Monday, December 3, 2012

Names of Jesus advent chain

This morning, SuperSam and I found ourselves with some time to fill. He was feeling crafty, which doesn't happen all that often. There are probably a thousand exciting, beautiful, intricate Advent project ideas out there right now that we could choose to do together. Sometimes, though, the simplest projects are exactly what I need to help me connect with my children and with the season. Today, we made an Advent paper chain with one of Jesus' names on each link.

Jesus is called by many names in the Bible. When the angel comes to announce to Mary that she will bear God's son, he tells her that the baby will be called Emmanuel. Some of his names are taken from ancient prophets, like Isaiah. Each Gospel writer introduces new names for Jesus, and St. Paul gives us many more names in his letters to the early church. Finally, some of the powerful images for Jesus come from names used for him in Revelation.

Our Advent chain has 24 links, one for each day until Christmas Day. SuperSam and I worked together to choose our favorite names of Jesus and wrote one on each link of chain. Our plan is to remove a link each day and read the name of Jesus and the scripture verse where that name originates.

Here is how to make your own Advent chain, if you want to join us in this practice.

What you'll need: 
  • Paper to cut into strips for the chain links (we used scrapbook paper)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • A writing implement (pen, pencil, marker, stub of crayon - whatever you have will work)
  • A calendar (optional)

You probably know how many days there are from the beginning of Advent to Christmas Day. Since SuperSam is just beginning to understand how days and weeks and months and seasons fit together, he asks me every day if it is Christmas yet (I like to send him here for the answer and a giggle). I thought it would be helpful to have him count the days on the calendar to figure out how many links we would need. We started with the first day of Advent (December 2) and made a link for each day until Christmas.

First, cut your paper into strips. Our strips were 6 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, which made nice, fat links. If I were doing this again, I would make them almost twice that long so they would be easier for SuperSam to link together.

This is a great way for a young child to practice cutting. I made "starter cuts" for SuperSam at the edge of the paper, and he followed them up with his scissors to make the cuts (all the while saying "squeeze squeeze SLIDE, squeeze squeeze SLIDE" and making a noise like squealing brakes when he reached the edge. Ah, crafts with preschool boys...never boring.

Once you have a pile of strips, write one of the names of Jesus on the back of each strip. (There is a thorough list available here.) Here are the ones we used with the scripture references, in case you'd like to borrow any of them:

A Precious Stone - 1 Peter 2:6
The Builder - Hebrews 3:3
The Vine - John 15:5
The Son of the Living God - Matthew 16:16
Emmanuel (God with us) - Matthew 1:23
The Truth - John 14:6
The Root of Jesse - Isaiah 11:10
Prince of Peace - Isaiah 9:6
A Sure Foundation - Isaiah 28:16
The Word - John 1:1
Lily of the Valley - Song of Songs 2:1
The Resurrection - John 11:25
The Lamb of God - John 1:29
The Way - John 14:6
The Bread of Life - John 6:35
Alpha and Omega - Revelation 1:8
Dayspring from on High - Luke 1:78
The Head - Ephesians 4:15
Lord of Lords - Revelation 17:14
Light of the World - John 8:12
Bright and Morning Star - Revelation 22:16
The Sun of Righteousness - Malachi 4:2
King of Kings - Revelation 17:14
Messiah - John 4:25
King of Glory - Psalm 24:10
Savior of the World - 1 John 4:14
The Good Shepherd - John 10:11

To make the chain, form the first link into a circle and fasten it with a piece of tape. If you want to be fancy, you can use double-sided tape so it doesn't show. We are not fancy, so we used regular old transparent tape (which is never quite transparent, so you can see if it you look closely!). Insert a second strip through the first strip to link them together, then make another circle. Keep going until you have threaded all the links together to form a chain. If you're working with a child who can't do this part by himself, this is a good time to work together. SuperSam lined up pieces of tape all along the table edge and chose which strips should go next in the chain. He also liked putting the piece of tape on each link while I held it (although his success rate with that was about 50% - we had to redo a number of them when the tape totally missed the seam). It's all about the process, right?

Finally, SuperSam wanted to make a star to put at the top of the chain and write "Jesus" on it. His star is a Jesus Star, he said, but it's most like Rigel (one of his favorites because it's a double star and it's blue- the hottest kind of star). He also drew planets orbiting the star (because we just can't do anything without including planets these days).

I hope this simple craft gives you time to reflect on some of the many different facets of Jesus. We often think this time of year of the little baby boy who was born in a manger, but taking a step back to consider the bigger picture of who Jesus was and is can be a good thing, too. A great number of these names for Jesus show up in hymn texts and carols we will sing during Advent and Christmas. Taking a few minutes to remind ourselves (or to learn for the first time) some of the names now can make singing those favorite songs even more meaningful this year.

Blessings during this first week of Advent!

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