The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Manger Time


Fourth Sunday of Advent

The suggested prayer for the lighting of the Advent Wreath on the Fourth Sunday of Advent comes from “Family Nights for Advent and Christmas”: O God, thank you for this evening and the warmth and joy we feel this Christmas season. How grateful we are that Jesus’ birthday is soon to come. Be with us Lord, in our final preparations for this great day. Amen

In a family tradition around our house, the manger figurines of the Holy Family – sans Baby Jesus of course – have been wending their way through various locations of the hallway and living room toward the manger my father cut out of plywood and glued together so many years ago.

The shepherds, sheep and baby lambs, cows and angels have been at the manger for three weeks now awaiting the Holy Night arrivals. The Magi, I must tell you, have been traveling through the house since July as part of a family effort to shift the emphasis away from the commercial focus that springs into full gear each summer with “Christmas in July.” They aren’t due at their destination til Epiphany.

Mary and Joseph will arrive at the manger in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve. Baby Jesus – tucked safely away on the second shelf of mom’s old hutch in my room for now – will be conveyed with ceremony to join his parents after the first star cuts through the twilight of Christmas Eve.

The favorite and worn paperback called “Family Nights for Advent and Christmas” offers insights about creating family traditions like ours which can be adapted for your own family.

Adapting is a fine practice. In fact, I adapted the moving figurine concept from St. Mary by the Sea Episcopalian Church in Point Pleasant Beach where the congregation moves their manger figures to various locations around the sanctuary during Advent.

“Family Nights” offers this activity as a good one for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and calls it Manger Time:

Materials: Manger figures.

Instructions: If the tree is up, clear everything out from under the tree so that the base is empty; light the lights and darken the room; ask each family member to talk about what the tree means to them and then, setting Baby Jesus aside, pass out one manger figure to each family member and ask each to share what the character gave because he or she loved Jesus.  Joseph, for instance, gave him care and protection and a home. Place all the manger figures under the tree and sing together as a family “O come, O Come Emmanuel.”

The authors recommend snacking on punch or milk and homemade cookies and I think that’s a fine idea.

To make it even better, I asked dear friend Nancy Romanenko, the former long time home pages editor of the Asbury Park Press and a peerless baker and cook to share a favorite cookie recipe.

She responded with several that will appear throughout next week as the final entries in the First Annual Cookie Recipe Exchange. I thought this one would be especially good for the candle lighting.

Cranberry Chip Cookies

Ingredients: 1 cup butter, softened; 1 cup sugar; 2 eggs; 1 tsp. vanilla extract; 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour; ½ tsp baking powder; ¼ tsp salt; 1 ½ cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips; 1 ½ cups dried cranberries; ¾ cup chopped pecans; ½ cup English toff bits (optional)

Directions: In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips, cranberries, pecans and toffee bits (if desired) (dough will be still). Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-14 minutes or until set and the edges are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks. Yield: about 6 dozen

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