Follow the Star Week 4: Advent 2016

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“For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
–The words of the wise men in Matthew 2:2

For those churches which follow a three year cycle of Sunday readings, called the Revised Common Lectionary, this year most of our readings about Jesus will be from the Gospel of Matthew.  I love the year of Matthew, because this year is the one that tells us the story of the wise men which appear on Epiphany.  Because of its emphasis on the wise men, I thought it might be fun to go star-crazy this year from Advent to Epiphany.  We continue the season with a four week craft which builds on itself as we watch the star rise to show the way to Jesus.

If you missed week 1, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/follow-the-star-week-1-advent-2016/

If you missed week 2, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/follow-the-star-week-2-advent-2016/

If you missed week 3, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/follow-the-star-week-3-advent-2016/

Supplies needed per star:
Week 4:
Clear flat ½” marble
Black paint marker
Gold puffy paint
Paintbrush
1 Permanent Glue Dot

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Gathering:  Light your Advent wreath, get out your Advent Spiral, or turn on the Christmas tree so that your family knows something special is about to happen.

Gathering Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear God, we thank you for time to spend together as a family as we wait for Jesus to come.  Help this time to be a holy time.

Bible Story:
Ask your kids to tell you the story of Jesus being born.  If they can’t come up with it off hand, you might want to get out a nativity set and have them tell you about all of the pieces.  You can also use this to help them to learn the story.  A Children’s Bible or Children’s Christmas story book might also come in handy.  If you are stumped, you can watch this short video:

After you have sorted out the story, remind them:  There were lots of people waiting for Jesus to be born.  Angels.  Mary.  Joseph.  Shepherds.  Sheep!  Who was the group who came from the farthest away?  The wise men!  They had been watching the sky for a special star that would tell them that an important king had been born.  We know this because, in the Epiphany story, the wise men tell the people in Jerusalem, “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

This year during Advent, we are going to wait for Jesus like the wise men, watch his star rise, and celebrate when he is born!

Craft:  Popsicle Stick Star
Instructions for Week 4:

  1. Position your marble so that it is flat side up.  Use the paint marker to draw a small cross on the flat surface.  Dry completely.

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  1. Add a small dot of gold glitter puffy paint to the flat surface.  Using the paint brush, gently move the paint around until it is evenly distributed over the whole flat surface.  Dry completely.

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  1. Flip the marble over.  It should look like this:

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  1. Using the permanent Glue Dot or other permanent glue, attach the marble to the apex of the star.

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When you have finished making your star(s), hang them ¾ of the way up your Christmas tree, or put it somewhere off the floor but not too high.  It will not arrive at the top of the tree until Christmas Eve!

If you’d like to go star-crazy with us, here is another star that you and your family can make this week:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/follow-the-star-2016-star-cookie-decorating/

Song:  I Wonder As I Wander
You might be wondering why we would add a cross, the symbol of Jesus’ death, to our star celebrating Jesus’ birth.  This song is the answer.  I hope you enjoy it.

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, you are our bright morning star.  As we watch our little stars rise, help us to follow where you lead, both now and always.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Follow the Star 2016: Star Cookie Decorating

star cookies by 40542289@N02.jpg

photo by 40542289@N02 on flickr.com

 

I told you that we were going to go star crazy this Advent, so here is another star to work on.  They are sure to be tasty, too!

Note:  for steps one through three, I asked a grandma in our congregation to provide the pre-baked cookies for our activity.  She was more than happy to do so!

  1. Make or purchase dough.
  2. Cut out stars and bake.
  3. Cool completely.
  4. Mix or purchase your favorite frosting, and add yellow food coloring.  Here is what we used:

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  1. Frost cookies and add clear sugar.
  2. Eat, share, and enjoy!

Have fun following the star with the wise men this Advent!

Follow the Star Week 3: Advent 2016

“For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
–The words of the wise men in Matthew 2:2

IMG_20161208_104404393 (2).jpg

For those churches which follow a three year cycle of Sunday readings, called the Revised Common Lectionary, this year most of our readings about Jesus will be from the Gospel of Matthew.  I love the year of Matthew, because this year is the one that tells us the story of the wise men which appear on Epiphany.  Because of its emphasis on the wise men, I thought it might be fun to go star-crazy this year from Advent to Epiphany.  We will start the season with a four week craft which builds on itself as we watch the star rise to show the way to Jesus.  Below, find the complete supplies list for the next three weeks.  The star instructions will be revealed week by week.

If you missed week 1, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/follow-the-star-week-1-advent-2016/

If you missed week 2, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/follow-the-star-week-2-advent-2016/

Supplies needed per star:
Week 3:
Craft tags or brown kraft paper and a hole punch
Scissor
Brown string
“Follow” stamp or nice handwriting with a black felt-tip or gel pen
Black ink stamp pad (if using stamp)

Week 4:
Clear flat ½” marble
Black paint marker
Gold puffy paint
Paintbrush
1 Permanent Glue Dot

Gathering:  Light your Advent wreath, get out your Advent Spiral, or turn on the Christmas tree so that your family knows something special is about to happen.

Gathering Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear God, we thank you for time to spend together as a family as we wait for Jesus to come.  Help this time to be a holy time.

Bible Story:
Ask your kids to tell you the story of Jesus being born.  If they can’t come up with it off hand, you might want to get out a nativity set and have them tell you about all of the pieces.  You can also use this to help them to learn the story.  A Children’s Bible or Children’s Christmas story book might also come in handy.

After you have sorted out the story, remind them:  There were lots of people waiting for Jesus to be born.  Angels.  Mary.  Joseph.  Shepherds.  Sheep!  Who was the group who came from the farthest away?  The wise men!  They had been watching the sky for a special star that would tell them that an important king had been born.  We know this because, in the Epiphany story, the wise men tell the people in Jerusalem, “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

This year during Advent, we are going to wait for Jesus like the wise men, watch his star rise, and celebrate when he is born!

Craft:  Popsicle Stick Star
Instructions for Week 3:

  1. Cut out your tag so that it measures 7/8 inch wide and 3 ¼ inches tall.  Punch a hole about ½ inch from the top of the tag, if you are using kraft paper.
  2. Using a stamp and ink or a nice pen, stamp or write the word “follow” down the length of the tag.
  3. Cut a notch in the bottom of the tag so that it looks like a pennant.
  4. Cut a 12 inch piece of brown string and attach it to the tag with a loop. The completed tag will look like this:IMG_20161208_104453265 (2).jpg
  1. Attach the tag to the bottom of your star with a bow, as shown:

IMG_20161208_104402776 (2).jpg

When you have finished making your star(s), hang them ½ of the way up your Christmas tree, or put it somewhere off the floor but not too high.  It is going to take four weeks for it to rise to the top!

If you’d like to go star-crazy with us, here is another star that you and your family can make this week: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/follow-the-star-2016-yarn-wrapped-star/

Song:  We Three Kings
Here is my favorite version of this song.  It reminds us of the importance of the star to the story:

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, you are our bright morning star.  As we watch our little stars rise, help us to follow where you lead, both now and always.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Advent Traditions part 2: Saint Nicholas Day

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My family and I celebrate Saint Nicholas every year on December 6th, Saint Nicholas’ saint day.  Did you know that Saint Nicholas is Santa Claus’ real name?  You can learn more about Saint Nicholas here:

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/for-kids/

In our house, it is a day to celebrate Saint Nicholas, give as he gave, and serve as he served.  Here are some ingredients for your own Saint Nicholas Day celebration:

Movies: 

To remind us of the story of Saint Nicholas, we usually watch one or both of these movies on Saint Nicholas Day:

Veggie Tales:  Saint Nicholas:  A Story of Joyful Giving:  https://www.amazon.com/VeggieTales-Nicholas-Story-Joyful-Giving/dp/B004EDS93E

Buck Denver asks:  Why Do They Call it Christmas?  https://www.amazon.com/Buck-Denver-Asks-Call-Christmas/dp/B00FM5P2MY

Food:

Saint Nicholas was known for giving help to the poor and needy in the form of gold coins and gold balls.  On Saint Nicholas Day, we eat chocolate coins and clementines to remind us of his generosity.

Saint Nicholas was also a bishop who wore a red robe and carried a crozier, or shepherd’s crook, as a sign of his status.  We eat candy canes on Saint Nicholas Day to remind ourselves that he was a bishop who cared for God’s flock on earth.

If you want to add some fun, make sure there is something orange or chocolate or peppermint at each meal on Saint Nicholas Day.  Our special favorite is orange pancakes with mini chocolate chips and peppermint cocoa.

Gift-Giving:

Because we like to focus on Jesus on Christmas, Saint Nicholas Day is the major gift-giving holiday in our household.  Saint Nicholas brings a special ornament to each child, and we give gifts to one another.  As they get older, I think it will be fun to try to give the gifts anonymously, so you know what you gave, but you don’t know exactly who the gifts you receive are from.  Saint Nicholas gave because Christ gave first.  We give because Christ gave first, with Saint Nicholas as our example.

Service:

Saint Nicholas was known for helping the poor and those in need.  Be creative as you figure out an age-appropriate way for your family to serve together.  We have done several things over the years, including choosing a person from our local angel tree and shopping for them, giving to Toys for Tots, making cookies and delivering them to a local assisted living center, and making layette kits for Lutheran World Relief.  This year, we made hand-made Christmas ornaments and delivered them to some older folks in our area.  We also told them the story of Saint Nicholas and did some Christmas caroling.

As our children grow older, we would like to emphasize the day of service aspect even more.  When they are teenagers, we plan to go to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen and spend the day serving.  Tailor your experience to the age and developmental abilities of your family.

Other Traditions:

This year, we decorated our Christmas tree on Saint Nicholas Day morning.  The night before, my husband and I put up the tree and put lights on it.  It was ready to be decorated when the girls woke up on Saint Nicholas Day.  Each of our girls has a box with her own special ornaments given to her each year on Saint Nicholas Day.  After our girls opened their new ornaments, I brought out their boxes, and each girl had a wonderful time looking through their ornaments, telling the stories they remembered about each ornament, and hanging them on the tree.  It also kept them busy while my husband made pancakes!  I could see this becoming a yearly tradition.

Our parents love to have an annual Saint Nicholas picture with our kids, so another tradition that we have upheld has been Santa pics on Saint Nicholas Day.  This year, we stayed close to home, so the Saint Nicholas pics will have to wait for another day.

I hope you have a wonderful time establishing Advent traditions with your family!

Follow the Star 2016: Yarn Wrapped Star

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We are continuing to go star crazy this Advent, so here is another star to work on.  Our children and youth will be making them during Sunday School this month, and I can’t wait to see how they turn out!  Find the step-by-step instructions, below.

A big thanks to this site for the idea:
http://theinspiredtreehouse.com/christmas-crafts-for-kids-yarn-wrapped-ornaments/#_a5y_p=2999580

Materials:

  • cereal box
  • star template
  • scissors
  • marker
  • 1 glue dot
  • hole punch
  • multi-color yarn

The instructions did not have specifics, so this is how I put them together:

  1. Flatten a cereal box and trace a star onto one side. You can find a star template here:  star-templateIMG_20161208_104126222.jpg
  2. Cutting through two layers at once, cut out the star.
  3. Flip the stars so that they are brown side out. You might have to shift them so that they match.  Secure the two stars together with a glue dot.
  4. Punch a hole toward the middle of one arm of the star. Cut an 8 inch piece of yarn or ribbon and string it through the hole.  Make a knot.  Here is your hanger.  Here’s what it looks like at this point:IMG_20161208_104211397.jpg
  5. Cut a 7 yard piece of multi-colored yarn and roll it into a ball. Attach one end of the yarn to the star with a piece of tape and wrap.  Tuck the loose end into the wrapping when you are finished.IMG_20161208_104220973.jpg
  6. Depending on the ability or attention span of the child or youth working on the star, you can add more yarn, as you wish. Here is the completed star with 7 yards of yarn:

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  1. Here is a completed star with 21 yards of yarn:

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Have fun following the star with the wise men this Advent!

Follow the Star Week 2: Advent 2016

 “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
–The words of the wise men in Matthew 2:2

star-week-2

For those churches which follow a three year cycle of Sunday readings, called the Revised Common Lectionary, this year most of our readings about Jesus will be from the Gospel of Matthew.  I love the year of Matthew, because this year is the one that tells us the story of the wise men which appear on Epiphany.  Because of its emphasis on the wise men, I thought it might be fun to go star-crazy this year from Advent to Epiphany.  We will start the season with a four week craft which builds on itself as we watch the star rise to show the way to Jesus.  Below, find the complete supplies list for the next three weeks.  The star instructions will be revealed week by week.

If you missed week 1, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/follow-the-star-week-1-advent-2016/

Supplies needed per star:
Week 2:
1/8” metallic gold ribbon
Scissor
Week 3:
Craft tags
Scissor
Brown string
“Follow” stamp or nice handwriting with a black felt-tip or gel pen
Black ink stamp pad (if using stamp)
Week 4:
Clear flat ½” marble
Black paint marker
Gold puffy paint
Paintbrush
1 Permanent Glue Dot

Gathering:  Light your Advent wreath, get out your Advent Spiral, or turn on the Christmas tree so that your family knows something special is about to happen.

Gathering Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear God, we thank you for time to spend together as a family as we wait for Jesus to come.  Help this time to be a holy time.  Amen.

Bible Story:
Ask your kids to tell you the story of Jesus being born.  If they can’t come up with it off hand, you might want to get out a nativity set and have them tell you about all of the pieces.  You can also use this to help them to learn the story.  A Children’s Bible or Children’s Christmas story book might also come in handy.

After you have sorted out the story, remind them:  There were lots of people waiting for Jesus to be born.  Angels.  Mary.  Joseph.  Shepherds.  Sheep!  Who was the group who came from the farthest away?  The wise men!  They had been watching the sky for a special star that would tell them that an important king had been born.  We know this because, in the Epiphany story, the wise men tell the people in Jerusalem, “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

This year during Advent, we are going to wait for Jesus like the wise men, watch his star rise, and celebrate when he is born!

Craft:  Popsicle Stick Star
Instructions for Week 2:

  1. This week we are making a tail for the bottom two corners of the star. Cut two 15 inch lengths of gold ribbon.
  1. Fold each ribbon in half.  Insert the loop from the front of the star to the back.  Bring the loop around to the front again.  Attach them to the star, as shown.

star week 2.jpg

When you have finished adding to your star(s), hang them ¼ of the way up your Christmas tree, or put it somewhere off the floor but not too high.  It is going to take four weeks for it to rise to the top!

If you’d like to go star-crazy with us, here is another star that you and your family can make this week:
https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/follow-the-star-2016-pipe-cleaner-star/

Song:  Do You Hear What I Hear
I chose this song for this week because of its reference to the star having a tail “as big as a kite,” which is what we did in our activity this week.  Enjoy!

Playlist:  Here are a few playlists that you can listen to while you work!

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, you are our bright morning star.  As we watch our little stars rise, help us to follow where you lead, both now and always.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Advent Traditions part 1: Advent Calendar

My family and I enjoy opening an Advent calendar every evening in the month of December until Christmas.  It is a daily reminder that Jesus is coming, and helps my younger ones to refrain from the question, “Is it going to be Christmas tomorrow?”

We have two types of Advent calendars in our house; the first is filled with tiny ornaments of the people in the Christmas story.  Every day, we get one of the characters out and add it to a small Christmas tree that is right next to the TV in our living room.  It helps us to remember the reason for the season, and my kids get to decorate their own Christmas tree over the course of the month.  I made this one when my oldest daughter was a baby, but any calendar with pockets would work.

Advent Calendar 2.jpg

The second type of Advent calendar has a small piece of candy for each child to enjoy after dinner each night.  It reminds us that Jesus’ coming to us at Christmas is “sweet”!  They look forward to their nightly treat, and I know they are once again remembering the reason for the season.

advent-calendar

Our cardboard Advent calendar with small boxes from IKEA

To be honest, I was stressing out over filling the calendars in time for December 1 this year.  That’s when it occurred to me that one tradition that we could add is the filling of the calendars as a family.  Last night, we filled the candy one, and tonight we will fill the ornament one.  It was actually awesome to see the joy that helping out in this way gave my kids.  It is also helping them to anticipate what is coming in a more concrete way.  Now that they know what they are waiting for, they are even more excited to take it day by day.  For me, this turned an obligation into a gift.  What are some ways that you could enlist your own family’s help with Advent and Christmas preparations so that the preparation becomes part of the tradition?  How can your family turn obligation into gift?

God’s blessings to you as you and your family prepare for the coming of Jesus among us at Christmas!  I pray that it will be a holy time for you.