Our big Advent activity in the Vicarage is always the Jesse Tree – a bare twig we cover in decorations that take us through the salvation story to Jesus. We don’t always manage to get all the way through the readings and the decorating, but we make an attempt each year and cover at least some of it.
If you’re thinking of following God’s story from creation to the birth of Christ with a Jesse Tree for the first time this Advent, an excellently easy way to get your kit together would be to use free printables. These colour-in ones over at Life Your Way look great – there are lots of others all over the internet if you don’t fancy the colouring in, or if you want different bible stories. You don’t even have to use a twig – an outline of a tree drawn on a poster would work just as well (and not take up as much space in the kitchen). In the next couple of days we’ll be digging out our battered Celebrations tin and hunting round for the decorations that went astray when we packed up last year.
Another great Advent activity, especially good for holiday clubs or the like, or if school breaks up way before Christmas, is making a Nativity set. You could use this gorgeous cut up and colour set by Dutch designer Marloes de Vries or buy a set of Nativity Shrinkles, which my kids had lots of fun with last year. My goddaughters have each been sent a set this year. Our schools break up on the Friday before Christmas, so we may not have time for colouring activities this year, but I shall keep the Marloes de Vries colouring to hand, just in case the kids need occupying. We may end up with a house full of nativity sets!
I’ve linked this post up with one of Tanya’s – she’s posting some Advent reflections over the next four weeks.
Watching the last episode of the excellent BBC Nativity earlier this week I was reminded of this song by Andrew Peterson (he of Matthew’s Begats). Here is a YouTube clip of it, with pictures from The Nativity Story from 2006. A Christmas Day treat for us all.
And talking of a Labour of Love, if you were in bed at a decent hour last night, you won’t have heard my fumblings on air with Ranvir Singh of Radio 5 Live. My very kind brother-in-law managed to record my brief moment of late-night fame, where I spoke about what Christmas means to me. It was recorded from the telly, which is why it’s in a YouTube clip.
A good headline, don’tcha think? Well, it’s not totally true, but my Twitter stream is already reporting a smattering of cancelled Sunday services. The Vicar is about to call round and cancel our 9am service which is mainly attended by elderly folk. The snow here is a good 6″ deep, and still falling and once it’s frozen overnight it will be even more hazardous for our more senior members.
Most sadly of all, live nativities have been hit by non-delivery of donkeys. The one we were going to attend at our old church in Wolverhampton today was cancelled as both the donkey (coming from Shropshire) and baby Jesus (coming from Tipton) were unable to make an appearance because of the snowfall.
I’m just praying that attendance our Nativity Service tomorrow morning and the Carol Service in the evening isn’t drastically depleted. Some of our church (and Christmas choir) members live outside the parish (and up steep hills), so they may well struggle to get in. It’s such a special time of year for churches and it would be very sad to miss all the fun and celebrations and the opportunity to share Christmas joy with folk who don’t often join us.
What will you be serving at your festive services this Christmas? I have just taken delivery of a bulk purchase for our church – ten 2 litre vacuum jugs. This is so we can serve Spiced Cranapple, a non-boozy mulled wine, after our carol service and after the Christmas Cracker service on Christmas Eve. With the jugs I’ll be able to mull the spices into the drink at home first and then take the hot beverage over to the church next door. We will also be providing mince pies, of course. And tea and coffee and biscuits too, for those not so keen on the festive delights. For the school carol service this morning I have two large choccie cakes with star sprinkles and some festive iced biscuits made with mixed spice.
What about you. Do you serve alcohol or not? With alcoholism and its attendant evils an ever-present problem in our parish, serving alcohol in church is something we tend to avoid. Do you mass cater with Asda mince pies or ask folk to bring their own, whether homemade or not? Time for a bit of sharing. I’ll close this poll at the weekend – I think we should all have our catering plans fixed by then.