journey to bethlehem

We’ve had so much fun with children’s church this fall! The first quarter is drawing to a close with a Journey to Bethlehem. The curriculum was a free download, which is always appreciated. Unfortunately, it wasn’t age-appropriate for our mostly preschool-aged group. So we borrowed weekly themes and customized lessons and crafts for wee ones to follow the star and learn the story of the first Christmas.

Our journey is based on the Christmas story as told in Luke 2:1-20. In week 1, we explore the journey Joseph took in trusting God, a leap of faith that changed the world as he led his new wife to fulfill 500 years of prophecy in Bethlehem. In week 2, we drop in on the lowly shepherds, the first people to learn and act upon the good news of great joy available to everyone. In week 3, we consider the long and expensive journey of the magi, they who were wise in watching the signs and following the star that led them to worship the Christ child. In week 4, we learn about the long journey the baby Jesus took to Bethlehem, giving up heaven to become the ultimate Christmas gift.

The children are learning cute hand motions to familiar carols like Away in the Manger, Drummer Boy, and Silent Night. The favorite, by far, is newcomer, “Oh, What a Special Night.”  You can’t help but sing and move along! I invite you to share the wonder and joy of Christmas with the little ones you love through these fun activities.

TOP LEFT of CENTER and FAR RIGHT: Joseph and family of popsicle sticks and cloth (week 1) TOP FAR LEFT and RIGHT of CENTER: Baby Jesus in popsicle stick and paper manger  (week 4) CENTER: Soft sheep reminder of the shepherds (week 2) BOTTOM  Sparkly clay star; we used this recipe (week 3) Please use comments for craft assembly questions.

As always, Carolyn Arends inspires my advent preparation. Come and See, is a joyous accompaniment to our journey! I guarantee if you like that you won’t want to miss Story of StoriesLong Way to Go, and It Was a Holy Night. Listen in and be inspired by those and many other original, thought-provoking lyrics by launching her delightful Christmas Jukebox. Do you lack Christmas Spirit? Get it here!



Bonus! A sweet reminder of the first Christmas with M&M candies. I wish I knew who to give credit for this clever poem. Please clue me in if you know the original author!


Happy happy and merry, merry! May your Christmas be especially blessed.

~ René Morley

christmas spirit

FullSizeRenderWithout doubt, Christmas music claims top honors in my collection. I collect it like some people collect fine wine, always looking for a fresh take on an old story and ever so grateful when I find it. I have Christmas playlists parsing out all kinds of pop, country, traditional, instrumental, and — my all-time favorite — originals.

It’s sadly ironic that one of our most important holidays can also be one of the loneliest, so overhyped and overproduced. We hope for a classic Christmas, enveloped in the glow of candlelight, surrounded by loving family, enjoying a festive meal and protection of a warm of hearth. We imagine a big pile of presents under the tree — debt free, please. We long to embrace those who’ve left aching holes in our hearts, return them to our perfect Christmas scene. Ah, if only Hollywood made Christmas to order.

But when we think about it, if we think about it, the birth of baby Jesus was anything but a Hallmark moment. It must have been lonely, a young woman delivering her firstborn without the benefit of family or even a midwife alongside. She labored alone, in a foreign town. She gave birth in a dirty and smelly stable. She and her husband were poor newlyweds, soon to become refugees. There wasn’t much to recommend Christmas that first Christmas.

Except, of course, the exceeding joy and gladness expressed from the highest of heavenlies in the good news of the birth of God’s son. Well, yes, there is that! It is just so easy to lose sight of it.

So it’s understandable if your Christmas spirit needs a lift. If you’re feeling lonely or alone, sad or sorrowful … or a bit frazzled, eager to refocus … or wondering, like Cindy Lou, if it’s all become a bit superfluous, then I hope you’ll listen in, my friend.

At the top of my playlist is a new release from a favorite artist, “Story of Stories” (Carolyn Arends, 2014). You’ll enjoy lots of fresh lyrics and melodies on her new album: Story of Stories, and an earlier album, Christmas: An Irrational Season (2004). The second is equally as good as the first, which set the gold standard in Christmas originals. If you like insightful lyrics, earthy acoustics and upbeat melodies, Carolyn Arends is singing your tune.

There’s no one who sings Christmas more directly into my heart. You can listen in on her website; some are also on YouTube: It was a Holy Night, Long Way to GoVacancy (2014); My First Christmas, The Lord’s Servant (2004).

I play Carolyn often but there are others in my originals mix you might enjoy. With apologies for the unavoidably cheesy videos or annoying ads … ;=) I hope you give yourself the gift of a few quiet moments to capture some fresh Christmas spirit.

The spirit of Christmas is as fresh as North Country balsam laden with new fallen snow. I hope you experience it this Christmas.

~ Rene Morley

Bonus! Sharing out our favorite Christmas cartoon: The Small One. That’s 25 minutes of Christmas-like-a-kid in technacolor, circa 1960-something. :=)