Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 4

Anchor Cross

Jonah 1; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25; Acts 27; Hebrews 6:19‑20

Few things are more terrifying than to be tossed helplessly in a raging storm at sea.  Capsizing, running aground, being washed overboard, and breaking up, all often fatal, are only a few of the dangers.   The crew’s best hope is to jettison cargo, find a sheltered place (if possible) and anchor firmly. 

In antiquity from Polynesia to the Mediterranean, anchors were often grooved or pierced stones.  By the first century A.D., Romans were using anchors with arms and flukes (similar to the traditional and more recent kedge anchor).  The arms allowed the anchor to dig deeply into the gravel and mud on the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, or into the lime, clay, sand and mud on the Mediterranean floor.  A properly set anchor cannot quiet the storm, but it can bring the ship and its crew safely through. 

The disciples, many who were experienced fishermen, likely had many stories of life threatening tempests.  The Apostle Paul endured storms and even shipwreck.  In every case, the Lord protected them, whether on the Sea of Galilee or in the Mediterranean off the coast of Malta.  Better than any anchor, Jesus calmed the sea, and brought them through the storm. 

How fitting, then, that this Christmas anchor is shaped like a cross.  Even as Jesus brought His people through disaster on the water, so He brings us through disasters in our lives.   Crime, sickness, injustice, and pain are inevitable on our earthly journey.   Our hearts break as parents die, children disobey, jobs are lost and health is shattered.  Our strength fades when loved ones betray, dreams are crushed, wealth fails, and our bodies wither.  Like a sailor’s, our best hope is to jettison the distractions in our lives, find a sheltered place in His word, and anchor in His love.  Sometimes the Lord “calms the sea” by taking the situation away.  If He does not, though, He always brings us through. 

Even through the ultimate and eternal storm, that of sin and death, Jesus, by His death on the cross and resurrection, has delivered those who love Him.

As we put our hope in Christ, we study and obey His word.  As we learn his word and speak to Him in prayer, He builds our faith and makes us better able to trust Him (Rom 10:17).  We know that Jesus will be faithful to His promises and work His perfect will in our lives.

While contemplating the symbolism of the anchor-cross with our loved ones this Christmas season, let us resolve to remember Christ each time we see an anchor, or a storm.  Jesus is, truly, the anchor for our souls. 

O Come all Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant;
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above.
Glory to God, all glory in the highest!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus to Thee be all glory giv’n.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 3

Messianic Rose

Isaiah 35

Tucked between chapter 34, which describes the judgment of God against many nations, and chapter 36, which tells of the terrible Assyrian invasion of Judah, is one of the most beautiful of God’s promises for His people.  Isaiah 35 tells what happens when the living water that only the Messiah, Jesus, can provide, floods into the driest of lands.   “The desert shall … blossom…” has long been considered a Messianic Promise, and the rose has traditionally been the flower mentioned by the Scripture.   Although the actual plant in chapter 35 is one of the bulb family and more closely resembles a crocus than the modern rose, the stylized rose (five petaled) has been called the Messianic Rose for it refers to the promise of a Messiah. 

In this passage God’s people hear of encouragement to the exhausted and strength to the feeble.  We are promised sight for the blind, hearing for the deaf, leaping for the lame, and joyful shouting for the dumb.  Land which was formerly considered desolate and worthless now has the glory of Lebanon, the majesty of the mountains, highways of righteousness, and safety for God’s people. 

Writing between 720 and 700 BC, Isaiah could only have known through the eyes of faith the fulfillment of his words.  Around 30 A.D., Jesus encouraged, strengthened, healed, and fed just as Isaiah wrote 700 years before.  Looking back from the 21st Century, we know that the promise of a Messiah came true and we have the wonderful story of how that happened. Even now we do not have the whole story, but when the Messiah comes again in glory, each line of this marvelous promise will come literally true. 

Have you ever considered the many symbols of our Christian faith that are in evidence around us all the time and that we so often take for granted? Flowers, butterflies, birds, trees‑‑all these have significance for us as Christians and serve to remind us of the love of our Father who has given us these gifts.

As we with our families consider our gracious Lord each day during the Advent season, and every day in the year, let us take time to notice the innumerable reminders of His love, and thank God for them.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

 

 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 2

Six Pointed Star

Genesis 1, Psalm 8, Colossians 1:15-18

The first of the Christ symbols is a six-pointed star, a symbol with a long and checkered history. It is used currently on the flag of the State of Israel. Previously it served to identify the Jewish people during World War 2, on the ancient and mystical “Seal of Solomon”, and in idol worship in many cultures.   More importantly, the six-sided star is the Star of Creation. The six points, six outer triangles and six sides of the inner hexagon reflect the six days of creation of the universe.

Jesus Christ, the focus of Christmas, is the ultimate creator; He has created all things. Out of nothing (Latin “ex nihilo”), He created everything that exists in the universe. The fabulous intricacy of the human body, the web of life, the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, and the bewildering variety in the universe overwhelm us with a sense of His amazing wisdom and power.

As you place the six pointed star on the Advent calendar and read about the creativity of our Savior, think about the significance of this symbol.

Ponder the creation of light and darkness, and the fundamental role that energy plays in the universe. Consider the heavens and the earth, the plant world, the sun, moon and stars, and the animal kingdom. Meditate on the mystery of Man, the pinnacle of God’s creation, and his responsibility to oversee the world, and to love and serve his Maker.

Made in God’s image, and using resources in the world He has made, we also create. Art, music, architecture, literature, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics, whether done by a novice or a master, are examples of human creativity. Most amazing of all, man and woman come together in the ultimate human creative act…producing a new life.

Advent season is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, God the Son. He has created a magnificent universe for His glory and our blessedness, and we as reflections of Him should create for the glory of God and the benefit of others. Let us rejoice in this great mission as we ponder the Star of Creation.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With th’angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail th’incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – December 1

Christmas Tree

Genesis 1:1, 11-12, 24‑31; Genesis 3:22-24

Hang your tree up today.

Plant life forms the basis of life on earth; providing oxygen, food, shade, building materials, fabrics, and fuel. Plants also remove waste products, including carbon dioxide, and other human and animal waste. Life on earth would be impossible without plants.

Trees are the largest and often considered the most noble of the plants. Evergreen trees such as spruce, pine, and fir, seem to live through all seasons. Trees have long been symbols of the life sustaining power of God. Our reading today reminds us of their fundamental role in Creation, finding ultimate expression in the Tree of Life.

Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, to earth. Jesus is the Creator of all things and the source of physical life. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the fountain of living water providing eternal life for those who believe.

Do you know where the first Christmas tree came from? There are many theories, some reaching as far back as Saint Boniface (born 7th century, died 5 June 754). Trees had long been important in pagan worship in Northern Europe. Donar’s (Thor’s) Oak, located in the state of Hesse, was considered sacred by many in Germany. In a challenge to the pagan deities, Boniface began to chop down the oak, and suddenly a strong wind blew it over. When Boniface was not struck dead by the Germanic gods, the people rejected them and accepted Christianity.   They continued using trees in services, but rather than worshipping spirits in the trees they worshipped the One who made the trees.  

Another story tells us that one evening Martin Luther was walking home through a forest in Germany. As he looked up through the trees he saw a host of twinkling stars in the dark sky. He thought about the Star of Bethlehem. As he gazed at the stars framed so beautifully by the branches of the fir trees, Luther was filled with awe. He wished that he could take that lovely scene home to his family so he cut down a small fir tree, took it inside his house, and decorated it with tiny flickering candles.

Green is associated with life and living things. The shoots and signs of growth in spring remind us of the color green. The evergreen Christmas tree speaks of life that will never end.

As you put up your Christmas tree today. read of Saint Boniface and Martin Luther. Turn out the lights and sit in the dark quietly. Light a candle and have the Scripture read. First the passage in Genesis and then John 12:44‑50. Sing softly the German Christmas carol “O Christmas Tree.” Think about the gift of God, Jesus Christ, which has made our own everlasting life possible.

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
In beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!

 

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!
How often you give us delight
In brightly shining Christmas light!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me
That hope and love will ever be
The way to joy and peace for me.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me.

O Tannenbaum

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur
zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

 

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Dein Kleid will michwas lehren:
Die Hoffnung und Beständigkeit
Gibt Trost und Kraft zu jeder Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Das soll dein Kleid mich lehren.

 

Advent Tree Family Devotions – Getting Started

Advent Devotional Tree ornaments 1 Advent Devotional Tree ornaments 2

Celebration #1 – The Advent Calendar

The season of Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues until Christmas Day. Traditionally, Advent calendars have had windows to open which mark the days between December 1 and Christmas Day.

This Advent calendar is based upon the idea of marking the days between those dates and using Christmas symbols to help us remember some of the significant events in the Christmas story and the history of our Lord’s life.

It is also based upon the idea of making a devotional calendar as a family to make this time of sharing each day a special part of the family’s celebration of Christmas.

These Advent decorations are historic symbols and are commonly used on Christmas trees. They were first designed and used by the earliest Christians and were found on jewelry, utensils, in the catacombs and in buildings. They are symbols used by the early church and by the church today to show the peoples’ faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is evident to all who view the symbols. They are always made in gold and white to symbolize majesty and purity.

We hope that as you make and use your Christmas Advent calendar, you and your family will more fully experience and enjoy Christmas, and create memories that will endure for generations. As we were created in God’s image to be creative, let your ability find full expression as you create your decorations together.

Each day there is a Bible reading and a devotional reading.  On most days, a Christmas carol follows the readings.  It is not necessary to read every Bible passage or sing every verse listed, but only as many as time and inclination allows.  Share the opportunity to read the Bible, read the devotion, and lead the carol, among family and friends.  Consider using these in church or in Bible studies. 

Our family enjoys sharing the devotions around a table or in a living room bright with Christmas lights and candles.  Sometimes we have egg nog or hot cocoa with Christmas cookies.  

The Advent Calendar and Symbols

There are several ways to make the Advent calendar. You may use paper, felt or other fabrics or materials, and adorn your decorations with sequins, beads and pearls and other trimmings.

Steps to follow:

1. Enlarge the tree pattern onto newspaper or a paper bag.  Cut your tree from green felt, construction paper, or some other material.

2.  Choose an appropriate neutral color for the background if you wish to make your tree and calendar into a banner.  Otherwise you will need to hang the tree from the top to the wall.

3. Using white and gold paper or felt, trace around the patterns or cut them right from the book and use them as a pattern.

4. When you are finished with the decorations, if you choose felt, decorate with sequins, beads and other trim as desired. Make them as fancy or ornate as possible for this is part of the symbolism.

5. If you make your decorations from paper, draw in some of the details as for example on the grapes, shell, etc.

6. There are two ways to attach the decorations to the tree. You can use velcro or snaps (for the felt only). Glue the velcro dots to the back of the decoration and to appropriate places on your tree (the ends of the branches and along a trim line (either imaginary or one you have glued on) Rickrack works great for this.

7. You will need 23 envelopes. Number these and put the appropriate decoration in each one.

8. Each day read one of more of the Scripture passages given, and then read the devotion.  Afterward, remove the decoration from the envelope, and attach it to the tree.

9. On Christmas Day the devotion to read does not include putting a decoration on the tree, but rather refers back to several that have already been affixed to the tree.

10. On Day 1, hang the tree and begin the observance. On all the other days, attach the decoration to the tree.

11. You may make all the decorations in advance or make them one at a time, each day, as your family chooses. If you choose to make them each day, be sure to allow enough time to complete the each one before reading the devotion. It is a good idea to have the patterns cut out in advance.

Supplies you will need – paper, pencil, scissors, eraser, large piece of green felt or construction paper 12 x 18″, large piece of white and gold paper or felt, velcro snaps (if using felt and velcro is not desired) glue sequins, beads, pearls, etc. needle and thread, rickrack and/or other gold trims, small silk flowers (for felt decorations), piece of ¼ or 1/8″ doweling to hang tree if a banner is made.