Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Holy Innocents Day.

Christmas is a season - which means that we don't have to squeeze all the celebration into one day; we can spread out the fun, food and festivities and pace ourselves! After the waiting of Advent it is worth making this celebration last. I enjoy the lulls as much as the get together with family, the feasting and parties - quiet days at home together when the children build their new Lego models, try out the new scooter or craft kit , I curl up with my new book and we eat leftovers. These are days of thankfulness.

Today is Holy Innocents Day. This is the day when we recall the horrific massacre of the babies in Bethlehem orchestrated by an enraged and jealous King Herod in an attempt to remove the threat of an infant rival.

We usually remember this day by making a donation to a children's charity. This year we chose VIVA  an organisation that works all over the world in education, health , safety and advocacy.
We has been saving our loose change in a jar for the last five months - the children counted it out and it was enough for twelve children to attend a Viva Christmas party.

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Bringing in the Greens'.

Another pleasurable job for the last week of Advent is that of decorating the house. The tradition of decorating ones home with greenery is an old one. The evergreens of holly, ivy, pine and fir remind us of God's eternal unchanging nature and of the beauty of His creation. Green is the colour of life and hope and Christmas is the festival of life and hope.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Decorating our Christ Candle.

One of the ways I try to slow us down at this time of the year is by participating in craft activities that have some symbolic significance.
This year we decided to decorate our own Christ candle to light on Christmas Eve. I did a bit of research and decided that we should have ago at carving a design on a plain cream pillar candle. The children drew designs on paper first and then my husband helped the boys do the carving with a hot knife. I read that you can paint a candle with acryllic paint so my daughter painted the carved design.

We were very pleased with the results!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent - a thin place.

The last week of Advent can be especially busy.  The pressure of the list of things still needing to be done is always present and ( in my case anyway) so is the tendency to get irritable and distracted.

I came across the blog site Behold  and have been following it this week. I particularly liked this post on Advent as a thin place. Keeping focused on what is real in the middle of this flurry of activity and spending we call Christmas is a discipline and this blogger has helped me this week.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We are here to worship...

This is the darkest time of the year and we put our Christmas lights up today.

'Light of the world 
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore you,
Hope of a life spent with you.'

Chris Tomlinson

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

St Nicholas Day

Today was a day of great excitement in our house. It began with a candle lit breakfast of porridge and croissants. In the centre of the table stands our St Nicholas figure. We walk to school with bags stuffed with packages carefully wrapped in bright tissue paper. These were prepared last night and contain homemade baking. (We made St Nicholas Coin Purse cookies using this recipe. As Hersheys Kisses are not available here we used Cadburys Twirl Bites instead). The gifts are left on our neighbours doorsteps and secreted into friends school bags.

I am amazed at how much my children enjoy the thrill of preparing and secretly delivering packages for friends and neighbours. They plan the whole operation so as not to be seen , although I am sure that the giggles and retreating feet are heard!

St Nicholas is the historical person - a 4th century bishop know for his generosity and compassion - who is the inspiration for Father Christmas. The latter has become associated with commercialism and consumerism , the former with the joy of giving. We like St Nicholas better! There are  lots of legends and stories associated with this saint, all of them demonstrate his spirit of mercy , his faith and his generous compassion. They make great family reading during Advent.

Secret parcels ready for delivery.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Advent - the wreath.

Advent is my most favourite time of year. As November draws to a  close child like excitement effervesces quietly inside me as I plan and pray my way towards Christmas. This year my pleasure is  enhanced by the joy of being 'home' - it is winter, and it is dark as we light our Advent candles , the symbolism of light dawning gradually in a dark world is strong after years of summer and tropical Christmases. 

The Advent wreath is the focus of our celebrations. A simple ring of greenery symbolising the completness of God and renewal of our life in Christ and the utimate renewal we look for in his second coming. The four candles - three purple and one pink represent hope, peace, joy ( the pink one) and love. Another way of naming the  candles is the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary , the mother of Jesus. We light our candles on Sunday evening and pray using a family litany from the Upper Room website. The litany that we use is from 2008 and when I tried to find the link I was unable to, maybe it no longer exsists. The link given takes you to the 2011 litany.

This year we did not place a fifth candle in the centre of our ring.We are going to decorate our Christ candle this year: I plan to buy a simple white pillar candle and have the children carve and paint their own designs on it. In the busyness of end of term events, scout visits to the panto, school christmas discos etc. etc. I hope that this will be a quietly  meditative activity to keep us centred on what is real. 

Ah well, I can but try!