Intergenerational Advent Event

The Advent event at Ponds Reformed Church in Oakland, New Jersey, evolved over the years from a "drop off the children for an hour of Christmas carols and cookies" event to a meaningful, congregation-wide introduction to the season of Advent. At Ponds the event was planned by the Christian Education committee; however, elements of fellowship, service, music, and worship are integral, and any of these committees could share responsibility for facilitating the activities.

Plan your event for the afternoon and evening of the first Sunday in Advent. Publicize the schedule ahead of time, so that people may come for any or all of the evening.

Schedule

4:00 to 5:00 p.m. - Crafts, service, and singing
5:00 to 5:45 p.m. - Soup supper
5:45 to 6:30 p.m. - Cookie swap and dessert
6:30 to 7:00 p.m. - Intergenerational Advent worship

Materials for crafts and service projects

For ornaments:

  • Dough, construction paper or poster board, felt or other materials for simple ornament
  • Glitter or glitter-glue pens: red, green, gold, white, silver
  • Crayons or markers
  • Paints (assorted colors)
  • Yarn

For paper chains:

  • Red and green or purple, pink, and white construction paper strips, 1" x 7"
  • Glue sticks

For Christmas cards:

  • Recycled Christmas cards
  • White, red, green, or purple construction paper, 5 1/2" x 8"
  • Construction paper scraps (assorted colors)
  • Pencils, crayons, markers
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks

For banners:

  • White, purple, or gold felt, 12" x 18", for background
  • Felt squares (assorted colors)
  • Felt scraps (assorted colors)
  • Dowel stick
  • Yarn or cord for hanging
  • Tacky® glue or Elmer's® glue
  • Scissors

For candle decorating:

  • White or purple candles, 3" x 8"
  • Thin sheets of wax (purchase in a crafts store)
  • Patterns for Advent/Christmas shapes

For Chrismons:

  • White felt or styrofoam cut into Chrismon shapes
  • White styrofoam balls
  • White and gold beads and sequins
  • Pearl beads
  • Glitter or glitter-glue pens: gold and white
  • White covered wire and/or gold cord (for hanger)
  • Tacky® glue
  • Low-temp glue gun

For Advent wreaths:

  • Plastic-foam ring (12" diameter) or wire ring
  • Evergreens (real or artificial)
  • Branch cutter
  • Four purple candles
  • One white candle

For gift baskets for shut-ins:

  • Small baskets with handles
  • Fancy Christmas cookies
  • Fresh fruit
  • Individually wrapped tea bags or instant coffee bags
  • Wrapped candies
  • Large bows
  • Christmas cards (make in the Christmas card center)

For lap robes for shut-ins:

  • Quilted fabric, cut into rectangles large enough for lap robes (one for each shut-in)
  • Fabric markers
  • Red fabric to finish edges of lap robes

Cost

To cover costs for this event, choose one or a combination of the following: receive a free-will offering with some suggested guidelines for cost, offer the event on a per-family cost basis, or charge on a per-item basis. Whatever works best for your congregation is what you should choose. Share the information about cost when you advertise the event.

4:00 to 5:00 p.m. - Crafts, service, and singing

As people arrive, invite them to choose one of the following activities. Inform them that they may move from one activity to another.

CRAFTS
Craft choices include those designed for a variety of ability levels. Level suggestions are included below, but participants may choose from any activity. Suggest that parents help children make those choices.

Paper Chains (ages 3-8)
Use red and green strips to create a traditional colors paper chain or use purple, pink, and white strips to create an Advent/Christmas paper chain. Join the individual chains to make one long chain. Hang the chain in the fellowship hall or another appropriate area in your church.

Ornaments (all ages)
Create simple ornaments from dough, construction paper or posterboard, felt, or other materials. Have a supply of construction paper or posterboard, felt, ornament dough (the kind that can be baked) ready for cutting or shaping. Provide glitter-glue pens and/or glitter: red, green, white, blue, silver, and gold; crayons; markers; paints; and yarn for decorating the ornaments. Give each person a piece of yarn or gold cord for a hanger. For the dough ornament hook, push a paper clip into the top of the dough before baking.

Christmas Cards (all ages)
Invite everyone who chooses this activity to use the materials provided to make Christmas cards for the shut-ins. Participants can cut out pictures from recycled Christmas cards or draw their own designs. See the materials list for suggested supplies.

Banners (all ages)
Give each participant a 12" x 18" piece of white, purple, or gold felt for the banner background, a 12 1/2" dowel stick, and yarn or cord. Invite everyone to use the felt and/or markers to create an Advent or Christmas banner. Provide patterns for letters and simple shapes. (However, encourage everyone to draw their own designs rather than use patterns.) Place some signs with simple slogans (Advent, Christmas, Joy to the World, Prepare the Way, Jesus Is Coming, Advent Means Waiting, Advent Means Getting Ready, etc.) on a wall or bulletin board as suggestions for the participants.

Candle Decorating (ages 9 and above)
Provide a 3" x 8" purple or white candle for this activity. Using thin sheets of wax, cut out shapes and press them onto the candles. Display the purple candle at home during Advent and display the white candle (Christ candle) either in the center of the Advent wreath or alone on Christmas eve and the days following until Epiphany (January 6).

Advent Wreaths (Jr. high and above)
Provide greens and a plastic foam ring (one ring for each family unit participating in this activity). If the plastic foam rings don't have holes for placing the four Advent candles, use a candle to punch four holes (evenly spaced around the wreath) in the ring. Demonstrate how to push the greens into the foam. After the greens are in place, add three purple candles and one pink candle to the ring. Directions for making an Advent wreath can be found online.

SERVICE
Service is a strong component of this first hour. Invite participants to respond to the needs of a designated group in the congregation and the community.

Gifts for Shut-ins (lap robe or gift baskets)
Cut white quilted fabric into rectangles large enough to be made into a lap robe or small coverlet (one rectangle for each church member confined to their home or a nursing home). Spread the fabric rectangles and markers around the tables. Throughout the craft hour, invite the children and adults to draw a seasonal picture or write a personal greeting to the shut-ins. After the event have a seamstress (from the congregation) finish off the edges with a red fabric border. Ask the pastor to present each shut-in with this beautiful gift of lasting "warmth" when making pastoral calls during the month of December.

OR

Make Christmas baskets for the shut-ins. In your publicity for the event, ask participants to bring fancy Christmas cookies to the Advent event. Purchase baskets with handles, fresh fruit, small candies, individually wrapped tea bags or instant coffee packs, and a box of Christmas/holiday tissues. During the craft hour invite older youth and adults to fill, wrap, and decorate each basket with a large bow and a Christmas card (cards made in the Christmas card center). Have volunteers (not just the pastor) deliver the gifts to the shut-ins.

Gifts for People in the Community
Choose a community agency such as a homeless shelter or a center for abused women and their children to receive wrapped or unwrapped gifts to be placed under the Christmas tree. Prior to the event, publicize the activity and inform the congregation of the recipient agency and appropriate gifts such as hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, table games, toys, books, etc. Check with the agency for a wish list. Encourage children to shop with their parents to pick out a special gift for a child. Invite adults to bring clothing items or nonperishable food items. An added benefit of this project is in the delivering of the gifts. For members at Ponds Reformed who have volunteered to deliver these gifts, this has been a very meaningful experience.

SINGING
Many times during these events, a number of adults (and youth and children, too) who do not enjoy crafts may be seen wandering about looking vaguely ill-at-ease. Include an activity that Ponds Reformed Church found meets that group's need. You may find, as they did, that it quickly becomes a huge attraction.

Drawing on the musical talents of persons in your congregation who play instruments (consider having a small chamber group if you have several instrumentalists), have singing abilities, or know a great deal about the history of Christmas carols, invite folks to come to the church parlor throughout the hour for a carol-sing. Create an inviting and festive atmosphere by decorating with lighted candles, greens, and a fire in the fireplace (if you have one). For a special touch, add a wassail bowl! Adapt this part of the event to the musical resources in your congregation.

5:00 to 5:45 p.m. - Soup supper

To make the preparation for this event as simple as possible, purchase large cans of soup (two choices). Ask participants to bring their own sandwiches. Provide beverages and place settings.

MIXER (optional activity)
After the soup supper, introduce the intergenerational mixer. Create several puzzles with questions and the names of Christmas carols. With the puzzle pieces together, write one or two questions on the front of the puzzle. Design questions which encourage storytelling, such as "What is a memory that you have of a childhood Advent or Christmas tradition?" or "What was your favorite Christmas and why?" or "What do you like most about Christmas?" On the back of each piece of one puzzle write the name of the same Christmas carol, such as "Away in a Manger." On another puzzle write the name of a different Christmas carol, such as "Silent Night," on each piece. Distribute one puzzle piece to each person. Ask the people, at the given signal, to walk around singing the first line of their carol until they find others with the same carol. (There will be a few minutes of bedlam!) Invite each carol group to gather at the tables, put their puzzle pieces together to reveal the question(s), and share responses with the others at the table.

5:45 to 6:15 p.m. - Cookie swap and dessert

Ask those who wish to participate to bring a plate of Christmas cookies, as well as an empty plate. (Have plates available for those who didn't bring cookies but still want to participate.) Place the plates of cookies on a long row of tables at the front of your fellowship room and invite participants to walk around and around filling their plates until the cookies are gone. They then go back to their tables and share the wonderful variety of cookies for dessert. Leftover cookies can be taken home. Ponds Reformed reports that "children LOVE this part of the event!"

6:30 to 7:00 p.m. - Intergenerational Advent worship

Close the evening by gathering in the chancel area of your sanctuary or in any other worshipful setting in your church. The brief Advent worship service should be for all ages. Invite young children (and any others who wish to) to sit on the floor.

This service can be a very important and appreciated part of the Advent Event. It is quiet and intimate, and offers the opportunity for the church family to worship together and begin the Advent season on a Christ-centered level.

ORDER FOR WORSHIP

Lighting the Advent Candle

Use the responsive reading for the Advent wreath included online or invite a child to light the Advent candle and then have everyone join in a litany that you have developed for this simple service.

Scripture Reading

Choose an appropriate passage from the lectionary readings for the first Sunday in Advent.

Advent Carol

"Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" (Sing with Me, #83)

Advent Story or Skit

The skit, "A Gift for Advent," is available online. 
Or choose another appropriate story or skit.

Prayer

Invite participants in this event to write a prayer for this service. See also Sing! A New Creation, #99.

Closing Song

"Prepare the Way of the Lord" (Songs for LiFE, #124; Sing! A New Creation, #105; or Sing With Me, #84)
"O Come, O Come, Immanuel" (Sing with Me, #81)
"Toda La Tierra/All Earth Is Waiting" (Sing! A New Creation, #93)

7:00 p.m. to ? - Clean-up 

After the service, invite those who can to help with clean up. The more people who help, the more quickly it will be done.

Thank you to Marilyn Paarlberg for this intergenerational Advent event idea.

Preparing an Advent Wreath

Many congregations and families have been introduced to the Advent wreath custom with Bible reading, singing, and prayer. On each successive Sunday in Advent, a candle is lit.

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