the wreath for lighting on Christmas Eve, in celebration of the birth of Jesus.

First Candle Color: Purple Theme: Hope First Sunday in Advent
Second Candle Color: Purple Theme: Love Second Sunday in Advent
Third Candle Color: Purple or pink Theme: Joy Third Sunday in Advent
Fourth Candle Color: Purple Theme: Peace Fourth Sunday in Advent
Optional Center Candle Color: White Theme: Christmas Christmas Day

How to Make a Fresh Advent Wreath

You will need:
  • 4 taper candles (1 pink and 3 violet) 
  • 1 white pillar candle
  • Wreath frame with 4 candle holders
  • Florist wire and wire cutters (Available at the Dollar Store for $1-score!)
  • Clippers (for the tree boughs)
  • Fresh boughs (pine, fir, cedar, spruce, boxwood, and holly---anything available in your region during the holiday season). This is a great time to prepare the bushes in your yard for Christmas light decorating. 
Step 1:
With the clippers, snip the boughs into 6-10 inch fronds.  Group an assortment of sizes or tree varieties into small bunches of 4-6 fronds.  Wire the cut ends of the bunch with florist wire.  Repeat. 

Step 2:
Affix one end of the florist wire to the wire wreath frame.  Take one bunch and affix the bunch to the frame. 

Step 3:
Add the next bunch of greenery in the same direction as the first and connect it with the same wire. Repeat this process until all of the bunches have been added to your wreath, save a few.  Take a step back from your creation, then fill in any gaps on the wreath with the extra bunches.

As you get to the “end” of the wreath, you may need to pull up your first bunch and tuck the final bunch under it for a seamless look. 

Add additional holly berries or pinecones for decoration.

Step 4:
Place the wreath flat on the table where you’d like it displayed.  Insert the four taper candles into the holders.  Place the white pillar candle in the center of the ring. 

Note: Lit candles and fresh wreaths could be a fire hazard if not treated properly.  Remember to keep the wreath moist so it stays fresh.  And never leave the candles unattended.  Replace them before they burn to the level of the wreath.  
There are many available devotional booklets to use daily with the Advent wreath.  One good online booklet may be found here.

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