14 Free or Seriously Inexpensive Gift Ideas

Are you struggling to find that gift they won’t already have or is a bit more special than the mass produced box set? Here is list of ideas to spark your creativity on that perfect gift for that someone special.

1. Time
Is there any more cherished gift than spending time with your loved one? Write up a gift certificate that offers a date, a dinner, a night of watching the grandkids, or any other activity you know they’ll love. The most important part is making sure they redeem the coupon. Don’t let time get away.

2. Family Heirlooms
Give the gift that keeps on giving. Don’t wait until you’re gone to pass along the heirlooms. This way you can have the blessing of watching them cherish your gifts.

3. Memory Book
Create a memory book full of stories and pictures. If you’re not a crafter and able to do it yourself, go online! There are a lot of companies out there that you can upload pictures and write captions that share the great memory you have of your loved one.

4. Re-gifting isn’t Rude
I call it Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Is there a gift card you were given that you’ll never use? Or a scarf that isn’t your color? Or yet another throw blanket that you don’t need? Don’t waste them–re-gift them. Obviously not to the same person but hey, if you do by accident, be honest and just say that you loved their thoughtfulness and you’re passing it along.

5. Movie Nights
Redbox offers promo codes online that can be bought. Then you can add a cute gift card. (Click here for one I’ve made.)

6. Books
Gently used books you’ve already read make great gifts to your beloved bookworms. Write a personal note on the inside cover, wrap it in simple brown paper with a classic solid color ribbon. Perfection!

7. Compilation CDs
Create a CD of songs that remind you of that person. (Make sure you do so legally. Don’t be a pirate!) They will love the individual attention to detail and you’ll have fun reminiscing as you listen to the music. OR you can go completely modern and make them a personalized playlist. 

8. Ornaments
Make a gift that will become a cherished heirloom. And again, if you’re not a creative crafter, head to the craft store and buy an inexpensive kit that practically makes itself. You can find endless ideas online by searching craft sights, magazines, or Pinterest.

9. Re-purpose Relics
I LOVE this! I do this as often as I can. I absolutely love the idea of not letting something be thrown away by making it into something new. I’ve done this by making a necklace out of a belt buckle or old watch band; making a Christmas tree from used ribbons, inexpensive picks and a tomato cage, or making a blanket from old sweaters or t-shirts. I could go on and on, but to save space I suggest going to Pinterest and searching re-purposed crafts. You’’ll get thousands of options.

10. Canvas Art
You don’t have to keep your favorite photo closed up in a photo album or locked up in a electronic file. There are a plethora of companies out there offering great options on photo canvas boards that start under $5.00. Now that’s a great deal!

11. Mason Jars
Mason jar gifts aren’t just cookies anymore. Although sharing Grandma’s favorite cookie mix recipe isn’t a bad idea, there are endless options that include food, candles, and storage ideas. You can make a soup mix, dip mix, trail mix, or candied nuts. Or how about a Spa Jar filled with mini soaps, scrubby mitt, mask, bath bomb, and a candle? Once again, the internet is your friend here.

12. Handwriting Jewelry
Have you saved greeting cards from your loved one who’s passed on? Or you could even use your own handwriting. Jewelry companies can take a 1-4 word handwritten word or phrase and create a beautiful bracelet or necklace which becomes a cherished heirloom. (I’ve even seen fingerprints and paw prints used. Too cute!!)

13. Scavenger Hunt
Here’s a fun idea that can be done with kids and/or adults. There are so many ideas that can be done on a number of different scales. For kids, write a list of items pertaining to Christmas and hide gifts around the house that match or maybe at each spot give them a clue to the next. For teens, make a list of Christmas related items (bow, ribbon, poinsettia, gold coin, candy, angel, Christmas tree, nativity scene, candle, etc…) and have them walk or drive through town looking for the items. They can either take pictures (or if the owner wants to give the items, that works too), and the team that returns with the completed list first wins! A small prize for the winners could be candy bars, movie tickets, or online gaming points. For romantic adults, give them a written clue to find a variety of gifts hidden around the house. For example: Roses are red, Violets are blue, This item is as sweet as your love for me. You’ll find it hidden where you would find bubbles. (It’s a box of chocolates hidden in the bathtub.) Or how about: This item is sharp yet soft. Strong but has no strength. It’s considered old but has no grey hairs. You’ll find it in the kitchen. (It’s a block of Aged Sharp Cheddar Cheese) LOL! Have fun with this one. It’s a great game to play with the young and the old.

14. Donations in Honor of a Loved One
Give a donation in the name of your loved one or maybe in the name of the loved on who passed on. This is a great idea for teachers, co-workers, supervisors, pastors, or just about anyone.

Share it!
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s from the heart, and it will be received with love and joy. Have fun creating memories that will last forever. Send us pictures of what you came up with, and we’ll post them on our Pinterest page.

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

18 Activities for Christmas

Looking for ideas for things to do with your family or a group of friends? Look no further.
Here are 18 activities to help you have fun, create memories, and bless others.
(Download the list here.)

 

1. Participate in a daily Bible Reading.

The most important thing you can do this Christmas is to keep your focus on Jesus during the busy holiday season. To help you do that, we created 25 Bible Readings for Christmas. If you haven’t started the readings yet, don’t worry. You can start any time by starting on the reading for today or by reading more than one each day until you are caught up. The important thing is to spend time in God’s Word refocusing your attention on Jesus.

 

2. Work Christmas puzzles.

One of my fondest memories from childhood comes from the inevitable snow day—a day during our Midwest winter when school closed because of vast amounts of snow. Every year on that first snow day, my mom would magically produce a brand new jigsaw puzzle. Then she would join my sisters and me for an afternoon with that puzzle. I instituted the same tradition with my children.

Our tradition has a little different twist than the one my mom began. Somewhere along the line, my family acquired a large snowman shaped jigsaw puzzle. Within the body of that snowman is a scene full of woodland animals in caps, coats, scarves, and mittens. Those appropriately clad animals are enjoying a snow day complete with sledding, skiing, skating, and snowball fights. This puzzle even has theme-shaped pieces like candy canes, Christmas trees, and snowmen. It has become a tradition in our house to work that puzzle every winter, usually on a snowy day.

This season, find a Christmas-themed jigsaw and spend an evening (or whole day) putting it together with your family or a group of friends. If you are not into jigsaw puzzles, find some puzzles to download. The internet is full of sites with crosswords, word searches, and other puzzles. You can find some here (free membership required) and here and here. For more fun add some Mad Libs like these. Of course, it will increase the fun if you include hot chocolate and popcorn, order pizza or put soup (like one of these) in the crock-pot early in the day!

 

3. Attend a Christmas program.

There always seems to be some program, or multiple programs, we have to attend because some family member is involved. Those are a special part of your family’s life and well worth your time. However, why not attend a Christmas program that no one you know is in? It could be a new holiday movie at the theater, a musical (Elf is playing close to us this season), The Nutcracker, or a special production at a local church. Attending a Christmas program when no one in your family is involved allows every member of the family or you and a group of friends to relax and enjoy the shared experience. Consider getting dressed up and going out for dinner, too.

 

4. Act out the Christmas story.

Bringing the Christmas story to life is a wonderful way to focus your collective attention on the reason we celebrate this season. This can be as simple or complicated as you desire. Unless you are really into memory work, everyone can read their part directly from the Bible (Suggested scenes: Luke 1:5-25, Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:39-56, Luke 1:57-89, Luke 2:1-21, Luke 2:22-40). Assign parts (including a narrator), assemble costumes and props, grab your Bibles, and start a new tradition.

Consider inviting another family or a group of special friends to join you and prepare a simple meal to kick off your evening. A simple Israeli meal like Mary and Joseph would have eaten might include: lentil stew (like ours), yogurt, pitas, almonds, and dates. Although it is doubtful Mary and Joseph had dessert, if you must include it, try finding baklava or making your own (recipe here and here).

 

5. Make Christmas ornaments.

I always enjoyed making ornaments. They were a fun way to connect with my children or with other ladies. When they were made with my children, they were also something to pass on as they married and needed ornaments for their first Christmas tree. You can find options for all skill levels here and here. Consider having a snack that won’t make fingers messy, like Grinch Kabobs or  Chocolate Rice Krispie Gingerbread Men Pops or substitute Popsicle sticks for the peppermint sticks in this brownie Christmas tree recipe.

 

6. Make Christmas decorating a group event.

Decorate your home and tree with the help of others. For years I assembled our artificial tree, strung the lights and tinsel, hung the fragile ornaments, and put out all the household decorations (the way I wanted them) before having my kids hang decorations on the bottom half of the tree. Then I would go around and move things until the tree looked the way I wanted it to.

One year I realized my children were not enjoying the experience and had no reason to want to help. Their efforts were not appreciated because I wanted to have the perfect tree. Ever since that realization, we assemble the tree together, and they put the household decorations out. Is it the way I want it to be? Technically, no. But doing it together while playing Christmas music and sipping egg nog has brought many more happy memories than any perfectly decorated tree or home ever could.

Enjoy your family as you transform your home into a Christmas scene. While you are at it, add a new tradition to the experience, i.e. drink eggnog or hot chocolate and listen to Christmas music while decorating (check out 21 Things to Watch, Listen, & Read Your Way To Christmas).

If you find yourself alone this holiday season, invite some friends or nieces and nephews over to decorate together. Include time for everyone to make an ornament to take with them. Have a potluck or order take-out and enjoy the eggnog or hot chocolate mentioned above. Share the joy of the season with someone else.

 

7. Make a nativity set.

Making a nativity set helps to focus attention on the Christ child while creating a keepsake or gift. Make these edible manger treats to enjoy before diving into one of these nativity scene projects.

 

8. Buy socks and deliver them to homeless people or a shelter.

Here is a wonderful article on why you should consider giving socks to the homeless, what type to give, and how to give. If you choose to approach a homeless person on the street, please be smart and safe. This does not mean homeless people are dangerous, but I do recognize that the areas where you will find them may not be. Do NOT go alone. If you are not comfortable meeting strangers like this, don’t let that stop you from giving! You can still buy those precious socks and donate them to your local homeless shelter. Don’t forget to ask if you can pray with them.

 

9. Take a drive and look at Christmas lights.

Pack the family or some of your friends in the car and start driving around and looking at Christmas lights. See if you can find a living nativity in your area and finish with that. While driving around, discuss how you can each be a light for Jesus during the next year. Round out the evening by stopping for dessert or a late dinner. Or, have Crock Pot Apple Cider and popcorn waiting when you get home.

Consider delivering thank you notes to homes that display a nativity. If you do, have everyone sign it. (Remember to hang it on a door or mailbox. It is illegal to put anything in a mailbox that hasn’t been sent via USPS.)

 

10. Read a book.

Spend an evening reading Christmas books with family or friends. Check here for Children’s picture book ideas or here for adult reading or Bev’s list in 21 Things to Watch, Listen, & Read Your Way to Christmas. Serve your favorite snack while everyone is listening or try this one for Honey Almond Snack Mix.

 

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash
11. Pack a gift box for a deployed service member.

Let our dedicated military know you are thinking about them as they serve our country far from home this holiday season (or any time) by sending a care package. There are many organizations you can use to do this. If you would like to explore this and other ways to support our military, check out organizations like Soldiers Angels and Operation We Are Here or this list of programs. Consider blessing a military family in some way this season. Don’t worry if your gift doesn’t make it in time for Christmas. It will be appreciated whenever it arrives.

 

12. Decorate an outdoor tree.

Gather the family or some friends and make animal-friendly ornaments for an outdoor Christmas tree. Find ideas for your wildlife ornaments here, here, and here. Make two batches of popcorn. One to eat. The second without salt or butter to make popcorn strings for the tree. Listen to Christmas music while you work.

 

13. Have a Dollar Store Christmas.

One year when money was especially tight, we gave everyone the assignment of finding a Christmas gift for everyone else. There were just 2 requirements: 1. each gift must cost less than $2, and 2. when the gifts were opened, the giver had to tell why they chose that particular item. Then, we all wrapped our gifts. On Christmas day each gift was opened, and the giver told their reason for the gift.

One of the gifts I received was a bag of clothespins. Not an especially thrilling gift, I admit, but why my son chose that gift (and the note he included) made them special. I always called the pile of laundry on my bed Mount Never-rest (because with 6 people in the house, it was always there waiting to be conquered). The clothespins made him think about all the fun we had (reading books or just talking) while working our way through that pile of laundry. Hearing that was a wonderful gift!

So pick a day to have your Dollar Store Christmas. Drive everyone to the local dollar store (or thrift shop) and have everyone buy a gift for every member of the family or group. Set a limit of $2 per gift. When you get home, wrap the gifts. Order pizza or have a “dollar” meal of mac and cheese (or pull out your crock-pot to try this recipe). Then, sit by the tree and unwrap the dollar store finds. Allow plenty of time for everyone to explain why they chose each gift.

 

14. Make, sign, and address Christmas cards or create a family newsletter.

If you choose to do this, make sure it is a family project and not just your attempt to create the perfect card with a picture of the perfect family on the front. While the final result might indeed look perfect, remember that it is about the shared experience, not the product. Despite the childish scrawl and smudges, let each person sign their own name. Yes, even if there are dozens of cards.

If your children are older, assign everyone the task of writing a paragraph about their year so you can assemble a newsletter. Have them each draw a picture to be included as clip art. The important thing is to have fun and make positive memories.

If you are on your own this year, host a Christmas card party. Invite some friends over and create beautiful cards to send to everyone on your list. Have everyone bring items to use for the cards and their favorite salad or snack to share.

For some card making ideas to get you started, try these or these. Or check out this idea for creating a card making station.

 

15. Have a Christmas movie night.

Have a Christmas movie night with Peppermint Popcorn using this recipe or this one. Find a movie from this list or 21 Things to Watch, Listen, & Read Your Way To Christmas.

 

16. Make Christmas cookies.

My daughter and daughters-in-law love to get together to bake and decorate Christmas sugar cookies. My daughter has also hosted a cookie baking day for her friends. My son’s family creates a gingerbread village. If you enjoy baking and decorating traditional Christmas cookies this is a great way to connect with family or friends. Here are some recipes to try.

Try setting up a place to decorate containers to put the finished cookies in. Deliver them as a family or group. (Include an invitation to your church’s Christmas services.)

 

17. Do a Christmas photo or art challenge.

Try our 12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge or turn the list into an art challenge. If you have older children, give them 2 weeks to take (or create) pictures from the list. Don’t forget to take pictures yourself, and remind everyone a few times during the week. If you have younger children (or just want this to be a family activity), spend a day finding items on the list. Then, let everyone take a picture of it however they want to (yes, a close up is okay). Pick a day to share your pictures while sipping one of these drinks or sharing one of these dips.

 

18. Bless someone.

Give a homeless person a cookie, toiletries, and a small gift card for a place to eat. Take a meal to a shut-in or a family who needs it (look here for ideas). Purchase gift cards to a restaurant or gas station as a gift for someone going through a health crisis. Buy, wrap, and deliver gifts to a family who otherwise would not get anything. Don’t forget to pray with the person who receives your gift.

 

Share it with us!

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what your favorite Christmas activities are in the comments below. Or share your selfies from the 18 activities above!

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas posts here.

21 Things to Watch, Listen, and Read Your Way to Christmas

Christmastime brings a myriad of memories and the emotions that come with them. My hope is to give you some ideas to create new memories with loved ones, remember the blessed memories of yesteryear, and lighten the pain of those that bring sadness.

7 Things to Watch

  1. A crackling fire; I start with a fire not only because it’s beautiful, relaxing, and warms the chill in the air but because you can do many of the below cuddled up next to the fireplace.
  2. Snow falling; There is something peaceful about watching snow fall. Snow is hated by so many, but I love snow because it gives a clean slate to the day. The world is beautiful when it is crystallized and seems to stand still for just a moment. Can it really be true that each snowflake is unique? (Proverbs 25:13)
  3. A young couple ice skating; I believe it is important to remember the pureness of young love. When we take time to remember what it means to have fun it gives us a renewed vision of who God has placed in our lives (friends, family and strangers alike). (1 Peter 4:8)
  4. Kids playing in the snow; Playing in the snow is still one of my favorite activities to do. I really do love winter. Watching children play in the snow is such a beautiful reminder of how innocent life begins. (Matthew 18:2-6)
  5. A local elementary school Christmas pageant; even if you don’t have children or grandchildren, go support the kids and teachers for all their hard work. A bonus is, there is always a funny one in the crowd!
  6. Twinkling Christmas lights; So many nights as a child I would lay in front of the Christmas tree with all the lights off and drift off to dreamland. Do you have a tradition of driving around your local town to see everyone’s decorations? Or does a local family, park, or company host a light display that marvels both the young and old?
  7. Christmas movies and TV shows; Last on this list but not meant to be the least of which you should do. Some of my favorites are listed and a couple new ones to watch:

It’s a Wonderful Life
White Christmas
Miracle on 34th Street
Scrooge, A Christmas Carol (1951)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Holiday Inn
The Preacher’s Wife
While You Were Sleeping
The Man Who Invented Christmas
A Christmas Story
Elf
The Santa Clause (series)
Christmas Vacation
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman

7 Things to Listen To

  1. Children’s laughter; Can you not giggle yourself when you hear a child laugh?
  2. Golden Age radio shows; Turn back the time to when families would sit around the radio in the living room and listen to the entertaining dramas. This is a great past time that can be brought back with the technology of today. Look on the internet for great audios of classic shows from the Golden Age. Here is a great resource I found: Christmas Old Time Radio.
  3. The sounds of winter; Wherever you go there are sounds you probably haven’t even realized were going on around you. Have you listened to the sound of the snow beneath you on a bitter cold day? Or the dripping of melting icicles on a warm day? Tell me what sounds you heard when you stopped to listen. (Job 12:7-10)
  4. A young child telling Santa what they want for Christmas; Although Santa is not in the Bible, he has become a big part of the Christmas season. I think that a little make believe is good for all of us. It brings an innocence to the day when life can be down right too serious most of the time.
  5. Carolers; You may not be able to hear a group of carolers roaming your neighborhood but maybe you could bring harmony to a group of shut-ins? Gather a group of friends, family, or co-workers and visit a local nursing home, children’s home, or hospital to bring the sounds of joy to those who can’t get out themselves. (James 1:27)
  6. Stories from elders of their favorite memories and past times; If we don’t ask the generation before us to share their past, then it will be lost for the future. (Deuteronomy 32:7)
  7. And of course, Christmas music! Some of my favorites:

Silent Night
O’ Holy Night
Joy to the World
The First Noel
O Come all Ye Faithful
What Child is This?
Christmas Shoes
(And because I lost my two front teeth in December as a child…)
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

7 Ideas for Reading

And since there are not that many different types of things you can read, I’ll just list some of my suggestions. A great source for more ideas is here. And if you missed the first post in this series, click here to check out Trisha’s post on 25 Bible Readings for Christmas.

  1. Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  2. The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
  3. Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis
  4. An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu
  5. Unwrapping the Names of Christmas by Ashiritah Ciuciu
  6. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolken
  7. Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

And 7 more for the kids (or the kid in you):
1. The Grinch by Dr. Suess
2. Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
3. Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg
4. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
5. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
6. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
7. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

May this list give you ideas on how you can slow down, enjoy time with family and friends, and notice things you haven’t before as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. I wish you the Merriest of Christmas seasons.

 

What are your favorite things to watch, listen to, or read during the Christmas season?

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas series here.

 

25 Bible Readings for Christmas

Christmas is coming. Had you noticed?

We are fond of saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, but do we live each day as if that were true?

During the bustle and stress of the holiday season, we want to encourage you to keep first things first. To help you do that, we have created 25 Bible Readings for Christmas.

Use these Bible readings as your own personal daily reminders or as part of a family time. These readings will only take a few minutes each day, but they will help you focus on the Reason for the season. 

Just choose your preferred format from the 3 options below, download, and start reading. (Increase your fun by using Sybil MacBeth’s Advent downloads with the 25 Bible Readings and color the verses!)

Enjoy!

 

25 Bible Readings for Christmas (calendar version)

25 Bible Readings for Christmas (infographic)

25 Bible Readings for Christmas (list)

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Christmas here.

A Countdown to Christmas

We are going to do a different Advent Countdown to Christmas this year. Bible Study Journey will post 8 different times starting November 30 until Christmas Eve, giving you ways to count down to the blessed day of Christmas.

The month of December is most likely a very busy month for you. If you’re like me, you find yourself frantically making lists (and checking them twice) of everything that needs to get done, everything that you want to buy for each person you love, and all of the events you would like to attend. I always have longer lists than I have time, money, and energy for.

Every year I have the best intentions to scale back and make the season all about my love for Christ himself. I’ve done well with not going full commercialized crazy on gift buying, but I still struggle with slowing down and learning more about and remembering why we celebrate Christmas. I almost always overbook myself making food and crafts and fall short when it comes to making room for quality family time.

We at Bible Study Journey believe we’re not alone in desiring to find new traditions for spending time with loved ones or just being able to slow down and meditate on our Savior. We’ve come together to bring you Bible readings, activities, gift ideas, recipes, suggestions on how to serve, games, and advice to bring Jesus, Faith, and Family to the forefront of this holiday season. If you haven’t already done so, like our Facebook page and subscribe (in the sidebar) to the website so you don’t miss any of the great ideas! Feel free to share with all your friends and family.

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Advent:
Preparation for Christmas & the Daily Journey with God

I became aware of Sybil MacBeth’s work when I began researching topics for Project Prayer. She has a wonderful website called Praying in Color. I wanted to include her Praying in Color Advent ideas and handouts with you, so I reached out to her. As we wrap up Project Prayer and begin to look forward to Christmas, today’s Postcard was the logical place to have Sybil share with you. Please welcome guest blogger Sybil MacBeth.

Advent
Preparation for Christmas
& the Daily Journey with God

Advent is my favorite season of the year. As the world outside my house turns dark and cold in the northern hemisphere, my wistful reaction is to turn inward. I curl up in a comfortable chair, light candles, drink hot tea, and become nostalgic and contemplative. In many ways this is exactly what Advent is about. The word advent means “coming.”  During the four weeks before Christmas, we remember the coming of Jesus into the world over two thousand years ago and anticipate the coming of Jesus again at the end of history. But Advent is not just about the coming of Jesus in the distant past and in the far future, it is about his coming into our lives today, tomorrow, and every day. A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” says the prophet Isaiah. Advent is the time we burrow down and prepare the soil of our minds and hearts to receive Jesus anew at Christmas. It is a gestation time and the dress rehearsal for the way to live every day of the year.

Wake up. Watch. Hope. Prepare. Listen. Repent. Pay attention. Wait. These stirring and urgent verbs are the language of Advent, but they are also the daily, all-year-round vocabulary of Christians. Christians are Advent people. We do not just celebrate the past and wait for the final fulfillment of God’s kingdom in the future. We are active and incremental “waiters.” As a flesh-and-blood Savior, Jesus invites and commissions us to put our feet on the ground and join him in God’s kingdom-building pilgrimage on earth. Advent helps to prepare us for this seemingly endless and difficult work. It is no accident that Advent is the beginning of the Christian year. It is the preparation for Christmas but it is also our recommitment to the one-day-at-a time journey with Jesus and God for another year. Our Advent practices, reflection, Scripture study, and prayer hone and sharpen our spiritual tools as ready pilgrims on a 365-day mission with God.

Here are a few of my favorite Advent practices and activities. They help me to develop the daily discipline I need to be a pilgrim all year long. It is so tempting to jump right into Christmas mode as soon as Thanksgiving is over. These activities invite me to slow down and hold back– just a little.

Advent Calendars

My all-time favorite practice is creating an Advent calendar. I love the Advent calendar because it marks my one-day-at-a time walk with God. You can use any calendar template for December but I have created several free templates to download available from my website: prayingincolor.com. You can also make your own calendar templates. There are many ways to use them, but here are two ways:

1) Read a daily Scripture passage or one of the many wonderful devotionals available for Advent. Each day choose an Advent word to write in the space. Doodle around the word. Add color with markers or pencils. Ponder the word, listen to it, and ask God to speak to you through this word. Sit with it in silence.

2) Pray for a person each day. Write the name. Draw around it and add color. Use words for your prayers if you want, but think of each stroke of the pen or marker as a wordless prayer.  Release the person into God’s care and sit with them in silence.

I think of this calendar as a “countup” to Christmas and not a “countdown.” At the end of Advent you will have a colorful dictionary of Advent words or a beautiful visual prayer list.

Below is an example of last year’s calendar. I prayed a different Advent word each day.

Here are the six templates for Advent 2018.  You can download them for free from my Handouts Page. This year the season is only twenty-three days long and starts on December 2.

 

Color—Purple or Blue

Purple or blue are the colors of Advent. Whether you are a purple or blue Advent devotee, splash your house or apartment with Advent color. For me, a string of purple lights, a purple paper chain, or a purple ribbon on a wreath acts as a STOP sign. “Wait; it is not yet Christmas. Slow down. Enjoy this time of preparation.”

Plants and Bulbs

To teach children (and adults) about watching and waiting–but not waiting in vain—plant paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis bulbs at the beginning of Advent. Fill a clear container with potting soil or stones. A clear container makes the growth of the roots visible. Plant the bulb in the soil or stones with about half of the bulb showing above the surface. Place the bulbs in a warm spot near a window. Watch the daily, incremental growth of the plant. Daily watering can be the task of even a young child. Even as an adult, I never tire of watching the day-to-day progress of the green stalks and the ultimate flowering of the plant.

Quiet Corner

Create a place where people can go to be alone and quiet. A little table in a corner with a battery-operated votive candle, a few sprigs of greenery, a purple ribbon, and an old-fashioned three-minute sand- or salt-filled egg timer creates an enticing place for children and adults to be alone and quiet. Invite children to turn on the candle, turn over the egg timer, and sit in the mystery of dark and silence for three minutes.

Advent Tree or Bush

Go ahead and buy a Christmas tree during Advent but string purple, blue, or white lights on it. Use the tree as a large Advent calendar and pin an Advent word a day onto it. See if you can hold off on adding the Christmas ornaments until after December 20. Another option is to hang a long piece of string or ribbon on the wall and clothespin the words on it.

 

[From Bible Study Journey: I (Trisha) for one am going to try one of her Advent handouts this year. I just have to decide which one. What are you going to do? In the comments below, let us know if you try any of Sybil’s ideas. We would also love to hear how you celebrate Advent.]

 

Sybil MacBeth is the author of The Season of the Nativity: Confessions and Practices of an Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany Extremist and Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God. Sybil combines her lifelong love of prayer with her experience as a community college math professor to offer workshops on prayer for people with varied learning styles. For more ideas about Advent or praying in color, check out her blog on prayingincolor.com.

Check here for Sybil’s books.

If you visit Sybil’s blog, download her handouts, or purchase her materials, please mention that you met her here at biblestudyjourney.com!

If you are just joining us, check out our most recent series, Project Prayer. You can begin (or browse) the series here.

 

 

Birthday of The King

It’s Jesus’ birthday!!

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘’God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 – NASB) “And she gave birth to her firstborn Son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 – NASB)

His birth was foretold throughout the entire Old Testament. It was announced in Matthew and Luke. It has been celebrated ever since. That little bitty baby, born in a manger was the Holy Son of God. He was to be called Immanuel which means God with us. Isn’t that an amazing concept. Jesus, left His heavenly home to be with us. To be with imperfect, sinful humans. Not only that but to also die for us. He paid the price for our salvation. He could’ve told His Father, God, I don’t really want to do this. I like it here in Heaven. Have you seen those humans? Do you really think we want them here for all of eternity? And, um, you want me to go there, be born in a stable and then have them reject me and then after all of that, die for them? Um, are you sure?

Had Jesus questioned God’s plan for Him it would’ve been a much different result. No, Jesus willingly came to the earth to fulfill God’s will for Him and to fulfill all the prophecies written about Him. Jesus is God come to earth for you dear friend. He did this for you.

As you celebrate His earthly birth, reflect on the thought that God did this for you! That night long ago there was absolutely no room in the Inn for the Savior of the world. Do you have room in your heart for Him?

If you’ve never made room for Jesus in your heart but would like to, or have questions, please contact one of us at biblestudyjourney.com. We would love to help you make that room.

Wishing you a wonderfully blessed Christmas. May God pour out His blessings on you in extraordinary ways.

Twas Long Before Christmas

Twas long before Christmas, before you and me.
Before ribbons and boxes were piled under trees.
The stars were hung in the heavens with care
Knowing mankind soon would be there.

The moon in the sky hung her pale head
Wrapped in the night like a blanket in bed.
When God in His Glory, along with the Son,
Planned out the gifts He would give everyone.

We’ll start with a dawn that comes everyday
Chasing the darkness and night away.
With every morning as life starts anew
A reminder to all, my mercies are too.

Fill up the earth with wondrous sights
Mountains that soar, eagles in flight
Children that laugh, and mothers that sing
A world overflowing with every good thing.

Tell me, what Father whose son asks for bread
Would give him a stone or a snake instead?
If we who are evil can give good things
How much more does the Heavenly king?

The Father paused, lost in his thoughts.
Something is missing. Something is lost.
He pondered a time, What did they need?
The Son stepped forward,… I think it’s me.

Ancient eyes turned, looked at the son.
Speaking his names, one by one.
You are Alpha Omega, Beginning and End
Their Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, their Friend.

To the earth you will go, born in a stall
Proclaiming my favor to the great and the small.
So unto us the Son was born,
Laid in a manger, used and worn.

Unto us the Son was given
Light of the World, the Hope of Heaven.
He lives with us. Emanuel,
God himself has come to dwell.

Dressed in humanity from his head to his feet.
His clothes were humble, his home not so sweet.
The beam of the cross would be flung on his back.
The gifts He would bring provide all that we lack.

His wounds give healing; his words give life.
The Spirit he brought gives power and light.
He taught to forgive and be forgiven,
Take joy in our life, and long for heaven.

To care for the poor and defend the weak
Help those in need, and always seek
Joy and peace, New Birth, and Grace,
Hope and Love, for the whole human race.
Wrapped in that infant, ever so slight.
That first Happy Christmas, for all a good night!

The Gift

You know what I’m talking about. The gift you spent days looking for. When you found it you knew it was just right. You made your purchase and took it home. You got just the right paper and wrapped it up, put a ribbon on it, and placed it under the tree. You spent the remaining days until Christmas anticipating the excited reaction when it was unwrapped.

The day arrived. You placed your perfectly chosen and perfectly wrapped gift into the hands of your loved one. With eyes glowing they ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the box. With a look of disappointment, they pulled out your perfect gift. They thanked you politely and set it aside. Then, with excitement shining in their eyes, they reached for the box.

The perfect gift. They shoved it aside to play with the box.

I wonder if this is what God sees at Christmas. He has carefully prepared and presented His Gift–His Son. He’s placed Him within our reach, and we carelessly shove Him aside. We reach for the meaningless things of this world.

As Christmas approaches I challenge each one of us to hold on tightly to the gift itself. To remember, appreciate, and thank the Giver. To remember that all those trappings of the season–all those boxes under the tree–are worth nothing compared to that carefully chosen Gift. JESUS.

Good News of Great Joy

Joy!

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;” (Luke 2:10)

In the 1960 movie Pollyanna, Pollyanna’s missionary parents died, and she was sent to live with her controlling aunt in a town that basically her aunt Polly ran. Aunt Polly would even give the minister his passage for his sermon each week. Pollyana loved playing the glad game. She would look for the positive or glad side of things. At one point Pollyanna ran across Rev. Ford practicing his sermon, shouting and all, in the middle of the field. She told him no one owned the church. She also told him that her dad had told her there are 800 “glad” passages in the Bible. The next day Rev. Ford told the congregation about his encounter with Pollyanna and said she was wrong. There were actually 826, and he knew because he had stayed up all night counting and reading them.

A couple years ago I spent time looking up the word JOY in the Bible. There are pages of references. What this tells us is that God considers joy quite important. Let’s take a look at a few.

In Psalm 63:6-8 we read, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”

Isaiah 49:13 reads, “Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.”

Jeremiah 33:9 tells us, “It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.”

These are just 3 of the passages that mention joy. In these we see singing for joy after meditating on all the things God has done. We also see joy because of the comfort and compassion He pours out. When we consider all that God has done for us, how can we not sing for joy.

In Luke 2:10 (the verse at the beginning) we see the angels declaring to the shepherds that they brought good news of great Joy. The newborn King had just been born. All of heaven was rejoicing, and now the earth could too.

During this time of year, it’s easy to focus on all that needs to be done, to think about how hard this past year has been, or about the loneliness you feel while the rest of the world is out having parties and fun. Dear friend, I want to encourage you. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and take time to reflect on the Christ of Christmas. Let each of us fix our eyes on Jesus.

Spend time during this season to talk about the things God has brought you through this year. End by thanking God for all He has done and sing songs of joy together.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” (Jude 1:24)