Light the first candle--the Prophecy candle--on your Advent wreath today.
Numbers 24:17, 19
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion... (KJV)
I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. (NASB)
2 Peter 1:19
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (NIV)
I chose these three particular verses today because they all tie into one of the most beautiful descriptions of our Lord. He is the morning star!
When I think of the meanings behind those two small words, I am in awe of how perfectly they describe the Savior. He is first and foremost, as the morning is for the day; and although He rose like the sun and did miraculous things, His life had to "set" as well to complete the Father's work. Jesus is our light both by morning sun and by stars at night; He is always with us. The word "star" has Biblical significance because it implies royalty, as does the word "sceptre" from the verse in Numbers 24.
Speaking of Numbers 24, it refers to another amazing time--among many--where God chose to use a leader who did NOT follow Him to prophecy and/or carry out His great plan for history. In this verse, Balaam was compelled by God to speak the prophecy of the coming Messiah. He refers to Jesus as a "Star out of Jacob", describing Christ's lineage. And he also calls him a "sceptre". Read in our "Word to Know" section below about the interesting meaning of that term!
So it is very meaningful that God uses a star to show both shepherds and magi the way to the baby Jesus! In Matthew 2:2, the magi even ask "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." They knew the prophecies about the Messiah and took the star as a sign--THE sign--for them.
I am also reminded that God is such a personal God when I think about these simple verses. The magi are thought by many to have been astrologers rather than kings as we sing in the Christmas carols. (Perhaps not even believers in the one true God, given their profession, but surely "wise men" in the way of Scriptures.) And our loving God chose for those men, those astrologers, to be convinced about Jesus Christ as the Messiah by showing them the way...how? A STAR! What an amazing God we serve.
Jesse Tree Verse: Genesis 21:1-7 Symbol: Cradle, illustrating how God fulfilled Sarah's longing.
He is precious... This is a short, but eloquent devotional reading from Charles Spurgeon on what Christ means to us. I love the references to Jesus as light, Sun and morning star.
Dinnertime (or anytime!) Discussion
We read above about how God sometimes used people who didn't believe in Him to get His work done. And He cared enough to create special circumstances so that no one would miss the signs that Jesus had come! Can you think of a time when God has helped you or answered a prayer with a sign showing you what to do? Was the way God worked things out the way you thought He would? (Mom and Dad may need to give an example first for children to understand how to answer. For example, it could be a time when God closed ALL the doors except for one--and it wasn't the choice you thought it was going to be. (As in a career move, etc.))
Word to Know
Scepter: properly a staff or rod. As a symbol of authority, the use of the sceptre originated in the idea that the ruler was as a shepherd of his people (Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Psalms 45:6; Isaiah 14:5). There is no example on record of a sceptre having ever been actually handled by a Jewish king. (Easton's Bible Dictionary)
From Webster's 1828 Dictionary:
[L. sceptrum; Gr. from to send or thrust; coinciding with L. scipio, that is, a shoot or rod.]
1. A staff or baton borne by kings on solemn occasions, as a badge of authority. Hence,
2. The appropriate ensign of royalty; an ensign of higher antiquity than the crown. Hence,
3. Royal power or authority; as, to assume the scepter.
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh come. Gen. 49.
4. A constellation.
The Christmas Star by Marcus Pfister (author of Rainbow Fish!) This is a lovely picture book about the star that led the shepherds and magi to the Christ Child.
This Is the Star by Joyce Dunbar. This story reads like "The House That Jack Built"--a cumulative verse, as it's called. The kids love to repeat along with the words!
Only a Star by Margery Facklam.
Most everyone knows that Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding. The word "origami" literally means "folded paper". However, not many know how this delicate and ingenious craft began. Quite honestly, I'm not certain that even the "experts" know because the stories and conjectures surrounding the history of origami are so varied and mysterious!
Some historians claim that origami is nearly as old as the invention of paper itself, created in A.D. 105 by Ts'ai Lun of China. (Again, though, theories differ, especially after archaeological discoveries of ancient paper in China from as early as 86 B.C.)
It is said that the act of folding an important document of many kinds was a ceremonial gesture in ancient Japan. The folded "origami" or document (an appraisal, authentication, or a certificate of some kind) would accompany a valued object that was being presented as a gift or sent to someone of importance. Years later, the folding of the paper became more involved and was considered an admirable skill--a small gift or token of esteem/affection in its own right. Eventually it turned into a hobby and an artform.
It is interesting to note that the ancient Greeks placed a similar ceremonial value on the folding of certificates...but a connection between the two civilizations regarding origami has not been made. There are many more theories about the development of origami.
Paperfolding.com This site has some of the most interesting origami designs to see! These are truly amazing. Visit the links section if you'd like to see more origami designs on the web.
Origami Models Here is a large list of diagrams for you to try. They are listed in order of difficulty and are all in different formats (like .gif or .pdf). There are models at the previous link as well.
Even More Diagrams! This guy is really into origami. And we're glad because his instructions are great!
Origami Christmas Garland This is a neat idea for using up scraps of paper or fabric!
Christmas Carol or Hymn
Who Is He in Yonder Stall? Here is a Christmas hymn that you may not have heard before! It is by a composer named Benjamin Russell Hanby, who is also the writer of a famous Christmas tune, "Up On the Housetop"! But the song we will listen to today is a wonderful story of who the Christ child came to be, briefly highlighting some of the most important moments of His life.
Hanby lived in Ohio for most of his life and was a father, minister and abolitionist. His home in Westerville, Ohio (5 minutes from our former Columbus home!) was a stop on the Underground Railroad. A popular ballad he wrote while living there called "Darling Nellie Gray" is supposedly based on the true story of a freed slave who stopped at Hanby's home as he was looking for work to pay for his girlfriend's freedom. The slave died of pneumonia before he could free her, but she is immortalized in the song.
Holiday Tradition & History
Here is a quick historical note for you today. Many people do not like to use the term "Xmas" because they don't want to see "Christ" taken out of Christmas! But the use of this term dates back to the 1500's when Europeans used the Greek symbol for "Christ", which looks like an "X". It is called "Chi" (pronounced "kee") and is the first letter in the WORD for Christ, "Xristos". The "X" was used in other words which began with "Christ" as well. But later, when many Christians no longer knew and understood the Greek reference, they took it as a form of disrespect and the practice among Christians fell away.
So, while you may not be convinced that you should use the abbreviation "Xmas", now you know the history behind it and can share with those who may not know that they are referring to Christ after all!
'Round the World at Christmas
Christmas in Poland Did you know that Father Christmas in Poland is called the Starman? Read at the link about more interesting Christmas traditions in Poland!
More Polish Christmas Traditions
The children in Poland look for the first star, which they call Gwiazda, on Christmas Eve. Most people refer to Christmas itself as Gwiazda, too. Families gather together on Christmas Eve (called Wigilia) and decorate their homes. They share sacred wafers similar to those used in communion to celebrate the season and also remember family members who are no longer with them. Even the animals receive a special wafer because animals attended the birth of Jesus! Families sometimes feast on a special 12-course Christmas meal, and later that evening everyone attends a midnight mass.
Christmas carolers sometimes go from house to house carrying a gold star on a stick. Here are 2 more Polish traditions you can share at your house!
Kolacky Because my mother's family is part Polish, this is a favorite traditional Christmas cookie that always reminds me of my grandma. :o) (I'm giving you an easier version.)
1 cup butter
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups flour
Thick jam or canned fruit filling (we like apricot preserves and seedless red raspberry)
Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add salt and flour to butter mixture, blending well. Cover and refrigerate dough several hours.
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 3/8 inch thickness. Cut circles two inches in diameter or larger. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Make a thumbprint about 1/4 inch deep in each cookie and fill with jam. Bake at 350 degrees until light brown, about 12-15 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. *My grandma always rolled out her dough a bit thinner, cut into squares and then cut lines towards the center from each point. Drop a small bit of jam in the center and bring the corners in to make a pinwheel shape. Or, you can cut dough in a circle, drop jam in the center and pinch two sides of the circle together over the jam.
Wycinanki We learned above about the Asian art of Origami. In Poland, rural artists make Wycinanki cards by hand. They fold a piece of colored paper in half and draw a design on one half. Then, they cut out the elaborate picture and unfold so that a symmetrical, mirror-image is made. They do this with several pieces of paper in many colors and patterns, overlapping them to create the finished design. Wycinanki (Polish Paper-Cutting)
Here is an easy example that you can try to copy: Christmas Crafts from Poland
Coloring Pages, Cooking and Crafts
Christmas Star Shape (and others) One of the easiest crafts you can do with little ones is to cut out a star shape and let them paint it with glitter glue. Here is a perfect start pattern to print out, along with some other Christmas shapes that may come in handy.
Polish Christmas Stars These instructions help you create those "porcupine" or starburst stars with lots of points! It's easier than you think!
3D Origami Mini Stars Origami is popular at our house. Try these cute little paper stars!
"Origami" Star Shape This is a neat way to cut out a perfect star shape!
Beaded Star Ornament This pattern creates a beautiful beaded ornament!
Fancy Beaded Ornaments Just beads and pipe cleaners!
Star Over Bethlehem Coloring Page You can color this online or print it out.
Home Holiday Preparations
-Make sure you have babysitters lined up for any December nights out (particularly last minute shopping when you can't have the kiddos along).
-Check your pantry to be sure you have all the ingredients for your holiday baking!
-Declutter guest rooms that you may be using this month.
The Star of Christmas Veggie Tales movie. Also see The Toy That Saved Christmas for more Veggie "reason for the season" fun.
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