Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Candy Cane Christmas

One of the most familiar symbols of Christmas is the Candy Cane. The candy cane however, was not always the familiar red and white striped cane that we hang on our trees today. Around the 17'th century the candy cane was an all white sugar stick. Around this time period was also when the tradition of hanging them on Christmas trees began. People in Europe made decorations for their trees and many of the decorations included food and candy. The use of candy canes to decorate Christmas trees made its way to American by the 1800's. At this time they were still all white. It was not until the early 1900's that the red stripes were added. Today the candy cane symbolizes Christ's love and is a sweet reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.

~The white part of the candy represents the purity of Jesus.
~The red stripes remind us of Christ's death on the cross.
~The bold red stripe represents God's love.
~The three fine stripes represent the trinity-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
~The crook at the top looks like a shepherd's staff and helps us remember that shepherds were the first to hear about the Savior's birth. It also serves as a reminder that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He watches over His children like little lambs.
~It is a hard candy, solid like a rock, the foundation of the church.
~The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice. This is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice He made.
~Turned upside down, the candy cane looks like the letter J, symbolizing the first letter in Jesus' name.

If you are a homeschooler and would like to do a unit study or a lapbook on the Candy Cane here is a great link.
There are so many Candy Cane crafts. All you need is some candy canes and a little creativity. Here are a few simple ideas.
These reindeer candy canes are sure to bring a smile to you face! They would be great on top of gifts instead of a bow!

A little felt, thread, ribbon and glue are all the things you need for this cute mouse with a candy cane tail!

Your friends and family will love this sweet card that was made just for them!

This candy cane vase is the perfect center piece for you Christmas table. All you need is an empty coffee can and you are set!

This idea is the perfect Christmas gift for the "hard to buy for" person!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Jesse Tree

This year I have decided to do a Jesse Tree as part of our Advent. The Jesse tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ. It tells the story of God's salvation plan starting with the creation and continuing through the Old Testament to the coming of the Messiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots".

Click Here for a link to a free Jesse Tree Advent book. It is in pdf form and includes printable ornaments for each day along with daily devotions.

A Christmas Prayer Chain

Tonight as we sit down as a family for Advent we are going to make a red and green paper chain. On each loop we will write down the names of family and friends. From now till Christmas we will cut off one loop each morning and spend the day praying for the person whose name is on the loop.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prepare Him Room

December is just a few days away and as the Christmas countdown continues most people discover that their time is consumed with countless holiday chores such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, Christmas programs and much more. If you have ever thought or even dared to say aloud "I can't wait till Christmas is over" I have the thing for you. In hopes that it will bring you tidings of great joy, I urge you to slow the pace down a bit this year and enjoy a time of spiritual renewal and reflect what the Christmas season truly is about.

A few years ago my family did just that. We began celebrating Advent. It has hence become a family tradition. The word Advent literally means "arrival". It is a time for preparation for the coming of something....or Someone. It is a time set aside to prepare our hearts to receive Christ the coming King. It is a reminder of the waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of the Messiah and also a reminder that we, as Christians are waiting for His second coming, when those who have "prepared Him room" will forever be with the Lord. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Some families gather for activities only on Sundays, we have chosen to have nightly devotions and activities. I purchased an advent wreath. This is not really necessary but I like the symbolic meaning and thought it would add a special touch to our nightly Advent devotions. The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end. The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life. The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The 4 outer candles represent the period of waiting during the 4 Sundays of Advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. The light of the candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world and to remind us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God's grace to others. (Isaiah 42:6)

There are 4 candles circling the wreath. Traditionally there are 3 purple and 1 pink. In the center is a white candle representing Christ. Instead of purple and pink candles we use 4 red candles. It's just a personal preference. The first Sunday, which is tonight, we will light the first candle. It is the candle of Hope. It represents the promise of a Savior. We will read Isaiah 9:6-7 and then light the candle. Every night this week when we gather for our Advent devotion and activities we will light the same candle again. The second week of Advent we will light the candle of Peace, the third week is the Candle of Joy, the fourth week is the Candle of Love. Then Christmas Eve we will light all the candles along with the white Christmas candle that celebrates Jesus Christ the Light of the World. On this night I prepare ahead candles for each family member and with the lights off we light our individual candles from the Christ candle to represent how Christ shines thru us and how we are to be a light in this dark world.

My goal is to share with you our Advent journey. Some nights we will have serious devotions and talks, others we may gather and sing Christmas carols, or play games, maybe even make Christmas cookies, but whatever we do, the purpose will be to slow down, reflect and grow.

My hope is that you will join me in this journey and truly experience the fullness of this most wonderful time of the year.