Sunday, November 30, 2008

Serendipity Sunday: Advent and a Wreath Centerpiece Tutorial...

Serendipity: An instance of making a delightful and unexpected discovery
Many years ago our family found the delightful and unexpected discovery of celebrating Advent. Advent, which means " a coming" or "any important arrival" begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is a time of celebrating the birth of Christ by reading Scripture, praying, singing or the incorporation of music, and the lighting of the Advent wreath. It is a celebration rich in tradition and symbolism.

The Advent wreath originated with the folk practices of the pre-Christian Germanic people who, during cold winter nights, gathered boughs of evergreen and lighted fires as a sign of hope for the coming spring. By the 16th century, Protestants were using similar displays of light to announce their faith in Christ, who is the symbol of everlasting light. The wreaths circular shape reminds us of God's eternity and His endless mercy, which have no beginning or end (Luke 1:33). The evergreen tells us that Jesus brings eternal life (John 3:16). The candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His Son. With the lighting of the last candle, the circle is complete, just as we are complete in Christ.

The traditional candles are three purple (or blue) which symbolize the royalty of Christ (John 19:2-3) and the hope, peace and joy found in Him, one rose (or red) which symbolizes love, and one white candle which symbolizes the purity of our Lord (Rev. 19:8). The first candle is lit on the first Sunday of the Advent season and another each Sunday until all the candles on the ring are lit. The white Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to burn brightly with the other candles. Each lighting is traditionally accompanied by a Scripture reading.Many families place the Advent wreath on the dining room table and begin their Sunday dinner with an Advent celebration, enjoying the burning of the candles while they eat. At the conclusion of each Advent celebration, the candles are extinguished.

While there are many interpretations of the candles and colors of the Advent wreath, you should tailor this celebration to your family by selecting appropriate Scriptures and songs to help your family and friends understand the significance of each candle. This celebration is a wonderful way to keep your focus on the real meaning of Christmas by taking the time to quietly draw away from all the busy activity and purposefully focusing on why we are celebrating. This is also a wonderful teaching tool for your children to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Here is a simple outline for celebrating Advent:

Materials:
Evergreen wreath, real or artificial
3 purple or blue candles
1 rose or red candle
1 white candle
candle holders for each candle

Select appropriate Scriptures and songs, perhaps a Christmas carol or two, that signify each of the symbols below. As you light each candle, read a portion of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Offer a short devotion and end with prayer. Allow family members and guests to be an active part of the celebration by lighting the candles, singing, reading Scripture, or leading in prayer.

Dim the lights, light the candle or candles as directed below, pray, read the passage of Scripture, ask questions relating to the passage if desired, Sing one or two Hymns or Christmas carols, close in prayer, asking God to keep your mind focused on Him during the coming week.

Sunday 1: Light a purple or blue candle. This is the candle of hope, which represents the hope of the coming Messiah. (Example: Isaiah 9:6-7; "O Come, All Ye Faithful")

Sunday 2: Light two purple or blue candles. This is the candle of peace, which represents the peace Christ brought into the world. (Example: Luke 2:1-7; "O Little Town of Bethlehem")

Sunday 3: Light three purple or blue candles. This is the candle of Mary's joy, which represents how Mary felt about being used by God for such a special task. This candle also represents the humility she felt in being chosen to bear the Christ child. (Example: Luke 2:8-14; "Hark the Herald Angels Sing")

Sunday 4: Light the three purple or blue candles and the the rose or red candle. This is the candle of
love, also called the shepherds candle, it stands for God's love and faithfulness. (Example: Luke 2:15-20; "While Shepherds Watched")

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day: Light all the previous candles and then light the white candle in the center. This is the candle of Christ, which symbolizes the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah. (Example: Galatians 4:4-7; "Joy to the World")Indeed, celebrating with and Advent wreath offers the opportunity to deepen the understanding of Christmas and the birth of Christ. Each week, as the number of candles lighted increases and the light burns brighter, we come nearer to the day of Christmas celebration and are reminded that Jesus is truly the Light of the world.

I tailored this idea of celebration to fit our family and incorporated a few other ideas. We rotate what we do each year and this year we decided we wanted to celebrate Advent. Our wreath rests on the table in front of our sofa which is a place we all gather each evening and a place we pass by frequently. I like to have it centrally located in a high traffic area as a visual reminder to help us keep our focus.

We add a few more items besides the candles to slowly build the wreath into a beautiful centerpiece that is complete on Christmas day. It is then transported to the dining table as a centerpiece for our family meals until the New Year begins. The wreath our family makes together brings beauty, light, and truth to the holiday season. As it is intended, this celebration, is a season of devotion, with reference to the coming of Christ in the flesh and to His second coming. In all 39 books of the Old Testament, there is an air of expectancy, hope, and faith. It is my goal to keep these things alive in my heart and in the heart of my family by celebrating Advent.

Since I designed our Advent wreath to have a scene in the center and needed it to be easily moved I made my own form and wreath which is a combination of artificial and real greenery. Our old wreath has seen better days so I had to make a new one this year. Below you will find step by step instructions to make my version.

Materials:

*Styrofoam, 2 pieces, 1 5/16" thick by 11 7/8" wide and 17 7/8" long
*Toothpicks or Bamboo Skewers
*Craft Glue
*Floral pins
*Felt or fabric (optional)
*Artificial Garland
* Snips of evergreen branches, pine or cedar work well
*Five floral picks

*Artificial poinsettias, I found velvet ones at the Dollar Tree
*One stem of berries
*Thin gold wired ribbon
*20' x 20 square of gold satin fabric
*Straight pins
*5 candle holders
*Candles, I chose to break away from traditional colors and use four gold and one white candle.

INSTRUCTIONS:
*Cut foam into two half circles. Your full circle will need to be about 17" across. To make a cutting
pattern lay piece of foam a sheet of tissue paper and trace around the foam.*Trim excess paper away.*Fold in half matching the 11 7/8" sides and measure up 9", mark, and trim away excess.*Fold into a triangle, bringing the lower right corner up to the upper left corner, making sure the first fold is on the left.*On the fold measure up 9" from the triangle tip, move the ruler slightly keeping the point on the 9" mark and make another tick mark, repeat until you reach the outer edge.*Connect the tick marks and trim away excess.*Open up your pattern and trace onto both pieces of Styrofoam.*Cut out shapes using a knife. I advise cutting and sanding outside because it gets pretty messy.*From the excess cut off a hunk and use it to sand the smooth the curved cut edge by rubbing it like you would sandpaper. This will smooth out any irregular cut line and get rid of the black marker on the edge.

*Using toothpicks or bamboo skewers, insert several into the straight edge of the foam, add some beads of craft glue and press both sides together, creating a full circle. If your circle is slightly off just use the hunk of foam to sand the edges even again. To ensure a good hold place floral pins down the top and bottom center seam.*OPTIONAL: Trace a piece of felt or fabric the size of your circle and cut out. I recommend something like felt, fleece, or batting that does not ravel on the edges. Using straight pins, pin the circle of fabric to one side of the circle, this will be the bottom and will protect your table surface.

*Cut a 20" x 20" square of the gold satin fabric. Lay fabric right side up on top of circle, scrunch and pin fabric to foam circle with straight pins. Catch the pins under the folds of the fabric and they will not show. If you do not want a puddled look, just pin flat on the top edge and trim away excess. I like the pooled fabric look.*Cut a piece of garland to fit around the edge of the foam circle and pin in place with floral pins. Since I add springs of real greenery I don't worry about bits of the form showing. If you are not going to fill it in you might want a layer of garland on the outside edge and the upper edge to fill it out and to keep the form from showing. Fluff the garland.*Twirl the thin gold wire edged ribbon through the garland. You can substitute beads, tinsel, lace, colored ribbon, etc.*Evenly space 5 candle holders of your choice on the surface edge twisting two pieces of the garland around the center of the holder to hold in place.NOTE: Traditionally taper candles are used. This year I am using small stemmed glasses that I picked up at a flea market and votive candles. My tiny grandson will be present this year and for safety purposes I chose not to use the tapers.

*Every where there is a candle holder, on the outside edge, insert a floral pick, flower, or
embellishment of your choice. I chose to use one off white velvet poinsettia with a gold center and a floral pick that contains a pine cone, a small golden beaded apple, berries, and holly leaves.*Cut apart the stem of berries into sprigs. Place sprigs randomly between the candle holders.*If using real greens, clip and place is bare spots to fill out arrangement. These may get droopy after week two and may need to be replace. You can use one strand of garland and then fill in with artificial greenery like ivy, holly, or evergreens, then you won't need to worry about replacing them. I prefer to add a touch of the real for the smell.

*Place candles in the holders.

*Place your center piece in the desired location.

We add to this wreath with symbols for each weeks devotional reading. Additional devotional materials are as follows:

Week 1:

*A white dove, purchased from a craft store*A lamb, we use a little ceramic pair I found in a flea marketWeek 2:
*An angel, mine is a gold wire one that I bought in the ornament section of Hobby Lobby and added a floral pick to the base.*2 yards White Wire Edged Ribbon at least 1inch wide
*Gold glitter fabric paint in a squeeze bottleNOTE: To prepare ribbon in advance, use gold glitter fabric paint and write the message "Jesus Immanuel- God With Us" on the ribbon. I was able to write this four times on my ribbon. Allow to dry thoroughly.

Week 3:

*A star, mine a gold wire one that I bought in the ornament section of Hobby Lobby adding a floral pick to the base.*Something to represent the three gifts the wise men gave Christ, I found three ornaments at a local Christian book store adding floral picks to the bases.Week 4:
*A small basket or something to represent a manger that is to scale with your baby Jesus figurine, mine is a flea market basket made from corn husk
*Straw or substitute excelsior, which can be purchased in a craft storeChristmas Eve:
*Figurines of Mary and Joseph

Christmas Morning:
*Figurine of baby Jesus
The Babb Family Advent Celebration:

Sunday 1:
We light the candles in the candle screens in our entry windows and turn out the lights. We pray together. I draw attention to the wreath, explaining what it symbolizes, The circle of the wreath reminds us that God's Kingdom will have no end and that God Himself has no beginning and no end. He has always existed and always will, also the evergreen tells us that Jesus brings eternal life. We read Luke 1:33 and John 3:16.


I bring out the white dove and place it on the wreath while explaining that "The white dove on the wreath reminds us that the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and that the Holy Spirit is God's gift to us to comfort us and to help us." We read Matthew 3:16; John 1:32; John 14:25-27.

When my son and daughter were younger, we would incorporate a memory verse. Since the Advent ceremony is focused on light, I chose Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I
fear?"

One of the guests or children lights the candle.

We all open our Bibles and read Isaiah 9:6-7. I explain that this passage shows the coming of the Messiah. I direct one of the guests or children remove the lamb from the basket and situate it in greenery of the wreath.


We turn to and read Isaiah 40:10-11. I explain the symbol, "Christ is our Shepherd, we are his flock. The lamb reminds us that Christ loves us. He gathers us to Himself and gently leads us. In John 10:11 Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." This little lamb also reminds us of what Christ did on the cross for us.


We turn to Luke 2 and read verses 1-8. I explain that the lamb also symbolizes the shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock, this is a picture of Jesus watching over and protecting us.

My husband closes in prayer. We listen to or sing along with "O Come, All Ye Faithful" If you or one of your family members plays an instrument why not let them play? My daughter plays the flute and often she would serenade us with beautiful music in an opening hymn.
(Here rests our completed wreath base. About an hour before we begin I will fill it with the fresh green and candles. I will post updated pictures later in the evening.)

We extinguish the candle flame and this concludes week one of Advent. We usually follow up with refreshments of some sort. Tonight we will dine together on homemade chicken noodle soup, a side salad, yeast rolls, with apple pie and ice cream for dessert. We will sit long and laugh much while love blankets us. I can hardly wait!

In the next few weeks on my Serendipity Sunday posts I will share the rest of our Advent traditions, posting pictures as we build our centerpiece and our anticipation at celebrating the birth of Christ.

Blessings,
Miss Sandy

Friday, November 28, 2008

Snowman Soup and a Couple of Winners.....

"Snowflakes are kisses from heaven."
~unknown~

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas! Rarely ever happens where I live but a girl can dream can't she? Since I may not get the real thing, I decided to kick off my Spirit of Giving Christmas posts with a little snow ALL this upcoming week! We are going to start off small until we get the snowball rollin' right up to the next give away on Dec. 4!

Speaking of give aways, the winners from yesterdays entries are:
#6, Catherine Holman! You can visit Catherine's beautiful blog here. Catherine is a wonderful artist who paints in the folk art style. Each of her paintings comes with a little story and I just love her work. Congrats Catherine, email me your address and I will get your package right out. AND.....

#9, Susie! You can visit Susie's blog here. Susie is a garden guru with a deep love for growing things and an appreciation for the beauty of God's natural world. You are sure to love her blog and she has a wonderful knowledge of plants. Congrats Susie, email me your address and your package will be on its way!

I love to have really quick and easy ideas for gifts that I can have on hand for visitors during the holiday season. Something that could be given to a child's teacher at school or church, or perhaps a little something I can tuck a tip into and give to those who provide me with special services, like my hairstylist or postman, you get the idea. I think Snowman Soup fits the bill! It is quick, cute, and easy, just what I need during the busyness of the holidays and it yummy too!
Snowman Soup:

*White Card Stock
*Patterned Paper
*Vellum OR you can substitute any of the following: cotton batting, white felt, or fiber fill OR white craft foam
(If you use velum, you will need vellum tape by 3M)
*Cellophane Bag, plain or snowflake patterned, OR Brown Paper Lunch Bag OR Colored Gift Bag
*Assorted Embellishments, buttons, ribbon, beads, etc. for snowman face and clothing
*Ribbon or Twine
*Mini resealable bag, can be found in craft stores near jewelry making supplies or at grocery stores, buy the snack size zip bags
*Glue
*Hole Punch
*Scissor

Soup Ingredients:

*1 single serving of instant hot cocoa mix
*Mini Marshmallows
*1 Candy Cane
*2 to 3 Chocolates

Empty contents of hot cocoa mix into a mug, add one or two chocolates, add boiling water, stir with peppermint candy cane to mix and flavor the snowman soup. Sip and enjoy!

Makes one serving

POEM:

Was told that you've been
real good this year,
always glad to
hear it.
With freezing
weather
drawing near.
You'll need to
warm the spirit.
So here's a little
Snowman Soup
complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water,
sip it slow
it's sure to
do the trick!

NOTE: Copy and save the poem to print out OR if you would like a copy of this poem that is to scale, with eight copies per 8 1/2" x 11" sheet, just email me and I will return your email with an attachment you can print out onto card stock. I can also send you the snowman pattern if needed.

INSTRUCTIONS:

*Cut 6" x 4 1/4" rectangle of patterned paper to make bag topper
*Tear vellum strips to form snow drifts and adhere with vellum tape OR cut felt, batting into snow drift shapes and adhere with craft glue or spray glue OR glue on fiberfill for snow OR use plain white paperNOTE: The vellum only shows up if you use a dark background paper or card stock

*Print out poem on white card stock, trim, and glue to bag front as shown in the photo, you may want to mat the poem on a coordinating piece of card stock OR ink the edges for a little color OR trim with a decorative scissor
*From white felt cut out a snowman shape, approx. 3" tall and no wider than 1 3/4" at widest point, and glue to bag topper front and embellish as desired*Fill bag with Snowman Soup ingredients. Fold bag top closed.

*Fold over top of bag topper 3/4"
* Place bag top in fold of topper, punch holes through all layers.*Thread ribbon or twine through holes and tie closed, trimming the ends. For the pastel packages I made, I used colored marshmallows while others received white. Click on any photo to enlarge for a detailed view.BONUS IDEA:
Save time - mat the poem with a colored tag and tie it to a holiday mug filled with the Snowman Soup ingredients, pop it in a gift bag, and you are done!

Don't limit yourself to traditional papers or embellishments, below are some variations on the theme.
This little guy is a traditional snowman all cut from felt. I dotted the eyes and mouth with black craft paint and cut arms from black card stock.
This one would be perfect for a little boy. As a little twist, I used shiny silver tape, found in hardware stores, for the snow. (I snitched mine from Handy Hubby's workshop.)Who says snow can't be pink? I think pink is perfect for this little green eyed girl! Her cheeks are dusted with blush by using an eye shadow applicator. Her arms are cut from felt and give her a hugable look!This cutie is a little bit country with his burlap hat and textured wallpaper snow. He has real twig arms and a tiny corduroy scarf.
Torn from handmade paper and tinted with chalk this little guy came out looking a bit more like a leprechaun than a snowman, but you get the idea! He sits atop snow drifts of cardboard with a felt hat embellished with a sheet music band.
White paper snow drifts are edged in pink chalk where a sparkly miss sports a fanciful hat with a glittered band, a big pink bow and silver bead buttons finish off her costume.This little guy is as traditional as they come, a simple snowman with a red jewel nose and black ribbon scarf. He too sits atop silver snow and sports silver branch arms.
BONUS IDEA: Stamp a brown paper bag for a country or vintage look using a snowflake stamp and brown ink to compliment the style of your tag. KIDS CORNER:While little hands are certainly sweet and often helpful, (they can fill the bags!), they often want to get in on the act of creating something. Most children find making a Melted Snowman a funny idea.
This is a quick and easy craft that will need little supervision or preparation. If you have older children, have them prepare and supervise the activity while you get other holiday plans underway.
MATERIALS:
*White felt or white cotton batting, cut in blob shape
*White pompoms or Cotton balls
*Wiggle eyes
*Buttons
*Black seed beads
*Twigs
*Black felt, cut in shape of hat
*Orange craft foam, felt, or construction paper, cut in small triangle for nose
*White craft glue
*Scissor

*Start by cutting out a white blob shape, this will be your snowman body
*Glue pompom or cotton ball onto your felt, this will be your snowman head
*To make the face, glue on two wiggle eyes, orange triangle nose, and beads for mouth
*To finish body, glue on buttons and twig arms
*Cut out hat shape and glue to front of head

BONUS IDEA: Leave enough room on the front of each snowman for adding a name, outline in glue and glitter, use a paint pen, etc. Place a melting snowman on the plate of each place setting as place cards and watch little faces light up at their art being a part of your holiday celebration

On Sunday I will share one of our special family holiday traditions with you. Monday I will return to "Let it Snow!" week and I have two special guest bloggers I will be directing you to for tutorials. I'll show you my attempts and variations of their ideas, and give you a peek at one of the give away prizes!

Blessings,
Miss Sandy
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