One year I decided it would be a good idea to embroider Advent Alphabet Bunting for Boaz. In some ways, it was a good idea: it’s a lovely little Advent tradition now, which can be used in different ways with children of all ages. In some ways it wasn’t such a good idea: it took me two years to complete, and by the time we had the full set, we had Boaz and Josiah! So, by all means embroider your own bunting – but paper bunting might be a bit more time efficient. I’ve made a set of Advent Alphabet Bunting printables you could use – I’m in no sense a graphic designer so they are a bit, um, basic!! But there’s nothing a bit of glitter can’t make passable at Christmas!
The idea is you peg up one piece of bunting a day. Yes, I know, 24 days of Advent, 26 letters – just start a bit early or do a couple on two days. With really young children you could just do the letters; slightly older children could read the words, older yet could tell you where it fits in the story, and even older yet could find some Bible verses relating to them. I’ve tried to cover the salient parts of the Christmas story and some key doctrines – hopefully I haven’t missed anything too vital. Some of the words are perhaps verging on the tenuous, but I did manage to find something for all 26 letters!
Angel – The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the message that she was God’s chosen one to bear His Son, and to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son (Luke 1). The angels also took the message of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20).
Bethlehem – Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant with Jesus for the census. It was while in Bethlehem that Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7).
Carpenter – Jesus was very likely to have been a carpenter by trade, like Joseph (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, respectively). In both these passages, this trade caused surprise, even offense, as He spoke in the Synagogue, perhaps showing that in the same way as He was not born as one would have expected the King of Kings to be born, neither was His life what might have been expected.
Dreams – God spoke to Joseph through angels in dreams, telling him that Mary had conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt for the safety of Jesus (Matthew 2:12,13), and to return to Israel to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23).
Elizabeth – Elizabeth was seemingly barren, but God promised and gave her a son, John, who was filled with the Holy Spirit and prepared many for the coming of Jesus (Luke 1:1-25, 57-66, Luke 3:1-20).
Frankincense – One of the gifts the Magi gave the young Jesus was frankincense (Matthew 2:11). The Bible doesn’t say why they gave frankincense, but it’s possible that, as it was used in burnt offerings to God (Exodus 30:34), it symbolised Jesus being the once and for all sacrificial offering.
Glory to God – This is part of the praise of the angels when they told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ (Luke 2:14).
Holy Spirit – Jesus was born of the virgin Mary: she conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). John, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15).
Immanuel – There is some debate whether this should be ‘E’ or ‘I’, but my ESV has it with an ‘I’ – and I couldn’t think of anything else for ‘I’, but could for ‘E’! Immanuel means ‘God with us’, and it is significant that this is one of the names of Jesus, as it points to Him being God incarnate (fully God, fully human), and also the fulfillment of the prophesies in Isaiah (Isaiah 7:13-15, Matthew 1:22-23).
Jesus – We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas.
King Herod – Herod was king of Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus, as was greatly troubled at the thought of a ‘new’ king, who he thought would be a political threat (Matthew 2:3). In order to try and eliminate any possible threat, he eventually ordered the massacre of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and that region, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah (Matthew 2:16-18).
Love – Because of the love of God for us, Jesus came to earth to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, that we might have eternal life (John 3:16).
Mary – Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), and worshiped and praised God for this calling (Luke 1:46-56).
Nazareth – On returning from Egypt, Joseph took his family to live in Nazareth, after being warned to do so by an angel in a dream (Matthew 2:19-23). Nazarenes were often looked upon with disdain (John 1:46), which perhaps fits well with the theme often found of Jesus not being what would have been expected of the saviour of the Jews.
Obedient – Philippians 2:8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.
Prophets – There were many prophets in the Old Testament who foretold the birth and saving power of Jesus, such as Isaiah and Micah. Others point towards him through their lives – Hosea (who continually fought for and forgave his wife) and Jonah (who spent three days in darkness), for example.
Quirinius – The census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem took place in the time of Quirinius (Luke 2:2).
Royal – Jesus was from the royal line of David (Matthew 1:1-17), but He was the fulfillment of this line: the true king whose kingdom would have no end (Luke 1:32-33).
Shepherds – When Jesus was born, the first people told were the shepherds – the lowliest of society. They immediately responded and rushed to worship Him (Luke 2:8-20).
Temple – According to Jewish law, Jesus had to be presented at the Temple, which He was. There, Simeon recognised Jesus to be the salvation prepared by God (Luke 2:22-38).
Under a Star – The star of Bethlehem guided the Magi from the East to find Jesus, resting over Him (Matthew 2:9b).
Visitors from the East – The Magi who came to worship Jesus and bring Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh came from the east, following the star (Matthew 2:1).
Word Become Flesh – John 1:1-5 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
Χριστως – This is the New Testament Greek for ‘Christ’. It’s possibly a little pretentious to have a Greek word in Advent bunting – but finding something for ‘X’ was pretty tricky!! It’s pronounced like ‘Christopher’, but with the ‘pher’ replaced by ‘s’. ‘Christ’ is the Greek New Testament rendering of the Hebraic Old Testament ‘Messiah’ which means ‘saviour’. Jesus was the long awaited saviour, though He was largely not recognised as such (John 1:10-11).
You – Jesus came to save sinners from the ultimate consequence of their sin (death), and to give them eternal life (Romans 6:23). The Bible is very clear that we are all sinners in need of a saviour (Romans 3:23), and that Jesus came for any who accept Him as their saviour (John 3:16). This means Jesus came for you.
Zechariah – Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. The birth of John was foretold to him when he was serving as a priest, but Zechariah did not believe the angel, and so he was struck silent until the birth and naming of John (Luke 1:5-25, 57-80).