Annunciation (detail) by Fra Filippo Lippi
Good Christmas music is very helpful for creating an \’Advent atmosphere\’ and if you could do nothing else but play some beautiful carols each day, you\’d still go a long way to bring this atmosphere about .
This is my favourite album of traditional Christmas Carols. Unfortunately, I couldn\’t find any youtube versions of any of these but you can have a listen to excerpts here or here.
We Three Kings and What Child is This? are so beautifully done on this album. I put this music on and let it permeate through the house…magnificent!
I knew of this poem by Christina Rossetti but didn\’t realise until recently that it had been put to music. I like both versions. The first one is more acoustic and simpler; the second by Jars of Clay is the one my children like best.
By Robert Southwell, 1595
As I in hoary winter\’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men\’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
This song always makes me cry:
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)
The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.
Desiring God has a free Advent devotional to download. This was for written for 2012 when the first Sunday of Advent was the 2nd of December. This year Advent begins on the 1st December so just start it a day earlier. This is suitable for family reading; the readings are quite short although it would go over the heads of young children.
There\’s an interesting appendix about Old Testament shadows and the coming of Christ.
I mentioned this in a previous post but Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper (a book on traditions generally, with chapters for Christmas & Advent also) is also at this site and the free pdf can be downloaded here.
Advent Readings for the Very Young is a free easy to follow resource written by a couple for their children. You can see it here. It\’s lovely & very simple.
I like something simple and do-able for Advent devotions. Apart from the busyness of Christmas we have a few birthdays at this time of the year in our family, including one on Christmas Day, and our church activities swell into the bargain so it becomes hard to do anything consistently. This little book is just pick up and go. The readings start on the 1st December and there is a reading for each day in December. They are short but have depth and suit a variety of ages and I like the discussion starters and insights to some Christmas Carols the author includes. I appreciate anything that helps to direct us to the reason for the season and both these devotionals do that.
A better look at the contents is here at Koorong. They also have it as a download for a few dollars.
A Renaissance Christmas published by The National Gallery of Art is a collection of Renaissance art works with accompanying texts from the King James Bible and poetry selections by poets from that era such as John Donne and Robert Southwell (whose poem, The Burning Babe I included above).
The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L\’Engle is a beautiful book displaying the art of Giotto\’s frescoes from the Scrovegni Chapel. I use this for the art work and stick to the Biblical account of the nativity.
Bread dough basket: The instructions are from an out of print book I picked up at a library sale a few years ago, Homemade by Kay Fairfax. It contains a wide range of useful items that can be made easily at home, including edibles, and some good ideas for gifts.
Salt dough decorations – this link will take you to a free download of salt dough recipes.
Page 31 has instructions on how to make Christmas decorations using salt dough and pages 38 & 39 show how to make a nativity scene.
Over the years my girls in particular have made many Christmas presents for family and friends. I really enjoy reading about families who do this sort of thing and I like to encourage an outward looking attitude especially when the prevailing culture is gimme gimme gimme. The Little House books, Little Women and this book below are some that come to mind.
Other ways we\’ve tried to encourage thoughtfulness and looking outward at this time of the year is to allow opportunities for service. Some things we\’ve done in the last couple of years have been: concerts at nursing homes; helping to run Christmas Carols in the Park; Christmas Flash Mob – this was so much fun. We turned up at our local shopping mall and sang carols for the hordes out frantically buying last minute gifts. A group of about forty people unexpectedly starting to sing Oh Holy Night! brought a real sense of His presence and peace to the place; inviting singles and others to share in a family meal on Christmas Day.
That the time of Christ was near,
Though the people couldn\’t see
What Messiah ought to be.
Though Your Word contained the plan,
They just could not understand
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of Your Son.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You\’re still the same,
By the power of the name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkamka na Adonai,
I will praise and lift You high,