Easter is coming and churches are beginning to wonder how they might celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in a meaningful and wonder-filled way when we can’t come together, in one place, and shout out ‘Alleluia’ at the top of our lungs. How do we celebrate Easter this year in this strange land?(more…)
Tag Archives: Family
I’ve been collecting a number of links to great websites/blogs/articles over the past couple of weeks that I think represent some of the best we can be doing, following or gaining insight from as we practice social distancing and stay home in our efforts to flatten the curve. I had hoped I could weave them into an article along the way, but for one reason or another, they never quite fit the article themes I was working on. I don’t want them to be lost in the shuffle, so I’m posting them all here in the hope that one or two might also resonant with you.(more…)
My name is Mirim Kim and I am currently a second year student at Knox College, studying in the MTS program specializing in Religious Education. My passion has always been for children, youth and family ministries, and creating practical activities that help families to cultivate loving, joyful and faith-based home environment. This year, I was given the exciting opportunity to participate in a Theological Field Education (TFE) placement and met Tori Smit as my site educator, who has helped me to expand my horizon in both educational and intergenerational ministries. As a part of my TFE experience, she has graciously invited me to write a blog posting for the synod website, thus I decided to share with you one of my family activities that we do at home.
So let’s begin!
Another exciting season of Advent is less than a month away. It is a wonderful season for parents and grandparents to create a learning opportunity for our children to experience the joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus. With this in mind, I want to invite you to participate in this simple family activity, which has helped my family reflect on the coming of Christ.
Children tend to pay better attention when tangible materials are in front of their eyes, and when they are allowed to touch and interact with objects. Perhaps this is the reason why many toy stores allow children to see, touch, and hear the toys to stimulate their interest in order to sell the products. Children also love having a chocolate Advent calendar so that they not only have fun opening something each day, but also to taste the delicious chocolate.
As a mom of three boys, I wondered if there are any other types of Advent calendars we can use before bedtime that would not create a sugar rush for the boys, and also something that can be reused year after year. I also looked for something simple. We tried our best to do Advent devotions with our children every year, but to be honest, there were days when they were just not willing to do anything, or when we were too exhausted from the chaotic day.
While looking for the one I liked, I ended up deciding to make my own version at home. Inspired by the Advent wreath that we commonly see in the church, I made an Advent prayer calendar composed of one white Christ candle, 25 stones and 25 little bowls to put them into.
Each night, we gather around this prayer calendar and ask each person to offer up a prayer of waiting for the coming of Jesus. Children’s prayers can be a simple sentence, such as “thank you for sending baby Jesus,” while younger children can be encouraged to say just a word or two. When my youngest was in preschool, we asked him to say a word, and the word he chose was “baby Jesus.” There is no right or wrong prayer. Meaningful participation is the key to this family activity. Creating a safe environment for children to feel welcomed and invited to pray in simple language in their own way is the core of this Advent Prayer Calendar.
When the prayers are done, we asked our boys to take turns putting one stone in one of the little bowls each night. The person who placed the stone in was also asked to say, “we pray all this in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and then use the candle snuffer to snuff out the light. Our children liked to stay there for a few more seconds to watch the smoke dancing and disappearing as it went up in the air. One of my boys told me that it reminds him of God being everywhere. Indeed, our God is omnipresent.
This has been a meaningful Advent prayer time for our family, to not only learn how to pray but also to listen to each other’s prayers and build a sense of unity as a family in expressing our hearts to Christ. I hope that this family activity may bring an extra special atmosphere and joyful participation of waiting for the coming of Christ, just as it is for our family.
How To Make an Advent Prayer Calendar
2-3 packages of oven baking modelling clay (I used Sculpey PE 5042 Oven Bake Clay Premolar! in black from Amazon. You can choose any colour you want.
25 small stones (available at a dollar store)
A white pillar candle (available at a dollar store)
A small container to hold rocks (available at a dollar store)
A simple candle holder (optional)
Candle snuffer (optional)
Unpack the clay from its original package and cut them evenly to make 25 pieces.
Using your hands to mold the clay into small bowls for the stones. Place them on the baking tray and bake it according to the instruction on the original package. I used “Sculpey Premo” and baked them at 275 degrees for 40 min.
Let the cups sit until the bowls are cooled down.
Designate a place in your home to display the Christ candle, a container of rocks and little bowls nicely. This space will be an Advent praying center for your family.
Optional: If you have extra clay, make some more little bowls to create a total of 40 bowls. Also, get a purple pillar candle and a few more rocks (you have enough when you get a bag from the dollar store) to make a family prayer calendar for the season of Lent.
Advent is a time of waiting. Or, at least it’s supposed to be.
For many of us the simple act of waiting is frequently lost in the midst of the busyness of the season; there’s shopping and baking to be done, family visits and decorating that needs to happen, and the regular activities of our lives at school, at work and at home that need to carry on. In the midst of all of this there is also the desire to undertake a few Advent family activities that we can do at home such as special Advent devotions, Advent calendars, and Advent candle lighting. We know it is a good thing to do these things, but even the act of simply remembering to do them, and failing to do so some of the time, leaves us feeling more burdened then blessed during these days. How do we capture the season of waiting and anticipation for the birth of Jesus in the midst of all of this without feeling worse than when we started?
This year, instead of providing a family Advent devotional booklet for families to follow, I have instead created a booklet that keeps in mind the many obligations and commitments of families at this time. This year our Advent booklet instead focuses on the wonderful family activities we already do and enjoy. Each week there is one bible story to read together, using either the Spark Story Bible or scripture, followed by three suggested picture story books that are easily found at your local library, your church library, or Chapters/Indigo, and one family movie for your family to enjoy together. Each of the weekly stories from the bible come from the lectionary readings for that week and connect with the traditional themes of Advent, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The suggested story books also reflect the weekly themes as does each of the family movies.
It is my hope that rather than feeling overwhelmed during Advent that your family will instead delight in the opportunity to read the stories at bedtime, or watch a family movie with a bowl of popcorn and some hot chocolate. Don’t feel obliged to do it all or find all of the story books; just do what fits in, is easily available, and allows your family to experience and talk about what it is you are waiting for.
For families who would like to print out this booklet, you will find it attached below through a dropbox link. When you open the link it will look a bit mixed up, as it is laid out ready to be printed and assembled into a booklet. Print out the document two-sided, with the short edge binding, and when it comes off your printer assemble the three pages together and then fold it in half. Now it will make sense and flow correctly through the weeks of Advent and Christmas.
For churches who would like to print out multiple copies of this booklet for distribution print out each page separately so you can put it through your church photocopier easily. Print the pages as a two-sided document, assemble the pages together, fold in half, and staple down the fold.
Churches may also want to plan ahead and purchase some of the books recommended for your church library, or plan a movie night featuring one of the movies suggested one evening during Advent. Perhaps one or two of the books could be used for your children’s message during worship allowing everyone to reflect on the theme for that week. Don’t worry that you will be taking the story away from families to read at home; reading the story over and over again at home is still a wonderful family activity and helps us all remember the wonder of each story.
Please, also feel free to email or call me if you want to know about any of the stories, movies, or ideas for family Advent celebrations your church may wish undertake. You can get a hold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 647-348-0879.
Jesus is indeed coming! As we wait and anticipate this glorious day, may we all find precious time to contemplate what this means to each of us and to our world. Blessings, Tori