Thursday, November 28, 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In Hushed Anticipation: Observing The Season of Advent - Third Sunday

Introductory Hymn
Missa Gaudete. Listen, here.

Introit: I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God; for he has clothed me in the garment of salvation and robed me in the cloak of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels.

- Isaiah 61:10 (Roman Missal)

Gaudens gaudebo in Domino et exsultabit anima mea in Deo meo: quia induit me vestimentis salutis, et indumento iustitiƦ circumdedit me, quasi sponsam ornatam monilibus suis.

Ps. Exaltabo te, Domine, quoniam suscepisti me: nec delecasti inimicos meos super me.(Graduale Romanum)

The Reading of the Word and The Lighting of the Candle
Isaiah 12:2-6

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

The Candle of Joy
Light the Advent candle three
Think of heavenly harmony
Angels singing "Peace on Earth"
At the Blessed Saviour's birth.

Candle, candle burning bright
Shining in the cold winter night
Candle, candle burning bright
Fill our hearts with Christmas light.

Joy To The World

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments
1 cup applesauce
1-1 1/4 cup  ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves or nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the applesauce, cinnamon, and cloves (if using). You want the dough to be able to form a ball without being too sticky. Add additional applesauce or cinnamon if needed. You can also mix the dough by hand.

Sprinkle a clean surface with cinnamon (like you would with flour while rolling out cookies). Place the dough on the surface and sprinkle with more cinnamon. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick, sprinkling with more cinnamon to keep from sticking.

Cut out into desired shapes and place on the prepared sheet pan so that they aren't touching. Use a skewer to poke a hole into each ornament (to attach string). Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until rock hard. Loop a decorative string through the ornament and hang on your tree.

I also LOVE these . . .
Wood and Paper Stars

Maple Cinnamon Star Cookies
2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 teaspoons maple extract*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
gold sprinkles and/or edible glitter sprinkles
optional: 8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, maple extract, and vanilla extract then beat on high until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment (or a silicone baking mat, what I prefer!) to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces, with parchment paper between the two, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut into star shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.

Before baking, top with sprinkles. Use a spoon to press the sprinkles into the cookies so they stay secure on top.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before dipping into chocolate. If using, melt the chopped white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each until completely melted. Dip the cookies into the white chocolate and allow chocolate to set completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
4 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
4 oz bittersweet chocolate , chopped
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Optional Toppings:
marshmallows (regular or mini)
whipped cream
pinch of cinnamon
drizzle of chocolate sauce
grated chocolate

To a large saucepan, dutch oven or stockpot, add all ingredients and heat over MED heat. Whisk as it heats, to combine all ingredients until smooth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Pour into mugs and top with desired toppings. My usual preference is whipped cream, grated chocolate, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Our Thanksgiving Menu 2019

Today I wanted to share our Thanksgiving menu with you, with links to the recipes we use. This menu has changed little over the years, if only to add another dish in years when I wanted to try something new. But it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving if these dishes were not on the table. The only diversion we are making this year is that we are having Cornish Hens in place of turkey. It's something I've wanted to do for awhile now, as I love the idea of everyone having their own little bird on their plate, so we're giving it a try! I've never had them before, but Bill loves them and according to him, they are much easier to deal with than a turkey, so, we shall see, I hope I don't regret it.

Our meal this year will be on Wednesday night, due to the fact that two out of three of us work retail. Bill actually managed to be off Wednesday and Thursday, but our Kate has to be at work at 2:30 Thanksgiving day, which would have rushed things. So our big meal will be the night before, and then on Thursday, since we won't have leftovers from the cornish hens, and you MUST have leftover Turkey!, we'll bake a small turkey breast for our meal on the big day, along with leftovers from the night before.

And so, here is a list of what you will find on our table this year;

Cornish Hens
Pilgrim Sauce
(see recipe below)
Deviled Eggs
Olives / Green Onions
Water / Sweet Tea / Wine

Chocolate Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Growing up, I never cared for canned cranberry sauce.  But for many years that opinion was based purely upon sight.  I don't care for anything "jellied", unless it's spread on toast, and just the sight of that jiggling, tubular red sauce made me dizzy! I was pretty sure it was plastic, and regardless of how "wonderful" others claimed it tasted, I wasn't taking any chances.

But then a few years ago by some twist of fate, a bit of it ended up on my plate, and in one small bite I was hooked! The only problem was, while I did love the taste, the texture still left a lot to be desired.

Enter, Pilgrim Sauce!  I came across this recipe in one of my Gooseberry Patch Christmas books shortly after that fateful encounter, and decided to give it a try.  Oh my goodness!  I could eat this stuff year round, it is just that good! It is a staple on my Thanksgiving menu now! It is so good with a slice of turkey! But my favorite way to eat it is the next day, in a turkey wrap!

This is a recipe I found on Pinterest. Once I had discovered the joy of fresh cranberry sauce, finding ways to use up the leftovers was important so that none of that goodness went to waste! The thing I love about these wraps is that I am not big on leftovers, so if I can find a way to create some variety using common ingredients, I'm all for it!  This recipe uses both leftover turkey and cranberry sauce and the combination of the almonds, celery, mayo and spinach wrap is just delicious!

I'm including the recipe for both of these today, but if you already have a tried and true recipe for cranberry sauce, or even if you like the canned stuff, just use what you have for the wraps!  Either way, you are in for a treat and it will help you use up some leftovers!

1 can frozen cranberry juice, thawed.
(I had a hard time finding this for several years, and I have used substituted cranberry juice in its place and it worked fine!)
1/3 cup sugar
12 oz. package of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 Tbsp. orange marmalade
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. allspice 

Combine cranberry juice and sugar in saucepan. Boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and cook for about 7 minutes until fresh berries pop and dried berries soften. Remove from heat.  Stir in marmalade, orange juice, orange zest and allspice. Chill until ready to serve.

3 cups Turkey , cooked and shredded (or chicken)
1/2 cup almonds , whole or sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 - 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt), to taste
1/2 cup cranberry sauce (or dried cranberries)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 - 4 large tortillas

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon filling into tortillas and roll into a wrap.

This year to go along with our turkey wrap, I'm going to make up this broccoli salad.  One of the ladies at my first ever Friendsgiving that I attended last week brought this, and I tell you, I could have eaten my weight in it!

6 cups of broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 of a red onion, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled (I use this method for making bacon, SO easy!)
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a very large bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper until blended. Add broccoli, red onion and cranberries into the bowl and mix until coated. Add crumbled bacon and sunflower seeds and mix well.  Leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably two.

I also plan to set aside a small amount of the crumbled bacon, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and sprinkle a little over the top before serving, just for some added color.

If you love cranberry sauce like I do now, you are sure to love these recipes!

Until then,

Thursday, November 21, 2019

People, Look East

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,

One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,

Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim

One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth

Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

- Unknown

In Hushed Anticipation - Observing The Season of Advent - Second Sunday

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Introductory Hymn
Missa Populus Sion. Listen, here.

Introit: People of Zion, the Lord will come to save all nations, and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice.
- Based on Isaiah 30:19,30, (Roman Missal)

Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suae, in laetitia cordis vestri.

Ps. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis velut ovem Ioseph.(Graduale Romanum)

The Reading of the Word and The Lighting of the Candle
Isaiah 40:3-5
“A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (NIV)

Light the Advent candle two,

think of humble shepherds who,

filled with wonder at the sight,

of the child on Christmas night.

Candle, candle burning bright,

shining in the cold winter night.

Candle, candle burning bright,

fill our hearts with Christmas light.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Listen, here, or listen to this beautiful version.  We enjoy listening to this at the end of every Advent devotional during the season.

Click on image to enlarge, right click and save to your computer.

Hand Crafts
Traditionally we put up our tree the weekend before Thanksgiving, although in recent years, I've held out for the weekend after, but always before the first Sunday of Advent.  

However, with the scripture reference to "the voice crying in the wilderness", and the poems mention of "the humble shepherds", it might hold special meaning to put up the tree on this day.  Not that there were pine trees in the fields, but most likely there were some trees, and as I though on this it just seemed an obvious fit.  I don't even know that I will hold out until the second Sunday of Advent, but it's a lovely thought, just the same.

That being said, perhaps you could even place the tree the day before and put on nothing but the lights and save the fun of decorating together as a family for today.  Or you could put the tree and the lights up and then decorate it a little more each night, adding different elements. As I've said in previous posts, there is no wrong way to observe the season, all that matters is what is right for you and for your family! So whenever you choose to decorate your tree, here are some lovely ideas for adorning it!

 Christmas Tree Gingerbread Ornaments
1 cup shortening (I used butter)
1 cup light brown sugar
3 farm-fresh eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups molasses
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon,

1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and add the brown sugar, eggs, and molasses. Sift together all the dry ingredients and add them to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly and chill well ­before rolling out on a floured slab. 2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a cookie sheet.

3. Place them on the greased cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven. Bake until dry but not crisp.

 Candy Cane Ornaments
A shepherds crook is a long and sturdy stick with a hook at one end used to guide and manage sheep. In tribute to the shepherds, why not decorate your tree with candy canes.  Of course you may choose to use the real thing, which we did for a number of years and it was lovely.  But here are some other ideas you might want to consider as well.

Rustic Holiday Candy Canes - wrapped in burlap and ribbon and adorned with bells and greenery.
Prim Candy Canes wrapped in twine, or these wrapped in red gingham, so cute!
Pipe Cleaner Candy Canes - these would be super easy and fun for the littles in your life!
Beaded Candy Canes - and these would be great for the not-so-little littles, so they won't be tempted to put the beads in their mouth!
Salt Dough Candy Cane Ornaments - I just love salt dough, and these are especially cute!

❈ Peppermint Cookies
So while we're on the subject of candy canes, why not make up something that features them!? There are more recipes than you can shake a candy cane at, :), but here are a few that caught my eye!

- Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies
- Peppermint Melt-Aways
- Ultra Soft Peppermint Sugar Cookies
- Peppermint Snowball Cookies
- Frosted Peppermint Brownie Cookies

I traditionally make a sweet little peppermint sugar cookie dusted with peppermint sugar and drizzled with chocolate every year, but as odd as it may sound, I can't find a single picture of them. So I'll save that post for another day!

And, since we discussed putting up your Christmas tree, if you prefer a live tree (we do, but due to allergies in the family have always used an artificial tree), you might like to make up a batch of this and have it waiting for everyone, along with some of the cookies you've made! My long-time blogging friend, Rachel Proffit, shared this recipe with me last year.

 Christmas Tree Farm Apple Cider Punch
2 cups hard cider
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

Method: Boil and simmer to allow flavours to infuse. That's where the slow cooker came in handy!.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Advent: A Time of Preparation

I may be sharing more than I first anticipated over the next week, as we prepare our hearts and homes for a glorious day of Thanksgiving, quickly followed by the beautiful season of Advent.

I've come across so many beautiful passages and resources, and I'm working to devise a personal plan that will blend them all together in a lovely observance. But as I come across them, I want to share them with you. They are simply too lovely to keep for one's self, and I hope you will enjoy them and be blessed.

The following passage is from a lovely little book I found on The Internet Archives. This description of the Advent wreath being somewhat different from the more common candles of purple and pink, I found it inspiring as I have used white candles from the beginning. In some years we have included the Christ Candle, as well, and will again this year, though I still use a white candle, only the Christ Candle is a bit taller.  I also love the meanings given for each candle, which differ from what I had learned previously.

I was especially moved by this phrase;

"Whatever the arrangement of the color, the beauty of the wreath deepens the understanding of Advent as a time of preparation for the full appearing of life in Jesus Christ."

For however one chooses to observe the season of Advent, the meaning is not in the color, but the symbolism. "It is the light that gives the candle its meaning".  There is really no right or wrong way to carry out these rituals in your home. The most important aspect is the spirit in which they are observed.  I pray you'll be encouraged!

"The Advent wreath is a contribution of the German and Scandinavian traditions. It developed out of the simple use of an evergreen spray of fir, balsam or pine placed near the hearth.  The wreath is plain, without any ornamentation of ribbon or bow. The evergreen of the wreath, representing the life that is found in Christ. The greens have come from the out of doors, where nature has begun its winter sleep. Midst the drabness of nature, the evergreen branch symbolizes the continuation of life. In the home it is placed on a central table. In the church it is usually suspended above the alter, or set on a high pedestal resting on the floor.

The Advent candles are arranged with the spray. Candles have been used for centuries as the symbol of light, by the Jewish religion and others as well. It is not all that strange that Christian tradition has given the candle a prominent place in the observance of Advent.

It is the living light, the living flame, that gives the candle its meaning. This is what makes it more symbolic than artificial lights. 

The Advent candles are symbolic of the coming of Jesus, the living light of the world.

He is the light that broke forth on the world on that first Christmas when he was born as Prince of Peace. He is the light that gradually penetrated into all the world. The tradition of lighting one more candle each week, or each day, tells of the increasingly brighter light of His coming, and leads gradually to the blaze of light at the dawning of Christmas.

In the traditional use of four white candles for the four weeks of Advent, a specific meaning has been attached to each candle. The first has been called the Prophecy Candle, announcing the period of waiting. The second is the Bethlehem candle, symbolic of the preparations made to receive and to cradle the Christ child. The third is the Shepherds' Candles, which typifies the act of sharing Christ. And the fourth is the Angels' candle of love and final coming.

Sometimes a red Christ Candle is placed in the center of these four to be lighted on Christmas Eve. Whatever the arrangement of the color, the beauty of the wreath deepens the understanding of Advent as a time of preparation for the full appearing of life in Jesus Christ."

- Paul M. Lindberg
Advent: The Days Before Christmas

Thanksgiving Playlists

I came across some lovely playlists on You Tube this week and bookmarked them.  But in case you're looking to add a bit of musical ambiance to this most special of days, I wanted to share.

I really like the graphic on this one as well.  Bring it up on your big screen TV and
welcome guests with a friendly greeting as they arrive.

A for a little fun

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Ultimate Advent Resource Guide - 2019

❈ Stir Up Sunday - November 24
from Better Homes and Gardens
In a tradition that harks back to Victorian times when the family would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas Day. The opening words of The Book of Common Prayer, used on the last Sunday before Advent reads: "Stir up, we beseech you, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people." So the tradition stands, that this is the day to get stirring.

The Stir-Up Traditions

- Christmas pudding would traditionally contain thirteen ingredients, to represent Jesus and his disciples.

- It is traditionally stirred (while making a wish) by each member of the family from East to West, to remember the wise men that visited Jesus in the nativity story.

- The customary garnish of holly represented the crown of thorns. But be warned, holly berry is very toxic, so adorn your Christmas pudding with fake foliage.

- Adding coins, originally charms, to the pudding was said to bring luck if you found them in your portion on Christmas Day. The traditional lucky charms were a silver coin for wealth, a wishbone for luck, a thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage, and an anchor for safe harbor.  However, biting down on such a thing could potentially cause a trip to the dentist, so I am not sure I recommend this.

Now of course in these days, or perhaps at least in my house, we've never attempted to make Christmas Pudding. In my opinion, since stirring is the key here, that could be anything from a batch of cookies, to pie filling. Traditionally this is the day that I would make my mother's famous chocolate pie. But I did find this recipe, that doesn't sound too daunting, so we shall see. There's really nothing like my mom's chocolate pie, it's hard to beat!

A friend of mine also suggested these little mincemeat tarts a few years back, and I have to admit, this orange pastry sounds delicious! I just love the little stars on top!

And while I'll probably just fill ours with store bought mincemeat, I like the sound of this recipe.

 ❈ Advent Wreath
If you are unfamiliar with making an Advent wreath a part of your celebrations, you can find a little more about it here. The candles are traditionally purple and pink, but you can use any size, shape or color.  We've used everything from the traditional colors to tea lights, but traditionally ours are all white. If you are looking for inspiration, here are a few variations that I like.

- Advent Wreath 1
- Advent Wreath 2
- Advent Wreath 3 - This one couldn't be much simpler, but still so pretty! Here's a tutorial for making the stars!
- Advent Wreath 4 - LOVE this one! And in the window is especially lovely!
And finally, this one, Advent Wreath 5 . The first year we observed Advent this was the idea that inspired me!

For more inspiration, click here!

Blessing of the Advent Wreath - this is a sweet tradition that we have incorporated a few times.

❈ Advent Calendar
Advent calendars expand the idea of the Advent wreath with scriptures and fun activities for every day.

- Gifts for Jesus Family Advent Calendar
- Advent Calendar Activity Cards
- Free Biblical Advent Calendar
- Christmas Carol Advent Calendar
- Handel's Messiah Advent Calendar
And this, such a wonderful idea! A Christmas Book Advent calendar.  Free printable and list of books included.  And I absolutely love the setup of this one!  If you wrapped them in green paper, they would look like little Christmas trees!

But if you still haven't found one that is to your liking, you'll find more inspiration here.
And now, if you have littles in your life that you're introducing to Advent, you might find these resources helpful.

❈ Christmas Manger or Nativity
Blessing of the Nativity

The Traveling Nativity
One of the things we have done for several years is our "Traveling Nativity".  Playing off the Elf on the shelf idea, every day from the first day of Advent until Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph move around the room as they travel closer to the stable. Baby Jesus stayssafely tucked away as we anticipate His arrival. Mary and Joseph arrive at the stable on Christmas Eve and when everyone awakes the next morning, they find Baby Jesus in the manger. It is then that the shepherds and wise men begin their travels, and move closer to the manger to join Joseph and Mary. The shepherds typically arrive on Christmas night, but the wise men moved to a new location every day beginning the day after Christmas until Twelfth Night or, the Epiphany, on January 5. I always planned to somehow devise a star above the manger the we would turn on first on Christmas night and then every night until The Epiphany to guide the shepherds and wise men on their way. However, I don't think I could ever figure out exactly what to use or whether to use a candle, or find something used a light. I still think it sounds like a lovely idea, so if you're more creative than I, perhaps you can figure it out.

The Giving Manger
Though we never did this, I always loved the idea and wanted to incorporate it, but as you can probably tell, there are so many ideas that you "could" incorporate into this season, that it is hard to do everything. That is why I would encourage just selecting a few, especially if its your first time observing Advent. You can always add more in the coming years!

Here are instructions for making your own manger from popsicle sticks, and you could easily make a Baby Jesus from home made play dough, clay or a peg doll wrapped in cloth. You can purchase the straw from a local craft shop. I've even seen it at Dollar Tree.

And that's it for today, friends! This isn't quite as long or filled with as many ideas and resources as I had hoped, and I had planned on having this up much earlier. But my laptop died today and I spent hours moving all the important files over to my trusty back up!  I'll be back soon with more resources for observing and celebrating the Saints of Christmas!

In Hushed Anticipation - Observing The Season of Advent - First Sunday

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Before we jump in, this observance is based upon prior knowledge of what the season of Advent is and represents, as well as the significance and symbolism of the Advent wreath. Therefore, if you are new to either, I would suggest beginning by reading here, and here. Though you can and I would advise further reading to expand your knowledge, the information provided at these two links will give you a general understanding and overview.

An expected silence, a hushed anticipation
as if the very galaxy is holding its breath.

There are some truths even the stars know,

like darkness, like loneliness,
And how the nights can be a living thing.

And how once, long ago,

the night waited in wonder
along with the darkness and the loneliness,
for the sound of a baby’s cry.

For the miraculous to come down

to the earth mundane.


 Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of thine only begotten Son, 
 so that by His coming we may be enabled to serve Thee with pure minds. 

Introductory Hymn
❈ Missa Ad Te Levavi
Listen here.

Introit: To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame. Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame.

- Psalm 25:1-3 (Roman Missal)

Ad te levavi animam meam: Deus meus in te confido, non erubescam: necque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi qui te exspectant, non confundentur.

Ps. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoce me.(Graduale Romanum).

The Reading of the Word and The Lighting of the Advent Wreath Candle

First Sunday of Advent Readings:

Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.” (NIV)

Following the scripture reading, one of the children lights the first candle, The Candle of Hope, and reads the bible verse and the leads everyone in reading the poem together.

We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises he made to us. Our hope comes from God.
- Romans 15:12-13

The Candle of Hope
Light the advent candle one, 

now the waiting has begun.

We have started on our way,

time to think of Christmas Day.

Candle, candle burning bright,

shining in the cold winter night.

Candle, candle burning bright,
fill our hearts with Christmas light.

 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Full Choir and very beautiful)
 Come Thoug Long Expected Jesus (Sung by Meredith Andrews, and perhaps easier to learn by listening to this version if ou want to sing along)

Click on image to enlarge, right click and save to your computer.

Hand Crafts
 Orange and Cranberry Garland

Oranges, a fruit once reserved for those with a high social status, has long been a symbol of prosperity. And with its bright golden skin, has likewise been symbolic of the sun and the light. Shopkeepers in mid evil times would place them decoratively in windows in the dark winer months, a reminder that the light and warmth would soon return.

So when we read in Isaiah of "the people in darkness have seen a great light", and that "He will reign over David's throne", it is fitting then that the orange in this craft is symbolic of Christ himself, the cranberries with their deep red hue, foretelling the blood that He would shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

As we make and look upon this garland, it serves as a constant reminder of Christ our King and His great love and sacrifice for us.

4-5 oranges
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz)
Bakers twine or Jute Twine
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper or silicone baking mat

Drying the Oranges:
Parchment Paper
Cookie Sheet
Start by preheating your oven to 220 degrees and slice your oranges about 1/2 inch thick.
Place the oranges onto parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 3 hours.
Check every hour to make sure they aren’t turning brown. They are done when they are dried and translucent in color.
Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Drying the Cranberries:
Parchment Paper
Cookie Sheet

Put a large pot on the stove with enough water to cover the cranberries. Bring the water to a boil. Put the washed cranberries in a bowl. Then pour the boiling water over the cranberries. Leave the bowl in a safe place, and let the cranberries sit. You will hear the skins pops, don’t leave the berries in the water for more than 5 to 10 minutes, the berries will then be ready.

Drain the water and spread the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then put them in the freezer for two hours. The freezing process helps the berries dry faster.

Remove the cranberries from the freezer and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Turn on your oven to the lowest possible temperature. Put your cranberries in the oven and allow them to dry which can take 5 to 7 hours. Take the time to turn them every 30 minutes to help the drying process. There will be some that get a little darker than others and some that you will have to pull apart after they dry.

For the Garland

4-5 oranges sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 12 oz bag cranberries

Slice the oranges into 1/2 inch slices and lay on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake at 220 degrees for 3 hours. Check every hour to make sure they aren't turning brown. They oranges are done once they are dry and translucent in color.
 Let the oranges cool to room temperature.

Thread your needle with bakers twine or jute twine and thread through the top part of the orange then thread in your cranberries. You can string them in any pattern you desire. I typically string 4-6 cranberries to one orange, but feel free to use any pattern you like. You can make the length as long or short as you desire and depending on how you plan to use it. For a mantel, draped over. winter, or as a garland for a larger tree, you would obviously need longer strands.

Other variations on this theme include adding popcorn to the strand, the white kernels symbolic of purity and the washing away of our sins by the blood of Christ.  You can add them to the oranges and cranberries, or make a cranberry and popcorn garland.

There are a number of ways to use oranges and cranberries in your observance this week, you could also try one of these ideas.

- Make orange bird seed ornaments and hang from the trees outside.
- Or these lovely citrus candles, inspired by my friend, Dawn.
- This cranberry, orange and clove stovetop potpourri is sure to leave your house smelling cozy and welcoming!
- And finally, why not make a loaf of this cranberry orange pound cake or a batch of these white chocolate cranberry orange cookies and shed the light of Christ's love by presenting to a friend or relative this week.

 Advent Lanterns
Another idea that is symbolic of the light, is to make a jar lantern, or in this case, Advent lanterns.  By simply covering a glass jar with tissue paper, adding a few festive stickers and a handle, you can then insert an LED tea light and go for a walk around your neighborhood at dusk. Be sure to pray for each family as you pass by their house. This might even be a good time to share some of the baked goods mentioned above. You'll find something similar, here.

During Advent I often like to make special foods to share together after our evening candle lighting and devotionals. It would also be nice to have some fun refreshments to come home to after taking an Advent Lantern walk. These recipes are ones that we have enjoyed in years past. I made the Winter Lemonade for the first time last year and we will definitely be making it again!

 Chocolate Orange Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone liner or parchment paper.Set aside.

In a large bowl, use a hand-held mixer to cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange juice and orange zest.  Beat into the butter mixture.

Add the flour and salt.  Beat until just incorporated.

Add the chocolate and the candied orange peel.  Beat until just mixed through.

Divide the cookie dough into three equal portions.  Place two portions aside, and keep them covered they don’t dry out.

Lightly pat the cookie dough into a ball and place it between two sheets of parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to slightly less than 1/2 inch thick.

Cut rolled dough into rounds using a cookie cutter.  (I used a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter.)

Transfer to baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie.  Round up remaining dough and roll again until dough is used up.  Repeat with the other two portions of cookie dough.

Bake for 13 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.

Before serving, grate some orange zest right over top and add a few curls of shaved dark chocolate.

 Winter Lemonade With Ginger and Cloves
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup honey
2 inches fresh ginger, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
5 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium saucepan combine lemon juice, half of the water, honey, ginger, and spices.

Bring to a simmer, stir until honey is dissolved, and remove from heat.

Cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Add the remaining water.

Refrigerate until chilled through. Serve over ice! Enjoy!

And now before I wrap this up, let me say this. There are daily readings for each day during the Advent season that spans this year from December 1 until Christmas Day. That being said, what I focus on primarily in these posts are the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. I will be doing daily readings during my quiet time each morning, but since there are so many different and wonderful versions and resources to choose from, I'll leave that to you. I have yet to decide on one for myself this year, so I need to make that decision soon. But, just in case you need some direction, here are a few that I have read in past years both on my own and with my girls that you might enjoy.

All Links Are Affiliate

For Families
- The 25 Days of Christmas: A Family Devotional To Help You Celebrate Jesus
- The Way To The Manger: A Family Advent Devotional
- Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration Of Christmas

For Personal Reflection
- Advent With St. Francis - St. Francis is one of my favorite Saints, and this books is a lovely read during this season.
- Advent and Christmas Wisdom From G. K. Chesterton
- Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Henry J. M. Nouwen
- Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing The Peace and Promise of Christmas

And here are some other books, that while not necessarily daily readings, would be nice to read during the season.

- The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up In The Story of Jesus
- Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born Hope Is Here by Max Lucado

Over the next few days I'm going to be writing an extensive post with more links to resources than you could use in two Advent seasons, maybe three. I'm working on compiling it now and hope to have it ready for you by the weekend so that you can peruse and plan!

Until then, I hope you've enjoyed what I've compiled so far.  Advent is such a beautiful season, a means of slowing and bringing stillness to what has otherwise become the often chaotic spirit of Christmas. Observing this holy season has redeemed and restored Christmas for me, and I hope it all for you as well!

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Story of Advent

I wanted to pop into tonight and share another passage regarding the season of Advent with you.  To be honest, I have so-very-much to share with you I'm wondering exactly how many posts this is going to take. So I'll warn you now, they may be quite long and jam packed with resources, ideas and inspiration for celebrating this lovely dawn of The Year of the Lord. This Friday is also the second in a series of tea posts with my dear friend Dawn, and while I already have most of that post written, I do need to add the finishing touches. That combined with Thanksgiving will make for a heavy week here, but altogether lovely, just the same. And then what do you know, but that it will be time to begin sharing about our plans for Christmas and that loveliest of days, The Winter Solstice, which is a big deal in our house! I've already come across oodles of inspiration for it as I've been researching my Advent posts. But now to keep myself from rambling on, I do hope you will enjoy this lovely passage. I found it at the Internet Archives and it was originally published in 1966 and is now out of print. It's just a quick history of Advent that I found interesting and wanted to share.
~ Enjoy!


Advent is known, and yet not known. To some it is merely a name; to others, a beautiful custom, a lovely practice. Most of us have taken little, if indeed any, time to learn the history of the season or ponder its significance.

Advent does have a. history, however, an interesting one. To begin with, the Advent season as we now know it does not go back to the beginning of the Christmas era. It may come as a surprise, or even a shock, to learn that the date for the celebration of Christmas has not always been December twenty-fifth. There was a time, for instance, when Christmas was celebrated on the sixth of January. The church year took form gradually, and even today is not uniform everywhere.

Advent as we think of it today, is a season of preparation for Christmas. It includes four Sundays and a variable number of additional days, depending on the day of the week on which December twenty-fifth falls. There is no evidence of an established celebration of Christmas on December twenty fifth until the fourth century, and the season of preparation for that celebration is even more recent.

The season of Advent as such as is not mentioned until the seventh century. Its observance is said to have originated in Gaul. However, a synod at Saragossa, Spain in 380 prescribed a penitential preparation for Christmas. Canon IV (a church rule), states that from the seventeenth of December to Feast of Epiphany (January 6), everyone must attend church daily and that worshippers may not go to church with bare feet. This canon is thought to be the first rule ever passed regarding the observance of the season before Christmas.

There is some vague evidence that a small church council held at Tours about A. D. 567 prescribed a fast to be kept by monks every day in December. This is regarded by some as the first unquestionable reference to an Advent season. A few years later, in the south of Gaul, there is found what seems to be a less exacting rule that applied to everyone regarding the number of days on which the fast was to be observed. It appears evident that it involved a period of tasing, broken only on the third Sunday, which bore the designation, Gaudete, “Rejoice ye.”

The Council of Macon, A.D. 581, also had something to say about the season we know as Advent. Beginning with the Festival of St. Martin (November 11), the second, fourth and sixth days of the week were to be observed as days of fasting. The length of the season, however, seems to have varied a great deal, ranging from six weeks to three, and even two. At the close of the sixth century, Rome established the four Sundays before Christmas as Advent Sundays; in the next century this practice became prevalent, though not universal to the West.

In Roman Catholic churches today, practices vary greatly as to fasting. In Great Britain and Ireland, Wednesdays and Fridays are observed as fast days; but in many part of Europe the weeks in Advent are not set apart in any special way.

In England forty days of fasting before the celebration of the birth of the Lord were observed in the seventh and eighth centuries, as ordered for the Western church by Charlemagne’s “Homilarium.” In 1662 the English Book of Common Prayer stated that “Advent Sunday is always the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew (November 30), whether before or after.”

In the Greek church the general observance of forty days of penitential preparation for Christmas does not appear to have been established before the thirteenth century. The Greek church of today begins the forty days of preparation on November eleventh. The fast is somewhat rigorous on Wednesdays and Fridays and somewhat relaxed on other days.

Different customs have obtained and still obtain during Advent. The Armenians, for instance, observe a fast during the week preceding the Nativity, and during one week beginning fifty days before the Nativity. For this reason it has been thought that these two weeks are of a survival of a fast that had originally lasted fifty days. In Normandy farmers still employ children to run with lighted torches through the fields and orchards setting fire to bundles of straw in order to drive out vermin so that the Christ child might have a clean bed. In Italy the last days of Advent are marked by the entry into Rome of the Calabrian pifferari (itinerant musicians from Calabia) who play bagpipes before the shrines of the Holy Mother, as the shepherds are believed to have done before the infant Savior.

It was natural, perhaps, inevitable, that in those branches of the early Protestant church which reacted violently against even the celebration of Christmas there should be no interest in the Advent season as such. In the liturgical branches of the Protestant church, of course, the season has always had considerable meaning. But it is to be noted that in nearly all church there is today a tendency to a growing observance of the special days and seasons of the Church year. The renewed emphasis presently being given to Advent is in part a reaction against the growing secularization of Christmas. Advent is seen to afford the Christian an opportunity to think clearly and soberly about the mystery of the Incarnation.

- Paul M. Lindberg

Advent: The Days Before Christmas (1966)