Week 4 of Advent

Joy of Emmanuel, “God with us”

My daughter Grace, wrote the following Advent curriculum for her family and friends, and I thought it was such a perfect encouragement for you and your family as well. Enjoy these ideas as you celebrate the fourth week of Advent.

Reading
The Beginning: a Perfect Home
Or Read Genesis 1-2

On Christmas Day read: 
He’s Here! & read Luke 1-2

God, the very one who created us wants to be with us all the time. Though God is separate and distinct (holy), He desperately loves and adores his children. In all the deepest places we need love and where we don’t feel loved, God loves us. Though we cannot see Him like we see other people, we are made in His image. That means we bear some of the characteristics of God. In many ways we can see His handiwork all around us in nature, colors, music and in people. Imagine that every single person is an image-bearer of God. God does not need to be seen with our two little eyes. In fact, our eyes alone don’t even allow us to see all the greatness and beauty of God. Spending time in prayer and learning more about who God is through reading the Bible and experiencing his creation, teaches us how to see with eyes more clear than the two we have on our faces. Often, these eyes are referred to in the Bible as the heart. On December 25th we will be celebrating the coming of our Jesus, God who came down and made himself a baby to be with us! This is worthy of celebration and joy.

Advent Activities
Nature Exploration
: If you are like my son Jack, you have a stuffed animal or object that you take with you everywhere. You sleep with it, you bring it around the house when you need comfort and if you ever lost it, you would be very sad. Imagine that we are like God’s lovies. The Bible says, God knows our inward being and that we were knit together by him in our mother’s wombs. He knows the words even before we speak them. This week, I want you to find an object out in nature. It can be a rock, stick, acorn leaf, flower, etc and I want you to take it with you throughout the week wherever you go. Keep it in a special place so you don’t lose it. Care for it in the way a mother would her child. It might seem silly, but by the end of the week, see if you have noticed anything new about the object.

Home Discovery: As we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’s birth, we want to prepare for the party. I am sure you have attended super fun birthday parties. This week, you are going to throw Jesus a party. Though we cannot see him, his invisible spirit lives inside of us giving us joy, hope, peace and love. This is really exciting and worthy of a party. Find a space in your house where you would like to throw a party! Make decorations (see art activity), bring cake (see baking activity) and bring gifts (your nature object). In the bible, it says that a group of magi travelled far to bring Jesus gifts! They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. Tune up the music and invite everyone who lives in the house to rejoice and dance and eat cake because king Jesus is arriving!

Food to Share: In anticipation of Jesus’ party, grab a box of confetti cake and icing, follow the box instructions and throw baby Jesus a party. Now is not the time to get all “Martha” on the details. Jesus is here, no need for elaborate recipes, let’s get this party started! Grab a box from the store and follow the instructions of make your own. Here is a link to a funfetti cake recipe!

Art Exploration: Often the task of decorating for a party can feel daunting, but the wonderful thing about Jesus is that he was born in a manger so any sort of party decoration is an upgrade from a stable. Take a couple oranges and slice them thinly. Lay them on a cooking sheet then bake at 200 for 3-4 hours to dry them out. The scent of oranges will fill the air in a celebratory way. Once the oranges are dried out. Take them out of the oven, poke two holes at the top of each orange slice then weave a string through the oranges. Then hang it up as a banner at your party.

Adventure Walk: Once the party has begun, you might quickly find that you are filled with so much joy, that you must go outside!! Take some cake and your boom box and with your whole entire family, walk to the widest field you can find. Dance, sing, do cartwheels. Lay in the sun, let its rays fall on your face and rejoice that Christ is the hope of the world.


Music
Go Tell It on the Mountain by Dolly Parton
Joy to the World by Mariah Carey
The Day That Love Began Stevie Wonder

Further Reading and Discussion:
Exodus 13: 20-22
20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Reading and Discussion:

  1. How was God’s presence with the Israelites as they travelled from place to place?
  2. In what ways do you notice God’s presence in your own life.

Joshua 1:7-9
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Reading and Discussion:

  1. Why do you think God does not want his people to be afraid?
  2. What are you afraid of today? Ask God to help you not be afraid.

Psalm 16:9-11
9Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Reading and Discussion:

  1. What are eternal pleasures?
  2. What gives you the most joy in your life? Now imagine having that experience of joy always and forever

Isaiah 7:14
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Reading and Discussion:

  1. Do you know what a prophesy is? It is a statement that tells of that which is yet to come? God makes many promises to his people about what he has in store for them. What are other examples of God’s promises?
  2. Why do you think that God sent Jesus to be with us as a baby?

Hope Actualized

My daughter Grace is our guest blogger this week. As you read her words, reflect on the hope that Christ brings into our lives. Check out the link to Grace’s blog at the end of this article.

flowers

Every wedding is like a Burning Man for florists. You spend days of hard work and energy making something beautiful, all to tear it down a few hours later. It’s a reminder of what a breath this life is. One moment we are here, the next we are gone.

Tearing down the chuppah flowers with my husband at the most recent wedding I did, was both a joy and sorrow. He spent the first part of the day building it and I spent the second half making it beautiful with Garden Roses, Dahlias and Smilax. I laughed as we hacked at the wood, ripping it apart, tearing down the greenery to have it all out of the venue by midnight. I can fully appreciate why this process is maddening to most people and in many ways it should be. Humans are not wired to destroy the things they create.

 

The destruction of things will always be reason to grieve whether it’s a mutilated artwork, broken relationship or death itself. If eternity did not exist somewhere deep within us than perhaps we would just accept death as nature’s course. But that is not the human way. When a loved one dies, we mourn that death as the harsh reality that it is. Death feels like it should never happen despite the inevitable fate of us all.

 

As I write this I think of my aunt Karen who is slowly departing from us. Unlike me, she is not afraid of her finite time coming to an end. She knows more than any feeling of certainty, that the bliss of eternity awaits her. The hope she has in heaven and in the God who has shown great kindness to her during her life, makes cancer a lesser enemy.

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Even amidst the beauty of a heaven to come, the image of my elderly grandfather leaning over his frail daughter confound me as I try to sleep. Why does death have to end in pain? I remember the pain I felt as I was laboring with my first child, convinced that such pain had to end in my end. Giving birth might be the closest experience I’ve had to death. I was convinced as the baby moved through my body that these were my final moments. Then I pushed, transcending time and space, finding new life in my arms. The parallels between birth and death go beyond the mere pains of it. Both are expressed in the last few moments of Hector Berlioz’ Requiem, Grande Messe Des Morts, Op. 5 Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe, where a choir ascends to a culminating sound of joy, peace and elation after an anxious six minutes of somber orchestration. If you are familiar with this song then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can only imagine death as rebirth into a life that feels even more like home than the one I try to make for my child. I like to imagine for my aunt like I did at the birth of my son, that all which follows our finite lives is just hope actualized.

 

No amount of hope can ever diminish the great weight of death, however when hope is satisfied than death is absolutely redeemed. Heaven seems so mythical but at least part of me feels like if I could do something as magical as having a baby or growing a plant out of the ground, couldn’t something like heaven be real? If I can re-purpose materials to make something new, can I be re-made?

 

When we were done taking down the greenery, my husband and I took it back to my brother and sister-in-law’s row house in Philadelphia. Rather than throwing it in the garbage or compost, I decided to re-install it as a hanging archway on their porch. It became a new creation and though these greens will one day fade back into dirt, the mystery of re-birth manifested itself in an eternal way.

 

 

*Link to Grace’s Blog: Click Here