On Tuesday one of my church groups discussed the upcoming series on advent.  We talked about Worshiping Fully, Loving More, Spending Less and Giving Often…. I think that’s what they all were.  Anyway, I realized that despite all my years at Santa Fe Christian memorizing Bible verses, with mandatory Wednesday Chapel’s and attending Sunday School every week at church… I dont remember exactly what advent is.

So… what is advent?

                   I could give you the typical rehearsed definition that “advent is the time before Christmas day where we remember the birth of Jesus”.  Heck now that I am typing it I am even second guessing that.… so, um… what is advent really?

A few definitions: 

-Advent is a spiritual season of preparation before Christmas celebrated by many Christians. In Western Christianity, the season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24.

-The word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly of something having great importance.

-For Christians, Advent is a time of reflection about the amazing gift that God gave to us in the person of His Son who came to live among us on earth. It is also an opportunity to restore Jesus to His rightful place as the center of our holiday celebrations! Advent is, appropriately, both somber and joyful!

                 So after reading that I’ve got to be honest. I am filled with guilt. My husband and his family have a wonderful tradition every year of sitting around the tree together on Christmas Eve; each with a cherished Christmas book in hand and favorite carol in mind and we go around the room one by one listening to the stories read aloud then all together we sing each chosen carol. Then when the program is over we sort out the gifts and begin opening them together. It is such a wonderful tradition of spending time together as a family, enjoying one another’s company and rejoicing together.  Eric’s very Danish grandmother began this family tradition that we proudly keep alive today.  But I feel like something is missing…

                    According to everything I have learned, read and feel in my bones Christ is and should be the center of Christmas. Not Santa, presents or family…but Jesus.  Family is very important and Santa is a fun magical character-easy to love…but it should be about Jesus and the significance of his birth.  I thought long and hard about how to do this while keeping these strong Ranaldi(Juelsgaard) traditions alive.

                    My kids are at that age now where they don’t just hear the word “Christmas” and immediately think about presents.  My daughter gets excited about baking cookies with Mema(something the origional Mema did every year). My son is overly anxious to break out our decoration boxes and see all of our ornaments and lights…he shares his father’s enthusiasm for the outdoor light displays. My daughter is already thumbing through all of our Christmas books (that were dug out of the boxes packed away) carefully deciding which one she will read during our Program.  They both are humming Christmas Carols in their sleep and making up the words as they go along when they are awake.

                      Haylee keeps telling me she is trying to decide what to give Santa this year. I’m not quite sure how to convince her that we don’t need to give Santa presents other than cookies and milk, that HE gives us gifts.  I reflect a moment and wonder, if she were telling me “mommy, I am trying to figure out what to give Jesus this year”…would I tell her, “Oh no honey, God did send Jesus to give us a gift but we don’t need to give him anything!”…I dont think so. I love that she shares my enthusasm for giving. I love that she doesn’t even know what Santa is giving her and she is already planning on what wonderful gift to give him.  She has such a beautiful heart and in her spirit pouring out, in that moment I see a perfect oppotunity to share with my children what Christmas is truly about.

                They are growing up so quick and I love that they look forward to our family traditions and that they are begining to ask “Why” and not just expect.  Haylee wants to know why Santa doesn’t give grown up’s presents…I dont have answers for all of their questions, but I would love to share with them why we celebrate the way we do. Explain to them who LaVonne Juelsgaard was and why her Danish heritage is so important to our family.  Why we have nativity scenes around the house, and what a nativity scene is.  Why it is important to everyone that Jesus was born and why do we need to take 4 weeks to “remember” all of it…

                  SO this year I have looked up exactly what advent is and some ideas on how to incorporate it into our family traditions…some are simple things I can get from the store, some are things I can make/do with the kids.  I am not sure which I want to do yet, but thought I would share them with you all because some of them are very unique and creative. MOST of these came from www.teachingmom.com

*It is agreed that the most common way to recognize the season of advent is with Advent Calendars and Wreaths.

“The prevailing themes of the Advent season and the symbolism behind the activities which churches and families share are expectation and hope, preparation and peace, joy and sharing, and most of all, love. These themes are represented in the 5 candles of the Advent wreath. On each Sunday marking a new week in Advent, a candle is lit on the wreath (including candles from previous weeks) until we arrive at the snow-white center candle which stands for Christ! All Advent activities and traditions are grounded in the truth of Scripture…even though the symbolism and stories surrounding them have changed over time. The focus continues to be the great news that the Messiah was and is coming and how we live out our heartfelt longing for both.

The practice of lighting Advent candles began in Germany by non-Christians. They lit candles surrounded by evergreen branches in their windows on cold winter nights to signify their hope for the coming warmth and light of spring! Later, German Lutherans kept the practice alive and gradually the symbolism of the Advent wreath was added: evergreens represent everlasting life (because they do not die during winter) and Christian growth; the wreath is a symbol of God’s unending love and of victory; candles represent Christ, the light of the world, and their purple or blue color signify the royalty of Jesus our King! Another tradition saying is that the four candles signify the 4000 years of waiting from Adam and Eve until, at long last, Jesus’ birth.”

*Of course you can go buy a calendar or pre-made wreath BUT some crafty people might get an itch to make their own.  You can make one that will last for years and years to come, maybe even be passed down within your family OR something that can be made anew each year*

Advent wreaths contain 4-5 candles, one purple or pink candle for each week of Advent and a last white or rose candle to represent Christ! Here are some ideas if you’d like to make your own:

1. Use an aluminum foil pie tin and cut “X” shapes to push your candles down into. Decorate with greenery.

2. Use a styrofoam wreath shape. Press your candles in (use a small brass candle holder if you can) and decorate with artificial holly or other greenery.

3. Fill a container such as a bundt cake pan or a pretty planting container with dry cranberries or small pretty stones (or sand, pebbles, etc if you will cover with greenery) and push your candles down in.

4. Drill holes in a log which has been sanded on the bottom side to be sure it is steady and place candles in the holes. Decorate with greenery.

5. If your children are too young to take part in candle lighting, they can make a wreath with handprints made on green paper. Form a circle with the handprints and put a bow on. You can hang it or you can make pretend candles from toilet paper tubes to use on it!


1. You can use an actual calendar like the large desk calendars with space to write in Every night, write in a new verse reference for you and your family to look up and read together the next day. Afterwards put a Christmas stiker on the square to count down the days.

2. Make an Advent tree. Use a small (3-foot or so) artificial tree and each day hang a new ornament. These can be tiny gift boxes , mini stockings or mini mittens holding verses and/or candy. **I like this idea and possibly using a baby potted real tree and planting it when the holiday is over** OR Cut out a Christmas tree shape from cardboard or posterboard. Each day, add a new ornament (either cut them out yourself or buy some die-cut shapes from a craft store) with a verse.

3. An alternative to a calendar is to make an Advent paper chain. Add a new link to the chain ever day with either the Bible verse you read together, the people you prayed for that day or a list of what you were thankful for that day. Or, you can create the chain in advance and remove the links with verses (or names of people to pray for) listed on them.

4. Have an old or extra corkboard that you’re not using? Transform it into an Advent calendar and post new messages and/or verses every day. You can wrap the board with wrapping paper to make it look like a present and add bow, ornament or candy shapes every day. You can hang pieces of candy each day with push pins as well.

5. A fairly easy traditional Advent calendar can be made with 2 pieces of cardboard or posterboard. Draw your design on one piece of cardboard. You can make little houses and churches along a winding road or a Christmas tree with ornaments or just one house with many little windows or doors. Use an exacto knife to cut the doors/windows open, leaving one side as a hinge. Then, lay the 2nd piece of cardboard underneath and line it up. Open the windows/doors and trace the shapes onto the cardboard below. Write your verses or other messages in the traced shapes and then carefully glue the cardboard under the cover piece of cardboard. Close the doors with little bits of tape to keep peeking eyes from looking ahead! (Fun foam or felt can be used, too.)

6,Nativity figures. Instead of a calendar, you can allow your children to set out 1 nativity figure/animal each day until Christmas.

7. Use old Christmas cards to create a tree shape on your wall or door. Glue verses or other messages written on colored paper inside.  **who doesnt have a collection of unused Christmas cards?? I know I have a BUNCH! and my kids would love getting cards in the mail with our verse/lesson on it. SUCH an awesome idea!

8. Sew a calendar with felt or any other fabric. Make small pockets for each day of Advent where you can put verses or candy.


***I realize money is an issue for a lot of people right now so having “gifts” for your children each day between now and Christmas isn’t very realistic but I do love some of the ideas and symbolism/lessons for some of them, check it out!***

1.  Quarter–A quarter! That equals 25 cents. But 25 also stands for the number of days till Christmas, when God gave us His best present. Jesus told about one woman’s gift and the way she gave it. Read: Mark 12:41-44

2.Grape Gum or Candy–Grapes make jelly and juice, raisins and wine. But Jesus didn’t need grapes to perform His first miracle. Read: John 2:1-10

3. Smiley Face–Here’s a smile! A smile usually expresses happiness. Jesus gave us many instructions to keep us happy. Read: Matthew 5:1-12.

4. Swedish Fish candy–Well, if you were surprised to find these fish, wait till you read the story today! Others were surprised to find fish, too. Read: Luke 5:4-7.

5. Birthday Candle–As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. However, Jesus talked about something else that is related to this candle. Light! Read: Matthew 5:14-16.

6. Small Bell–You could make some noise with this. But it would not have bothered a certain man–until he met Jesus. Read: Mark 7:31-37.

7. Goldfish Crackers–These would not go very far if you were really hungry! But Jesus could make much out of little. Surely He knew how to multiply! Read: Matthew 14:13-21.

8. Cotton Balls–These cotton balls would be helpful in a thunder storm, wouldn’t they? We could use them for ear plugs to muffle the loud noises that thunder makes. But we know someone who doesn’t need cotton. Jesus can control the weather. Read: Matthew 8:23-27.

9. Piece of Map–People needing to use the other parts of this map are in trouble! Don’t you get lost today! Read: John 14:1-6.

10. Soap–Do you like to wash? Behind your ears? Washing turned out to be a happy time for a man who met Jesus. Read: John 9:1-7.

11. Heart Candy or Sticker–Hearts. Wordlessly, they speak of love, don’t they? Jesus spoke some commands about love. Read: Matthew 25:17-41.

12. Small Cross–We use the cross as a symbol, representing Jesus. Do you know why? Read: Phillipians 2:1-11.

13. Packet of Salt–Ordinary salt. Yes, Jesus related salt to us and our behavior. He also gave us some advice. Read: Matthew 5:14 and Colossians 4:6. (Notice that He doesn’t recommend pepper!).

14. Sand–Don’t try to eat this! It’s sand. It reminds us that Jesus knows something about architecture, about buildings–and building lives. See His instructions: Matthew 7:24-29.

15. Silk Flowers–Flowers are pretty, aren’t they? Jesus used flowers to teach us a reassuring lesson. Read: Matthew 6:28-34.

16. Raisins–Raisins! Many children are given raisins instead of candy for a snack. That’s because they are a health-promoting and delicious fruit. Jesus told us how we can produce good fruit. Read: John 15:1-5.

17. Seeds–Jesus told a story about seeds that man planted. Then He explained it, revealing its deep meaning. Read: Matthew 13:3-8 and Matthew 13:18-23.

18. Christmas Carol–Christmas is just about a week away. And here is an appropriate song. Sing it loudly! Read: Psalms 100.

19. Rock–A hard stone! Can you change this stone into a piece of bread? Do you think Jesus could? Jesus was asked to do just that. Do know how He handled it? Read: Matthew 4:1-4.

20. Crumpled Foil–Try to smooth out this piece of aluminum foil and use it as a mirror. It’s hard to see your reflection plainly, isn’t it? Many circumstances are hard to understand, but someday everything will be clear. Read: 1 Corinthians 13:12.

21. Mustard Seed (or packet of mustard)–The mustard seed is the smallest there is! When it sprouts, it grows into one of the largest plants! See what Jesus said. Read: Matthew 17:20.

22. Dove–We’ve learned that the cross represents Christ, but do you know what the dove stands for? Read: Matthew 3:13-17.

23. Scrap of Wool Material–The threads that compose this fabric came from the wool of a sheep. Jesus called Himself the good shepherd. Do you know who His sheep are? Read: John 10:7-18.

24. Marble–A marble! Do you know what is sometimes called the “Big Blue Marble”? The world. God made the world for us. What does God continue doing to the world? And who is the world? Read: John 3:16.

25. Picture of Baby–Isn’t this baby cute? When he was born, he made a whole family happy. Jesus was born a baby, too. He came to make the whole world happy. Read: Luke 2:1-20. Enjoy your celebration today. Continue to learn about Jesus–and love Him forever!
*This comes from www.danielsplace.com

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