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Archive for November, 2012

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.

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I’ve been reminded of another couple of lovely songs for Advent. This is taking away a lot of the stress of service planning for the next few weeks!

This is quite zippy, tho’ guitar might not be my first choice for accompaniment for Hail to the Lord’s Anointed (YouTube is, as usual, full of WRONG TUNE versions):

And I love Maggi Dawn’s haunting song, Into the Darkness, but it’s hard to find. There is just this one YouTube clip, and I don’t think we’ve got it in our extensive cd collection so haven’t been able to sing it in church (we don’t have a music team just now).

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Monday morning brainfreeze made me forget a couple of other excellent Advent songs. Here’s a good version of O Come O Come Emmanuel by Sixpence None the Richer:

And here’s the best version I could find of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. Almost all the others were to the WRONG TUNE. Again.

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The other day Ros commented that Advent hymns are wonderful. And we don’t sing them all that much. So to cheer a wet and dank Monday morning, a small collection. Starting with Matthew’s Begats, also from Andrew Peterson’s ‘Behold the Lamb’. We were meant to have this in church yesterday, as the Vicar concluded his sermon series in Ruth, but we had technical difficulties, so I’ve been wanting to sing along for 24 hours:

This may not, however, have been what Ros had in mind, so I went hunting for other rousing Advent hymns on YouTube. Not as easy as you’d think. They are mostly too slow, or without voices, or too flouncy and choral, or to the WRONG TUNE (Americans, I’m looking at you here).

I managed to locate a bouncy(ish) version of Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending:

And here’s a far-too-slow version of On Jordan’s Bank, the Baptist’s Cry from the Wells Cathedral Choir.

What I’d really like tho’, is a good video version of Christ is Surely Coming. But there’s only an organ version and one with a single verse. So here are the words. And the tune is Land of Hope and Glory, so I’m sure you’ll manage to hum it for yourself…

Christ is surely coming
Bringing His reward,
Alpha and Omega,
First and Last and Lord:
Root and stem of David,
Brilliant Morning Star:
Meet your Judge and Saviour,
Nations near and far!

See the holy city!
There they enter in,
All by Christ made holy,
Washed from ev’ry sin:
Thirsty ones, desiring
All he loves to give,
Come for living water,
Freely drink, and live!

Grace be with God’s people!
Praise His holy name!
Father, Son, and Spirit,
Evermore the same;
Hear the certain promise
From the eternal home:
“Surely I come quickly!
Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

And finally, one sung with a bit of gusto – When the Lord in Glory Comes:

 

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Advent is a great time to talk about faith. Glen Scrivener has just produced this wonderful Anti-Santy Ranty, clearing up the difference between the Lord and St Nick. Brilliant for events or just chucking on your Facebook timeline…

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Advent in the Vicarage is not complete without Christmas music.  The Vicar has banned me from listening to my favourite Christmas cds apart from during this season after rather overwhelming overuse of one of them in the early years of our marriage. So about this time of year I get quite excited about digging through the cd collection to rediscover Christmas Now is Drawing Near by Sneak’s Noyse, a collection of English folk carols that I love. It’s pretty obscure – I first heard it cos my dad had it (and have no idea why he bought it) – and there are no YouTube videos. So imagine a more folky version of this song, and you’ll get the idea:

Another Advent listening favourite is Andrew Peterson’s wonderful album Behold the Lamb (which includes our favourite Matthew’s Begats). Here are a couple of other songs from the album for you to sample:

Of course, we have Carols from Kings type cds too and a mad Celtic instrumental one. This year the Queen and the Joker are joining me in the church Christmas  carol service choir, so we are singing in Thursday evening practices too. Christmas music – just the thing to lift our spirits on dull December days (and a stressy November day too) and point us to the joy and wonder of the incarnation.

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I know it’s still November, but honestly, you might need to send off for some Advent stuff before 30th November in order to start things from the beginning. I speak from experience, you understand. So order today and be prepared!

So today I offer you some counting resources to arm yourself with for when Advent begins a week on Saturday (or Sunday if you’re being liturgical about it).  I don’t mean counting your funds for Christmas shopping, nor the hours available for mincepie making, but counting down to Christmas in a way which helps to focus our minds on Jesus. This year I am aiming for an Advent of anticipating Christ, rather than one of anticipating shopping and panicking about whether the Christmas cards will make it out of the Vicarage before New Year’s Day. I am also an optimist.

This year I have an Advent candle ready with numbers and the names of Jesus so that we can think of one as the candle burns. We didn’t get very far down the candle last year due to forgetfulness and busyness but it’s always better to do something badly than not at all. So we’re trying again, with hope in our hearts.

 Then of course, there are always Advent calendars, which everyone loves. Peeking behind the hidden window is a morning treat. If we’re awake enough to remember to do it, of course. You can get some great ones online, ones which tell the Christmas story brilliantly. Try these links:

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