Graham Cracker or Gingerbread Nativity

I hope this project brings a smile to your face and inspires some crafting time this blessed season. – Lisa <><

Supplies:
1 small white paper plate
1 large Christmas paper plate
1 empty paper butter box (or box of equal size)
Scissors
Clear tape
Plastic knife
White prepared frosting
Shredded wheat
Graham crackers (or gingerbread of equal size)
Animal crackers
2 small classic pretzels
1 pretzel nugget
1 peppermint candy
1 toothpick sign with “Jesus is the greatest gift”
Presents are optional

Process:

  1. Cut the butter box to the length of half a graham cracker.
  2. Tape the butter box half to the white paper plate.
  3. Put the white paper plate on the larger Christmas plate.
  4. Use the knife and frosting to attach pieces of graham cracker to the top and outside walls of the butter box. This makes construction easier than a freestanding stable.
  5. Attach the animal crackers to the graham cracker walls in the same manner.
  6. Attach the peppermint candy star to the graham cracker roof in the same manner.
  7. Place a small mound of frosting inside the bottom of the box. Carefully place the two small pretzels in the frosting at an angle forming a v shape. Hold and let dry. The pretzels form the manger for the baby, represented by the pretzel nugget.
  8. Place the shredded wheat around the structure to represent the hay.
  9. Add the sign. (and presents)

There’s usually lots of snacking, laughing and finger licking during this project so enjoy looking at it rather than eating it.

Advent and Christmas Bible Reading Plans

Live Hope, Give Hope: A Plan to Share the Goodness of Jesus at Christmas
Readings from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, John, and Psalms
Also includes a sentence prayer and action prompts to Help, Offer, Pray, or Encourage
December 1-31, 6 days per week

Comfort and Joy: A Simple Bible Reading Plan for Christmas
Readings from Matthew, Luke and Johnbible luke 2
Some of the readings are even repeated so you can go slow and go deep. Also includes a sentence prayer for each reading.
December 1-31, 5 days per week

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Advent Bible Readings from Old Testament to New
Old and New Testament Readings
December 1-25, everyday
This reading plan highlights the Old Testament names and prophesies concerning the Messiah which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

The Advent Door Reading Plan
Based on Jan Richardson’s book Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas . Her book is structured in the style of a classic Advent calendar, with 25 scripture reflections, each with an original piece of art. This is a true Advent reading plan, with the first 18 readings focusing on the repentance and the 2nd coming of Christ.

Countdown to Christmas
Old and New Testament Readings
December 1-25, everyday

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Advent Bible Readings from Old Testament to New

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.

Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible reading plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered?

I look forward to your comments. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <

December 1
Genesis 3:1-20; Romans 16:17-20
“Seed of Eve”

December 2
Genesis 22:1-18; John 3:16-17
“Only Beloved Son and Sacrifice”

December 3
Genesis 49:8-10; Revelation 5:1-5
“Lion of Judah”

December 4
Numbers 24:15-19; Matthew 2:1-2; 9-10
“Star of Jacob”

December 5
Deuteronomy 18:14-22; Hebrews 3:1-6
“Prophet Like Moses”

December 6
2 Samuel 7:1-17, Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16
“Son of David”

December 7
Psalm 2; Luke 1:35
“Messiah: Son of God and King”

December 8
Job 19:23-27; Psalm 16; 1 Corinthians 8:6
“Resurrected Redeemer”

December 9
Psalm 22; Isaiah 53:1-3; John 1:10-11
“Rejected One”

December 10
Psalm 72; Luke 4:17-19
“Deliverer of the Afflicted”

December 11
Psalm 110; Hebrews 7
“High Priest Forever”

December 12
Isaiah 9:1-7; John 14:27
“Prince of Peace”

December 13
Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 3:13-17; John 15:1-7
“Shoot from Jesse’s Stump”

December 14
Isaiah 42:1-10
“Covenant and Light of the Nations”

December 15
Isaiah 49:1-7; 50:4-11
“Servant of Kings, Sustainer of the Weary”

December 16
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
“Suffering Servant and Lamb of God”

December 17
Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33:14-18
“Righteous Branch”

December 18
Ezekiel 34:1-31
“The Good Shepherd”

December 19
Daniel 7:9-14; Micah 5:2-5a
“The Son of Man and Ruler from Bethlehem”

December 20
Zechariah 9:9-10; 12:10-13:1
“King on a Donkey and Pierced Firstborn”

December 21
Malachi 3:1-4; 4:1-6
“Covenant Messenger and Righteous Sun”

December 22
Luke 1:5-38
“Son of the Most High”

December 23
Luke 1:39-80
“The Tender Mercy of God”

December 24
Matthew 1:18-25; John 1:1-14
“Savior from Sin and Word Made Flesh”

December 25
Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-20
“The Birth of Jesus”

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Jesus, The Coming Messiah © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prepare the Way of the Lord (Luke 3, Isaiah 40)

The Path of Light by outeq (aka Juuso K) via DeviantArt

The Path of Light by outeq (aka Juuso K) via DeviantArt

Malachi 3:1 NRSV
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Luke 3:1-6 NRSV
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (Isaiah 40)

Deprivation is neither the focus nor the final word of the wilderness. As the honey-eating John knew, the desert offers its own delights. What the wilderness gives us is a path that helps us perceive where our true treasure lies. And does not merely give us a path: empties us enough so that a path is made within us. Through us. Of us. A road for the holy to enter the world. A way for the Christ who comes.
Jan L. Richardson, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas

For a beautiful poem entited Prepare by Jan L. Richardson, click here

In this Advent season we prepare outwardly for Christmas: we hang lights and put up decorations, we bake goodies and wrap gifts. How will you prepare inwardly? The coming of Christ means that God will be incarnate: embodied, lovingly present, in the flesh in your life. Christ is coming into your life, into your heart, in a new way. Advent is a time to prepare a way for that to happen. God enters our lives without our planning or arranging; yet there are ways we can open the doors, and as the carol says of Jesus, “prepare him room.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Prepare the Way

Prepare Your Way in Me by Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Prepare your way in me, Lord,
prepare your way in me, my Lord.

Make my rough places smooth,
the crooked make straight, my Lord.

Lay your hand at my root,
that I may bear fruit, my Lord.

Come and empty my heart
of all things but you, my Lord.

Guide my feet in your way,
fill me with your peace, my Lord.

Prepare your way in me, Lord,
prepare your way in me, my Lord.

We’ve turned Christmas into a sentimental feeling-fest. We get warm and fuzzy loving each other and feeling touched at the midnight candles and the pretty music. But listen to the scriptures and it’s actually all about God’s profound and even traumatic incursion against the unjust systems in this world, to create a new order. The mountains and valleys of wealth and power will be leveled. The rough places of exploitation and dehumanization will be smoothed. No wonder there’ll be “signs in the heavens and distress among the nations.” – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, A Way in the Wilderness

Click here for Comfort Ye by Steve Garnaas Holmes, a word of encouragement to those experiencing horror and abuse and those striving to bring justice and healing.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
– Isaac Watts

In muted whispers we articulate our hope;
Restore us again, O God of our salvation.
With mounting anticipation we prepare for your coming;
Revive us again, that we may rejoice in you.
Amidst rising hopes we turn to you, O God;
Show us your steadfast love.
Lord, let us hear now your words to us;
Speak peace to your people.
Faithful One, prepare our hearts to receive your joy;
the joyful kiss of righteousness and peace.
– Bill Treadway

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For more information on the use of this post in other settings, please leave a comment.

Countdown to Christmas Bible Reading Plan

BRICKEY_xi_JourneytoBethlehem

Journey to Bethlehem by Joseph F. Brickey

This reading plan is adapted from Joy! to Your World! A Countdown to Christmas by Carol McLeod of Just Joy Ministries. You can find the original plan at YouVersion. Feel free to add your own ministry events as we did.- Lisa <><

December 1
Luke 1:1-13; James 5:16; Hebrews 10:35-39
Christmas Dinner at 5:30pm in the fellowship hall

December 2
Luke 1:8-23; Matthew 7:7-11

December 3
Luke 1:24-25; Isaiah 40:28-31

December 4
1 Corinthians 1:3-9

December 5
Luke 1:26-29; Isaiah 9:2-7

December 6
Luke 1:29-35; Psalm 17

December 7
Luke 1:36-38; Genesis 18:1-14

December 8
Psalm 119:1-16
Invite a friend to the Christmas Play

December 9
Matthew 1:18-25; Colossians 1:25-29

December 10
Luke 1:39-45; Psalm 16

December 11
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

December 12
Luke1:46-56; Psalm 138

December 13
Luke 1:57-66

December 14
Luke 1:67-80
Christmas Play at 7pm in the Sanctuary

December 15
Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7
Christmas Play at 9am and 11am in the Sanctuary

December 16
Isaiah 40:1-11, Psalm 23

December 17
Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2-5
Invite a friend to Christmas Eve Services

December 18
Luke 2:8-20

December 19
Psalm 148

December 20
Matthew 2:1-8; Psalm 9:1-10

December 21
Matthew 2:9-10; 1 Peter 1:3-9

December 22
Matthew 2:11; Psalm 95

December 23
Matthew 2:12-23

December 24
John 1:1-18
Christmas Eve Worship at 5pm and 7pm in the Sanctuary

December 25
John 3:15-17; 1 John 1:1-7
Christmas Day Breakfast from 9am-11am in the fellowship hall

Looking for more reading plan options?
Click Here for Through the Advent Door, a reading plan based on the classic Advent texts and Jan Richardson’s book of the same name

Click Here for The Story of Christmas, a reading plan through the New Testament Scriptures leading up to Jesus’ birth and those soon after his birth

For more work by today’s featured artist, Joseph F. Brickey, click here

Keep Awake!

alive awake awareMark 13:31-37 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake— for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

It is usually over time and with patience that we come to see the wonderful patterns of grace, which is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted. Our focus slowly moves from an initial preoccupation with perfect actions (“first half of life” issues), to naked presence itself. The code word for that is simply “prayer,” but it became cheapened by misuse. Jesus will often call prayer “vigilance,” “seeing,” or “being awake.” When you are aware and awakened, you will know for yourself all that you need to know. In fact, “stay awake” is the last thing Jesus says to the apostles—three or perhaps four times—before he is taken away to be killed (Matthew 26:38-45). Finally, continuing to find them asleep, he kindly but sadly says, “Sleep now and take your rest,” which might have been his resigned, forgiving statement to the church itself. It is not that we do not want to be awake, but very few teachers have actually told us how to do that in a very practical way. We call it the teaching of contemplation.
– Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

All forms of meditation and contemplation teach some form of compartmentalizing or limiting the control of the mental ego— or what some call the “monkey mind,” which just keeps jumping from observation to observation, distraction to distraction, feeling to feeling, commentary to commentary. Most of this mental action means very little and is actually the opposite of consciousness. In fact, it is unconsciousness. – Richard Rohr

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once…. This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. -John Henry Newman

Extended quote by E. Glenn Hinson from his post Fasting from the Internet
found in Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life

I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that it is not easy to learn how to pray or to keep at it when we have learned how. Teresa of Ávila, the first woman named a “Doctor of the Church,” in the main because of her contribution to a Christian understanding of prayer, confessed that she spent twenty years learning how. Admittedly, she didn’t get serious in her effort to learn until a three-year illness and a near-death experience put some pressure on. What she discovered is what everyone who takes prayer seriously will discover, that prayer is, above all, response to the prior love of God.

As Bernard of Clairvaux reminded his fellow monks, “…every soul among you that is seeking God should know that it has been anticipated by [God], and has been sought by [God] before it began to seek [God]. It couldn’t happen any other way, could it?”

How could we mortals get God’s attention, the attention of the God of a universe of 150-plus billion galaxies? We can’t yell loud enough, build a Babel tower high enough, or send a spaceship far enough to get God’s attention unless God has chosen to enter into our consciousness. If we pray, then, we have to learn how to pay attention. We have to cultivate wakefulness.

Ephesians 5:11-16 NRSV
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life. Live with unremitting awareness; whereas the whole of the art of the non-action that is action (wu-wei) is unremitting alertness.
– Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth

We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious. Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Pregnant Pause

Unexpected God, your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship
From the sleep that neglects love
From the sedative of misdirected frenzy
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace. Amen.
Steven W. Manskar, A Disciple’s Journal 2014

Here, then, stands the newly awakened self: aware, for the first time, of reality, responding to that reality by deep movements of love and of awe. She sees herself, however, not merely to be thrust into a new world, but set at the beginning of a new road. Activity is now to be her watchword, pilgrimage the business of her life.
-Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism

Psalm 57:7-8 NIV
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

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Click Here for a powerful poem entitled Sleeper, Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Click Here for a beautiful prayer entitled Keep Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

Gingerbread Nativity

Community United Methodist Church in DeBary Florida offers a midweek arts program for children entitled Creative Kids Cafe. There children explore worship and faith through music, drama and visual arts.

A few weeks ago, the wonderful visual arts team taught the children to make nativity scenes in the style of a classic gingerbread house. They were so cute and clever, I had to share the idea here. I hope this project brings a smile to your face and inspires some crafting time this blessed season. – Lisa <><

Supplies:

1 small white paper plate

1 large Christmas paper plate

1 empty paper butter box

Scissors

Clear tape

Plastic knife

White prepared frosting

Shredded wheat

Graham crackers

Animal crackers

2 small pretzels

1 pretzel nugget

1 peppermint candy

1 toothpick sign with “Jesus is the greatest gift”

Presents

Process:

  1. Cut the butter box to the length of half a graham cracker.
  2. Tape the butter box half to the white paper plate.
  3. Put the white paper plate on the larger Christmas plate.
  4. Use the knife and frosting to attach pieces of graham cracker to the top and outside walls of the butter box.
  5. Attach the animal crackers to the graham cracker walls in the same manner.
  6. Attach the peppermint candy star to the graham cracker roof in the same manner.
  7. Place a small mound of frosting inside the bottom of the box. Carefully place the two small pretzels in the frosting at an angle forming a v shape. Hold and let dry. The pretzels form the manger for the baby, represented by the pretzel nugget.
  8. Place the shredded wheat around the structure to represent the hay.
  9. Add the presents and sign.

There’s usually lots of snacking, laughing and finger licking during this project so enjoy looking at it rather than eating it.