We loved these suggestions to bring meaning to our Christmas preparations ...

Mince pies and wrapping paper by Janet Fletcher

What do mince pies and Christmas wrapping paper ‘say’ or mean to you? Both have been on sale in the shops for a number of months, and you may not want to see either until next Christmas! Yet, they are both a part of this season of Advent, and they bring to us the quickly-passing days – maybe, too, the reminder of presents still to be wrapped.

I enjoy baking, but have never mastered the art of making pastry, so I always buy my mince pies. I’m not too good, either, at wrapping presents to look like a creative piece of artwork. Like me, you may find lots of bits of wrapping paper, coloured string or ribbon left over, and, for bakers, bits of pastry that has been rolled out once too often to hold its filling of mincemeat.

These leftovers could have a use. Here is a creative way of praying on your own, with other family members or with children; as a way to find a little stillness now, or after Christmas, when Christmas cards can be used as well.

Pastry: can be rolled out and twisted into a variety of shapes. It can be coloured with food colouring, and other ingredients can be added, and personaliswed perhaps for each person in the family. Offer a prayer for that person as the pastry is given shape. Sometimes, simply to ‘play’ with the pastry as you would with a piece of clay can be surprisingly calming and evoke a quiet prayer or release inner tensions.

Paper: have a large sheet of paper, a glue stick and a pen near you as you wrap your presents. With the leftover bits of paper, be as creative as you like to bring together a pattern or collage. As you glue the bits of wrapping paper into place, hold the person who will receive that present in your heart along with the gift they will discover on opening. You may wish to write their names down as well. If you have cooked the leftover pastry into shapes, this too can form part of their collage.

The collage becomes a reminder of those who have shared this season with you. Maybe those to whom you offer hospitality could write their names on the sheet. As they do this, if you can, ask them to offer a prayer for you.

The Christmas Tree by Sally Smith

I have always found that there is something very special about the decorations on the tree. As a child, I looked forward to unwrapping them again and seeing which became old friends over the years, and I would spend hours looking at them, remembering stories about them from the past.

A few years ago, I read an article that gave meanings to some of the different things we hang on our Christmas trees. It sounded somewhat twee and forced as I read it, but for some reason, as I decorated the tree that year I remembered some of what I had read, and I prayed through decorating the tree, remembering the meaning of different items as I hung them on the branches. While the tree remained in the house I was gently reminded of why those things were there, and God became present in the tinsel and glitter.

You could turn decorating the tree into a time of prayer, or, if the tree is already decorated, spend some time looking at it and what is hanging on it, and make the decorations your way in to prayer.

The tree itself is evergreen, representing the eternal life of Christ. Similarly, holly is evergreen but also has the blood-red berries and the thorns from Jesus’ crown of thorns.

The lights are a reminder of Jesus as the light of the world; coloured lights are a reminder of the different people and nations of the world. Candles are a thank-you to God for sending his Son and a reminder to shine as a light in the world.

The red ornaments echo Christ’s shedding his blood and point towards his death and resurrection.

The stars are for the wise men, for their gifts, their determination to find Jesus and their adoration of the baby Jesus.

The gold (tinsel, baubles and so on) give a regal air for the King of kings.

Anything round (wreaths, baubles, and so on) has the sense of eternity, the never-ending circle and God’s everlasting love for you and for others around the tree.

There are a couple of bells on my tree that ring out for the lost sheep – those I know, and those I don’t know.

Of course, the angel sits on top of the tree, overlooking all and announcing the good news, singing ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours’ (Luke 2:14).

And Santa sits beneath the tree because God wants us to be happy and have fun and give and receive presents with people we love.

+ Used by permission from Quiet Spaces Sept-Dec 2013 edited by Sally Smith. Published by BRF £4 per issue
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