Advent Shawl CAL: Weeks Three & Four

It has occurred to me that in order for your shawl to be completed by Christmas Eve or Day, that I need to double up on the week’s instructions. So you will have both sets of instructions, for Week 3 and for Week 4, so that you can crochet as your time allows. Next Monday I will post the 5th and Final section along with the edging. That will give you the last week prior to Christmas to work on finishing your Shawl.

If you are familiar with an Advent Wreath, you will know that the candle for Week 3 is the Shepherd Candle and Week 4 is the Angel candle. I chose the “Grass” green for Week 3 to represent the fields in which the shepherds keep watch over their flocks by night. For Week 4 I chose the pale pink “Blossom” to represent the Angel Candle. Each stitch pattern is also thoughtfully chosen: a V-stitch pattern to represent the grass of the fields; the Crosshatch Stitch to represent the wings of an Angel. As always, the Tri-Color Transition is representing the three gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus…gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I hope you are enjoying this Crochet-A-Long and that it is proving to be a meaningful and enjoyable “work” preparing you for Christmas Day. Below you will find my reflection for these two weeks. It may seem heavy, but I write out of my heart and where God is speaking to me in present time. May it bring encouragement to you in some way. Thank you for those of you who have left messages either here or on Facebook, or Instagram about your experience of crocheting this Shawl.

Click HERE to download the PDF of Instructions for Weeks 3 & 4.

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A dear friend of mine is at this moment struggling for breath in a cancer ICU. We typically think of the celebration of Advent as a happy and lighthearted time. It is not always so. Though I have known and been friends with her for 30+ years, I feel as if I’ve known her all my life. She and I both were dancers in our young girl years and I imagine we would have been BFF’s in dance class, working our plies, tandus, and pirouettes together. She has been valiantly battling esophageal cancer for 2 1/2 years, and it has been my privilege to walk alongside her, trying to keep in touch as best we can through it all.

We speak of Advent as an anticipation of Christ’s coming to us as a babe in a manger. Indeed it is just this. But we sometimes miss the fact that He comes to us in a multiplicity of ways. The entire Christmas story is rife with numerous ways God comes to His people: an Angel of the Lord comes to Mary to bring her the news that God is going to come to her, overshadow her, and birth in her His only Son. An army of God’s messengers come to the Shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Christ. God comes to Joseph in a dream to allay his fears and give instruction for the path ahead. God comes to the Three Kings in a dream to tell them to travel another way. In fact, the entirety of the Scriptures is an unfolding of all the ways God has come to us. Not the other way ’round.

I astonish myself with how I know this to be true, that the King of Heaven comes to His children, but I live as if I’m the one who has to reach, grasp, and work my way to God. There is not a single story in the Bible where people have successfully gotten themselves together, cleaned up their act, been nice enough, smart enough, wise enough, to achieve the status “made it to heaven.” In fact, usually their efforts to earn salvation or God’s approval go horribly wrong. But God…

He comes to us in Advent as a baby, because that is what we are…helpless, vulnerable, dependent babes. He does ALL the work of coming to save His own. He alone rescues. He alone provides. He alone comforts. He alone grants faith, grace, and mercy. He also comes to us in our death. We do not travel that lonely dreadful path alone. Soon He will reach out His hand to my friend and say those precious words…“Talitha, koum”. He will take her by the hand and say “Dear little one, get up and go with me into eternity! Breathe freely, plie, tandu and pirouette to your heart’s content! ” Yes, even in death, He comes to His own. Emmanuel. God. With. Us.

With grace in every stitch,

Jennifer

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The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

Advent Shawl CAL: Week One

Thanksgiving, as a holiday, is now behind us. Yet we continue to offer thanks every day and especially as we turn now to anticipate the celebration of Christ’s coming! To facilitate our anticipation and preparation for this event, we are starting a series of stitches. You may read the first blog post about this idea HERE if you are just now joining in. Crocheting through Advent will offer us time to slow down in the midst of the holiday hubbub and make thoughtful stitches. Each week contains instructions for a section of the Advent Shawl that reflects the topic of Advent for the upcoming week. Notice that we are starting a week in advance of the actual Sunday of Advent, so that we can have our Shawls finished for wearing on Christmas or gifting to another. I have chosen stitch patterns that reflect, in order, the topics for each week.

The first candle of Advent is the Prophecy Candle. I chose an open fan or shell stitch as this portrays the radiating rays of the prophetic foretelling of Christ’s coming to save His people. Generation after generation remembered, recalled and passed on the promise of a coming King, a Messiah, whom God would send to His people. Like the rays of the sun, these prophecies reached through hundreds of years, to be realized on that night in Bethlehem long ago. As we stitch, we remember and recount the plan God had in mind all along, to send His one and only Son Jesus to  work salvation for us. Our hearts are kindled by the knowledge of God’s faithfulness through the unfolding and intricate plan He orchestrated in every detail.

The following Reflection is for any who wish to have further reflection for this week’s stitching. I have written it here for your reading enjoyment. And you can also listen to me read these thoughts to you as you stitch, if you like. I am so very glad you have chosen to come along with me in our journey of anticipating the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.

Click HERE for downloadable PDF Instructions for this week’s portion of a crocheted Advent Shawl.***PLEASE read through entire pattern carefully to get an overview of the instructions for this week!

Listen here as I read the reflection for this week.

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As a child, the foretelling of the coming of Santa was an elaborate affair. From the books I read, to movies and holiday TV shows, from the malls and department stores, to wish lists and letters sent…all was designed to heighten the anticipation of this jolly man, dressed in red and white, coming to give gifts to children. Even adults whom I did not know seemed in on it as they would ask – “What have you asked Santa for this Christmas?” and “Have you been good?” or “Do you think you’ll get presents from Santa or lumps of coal?”

My dad went to great lengths some years, jingling sleigh bells late at night, making huge boot prints in the scattered ashes from our fireplace, all to heighten our excitement and secure our belief in this benevolent character. As an actor and director of theater, this was dad’s forte – bringing to life a story, however fantastical, in such a way that the “fourth wall” disappears and is experienced as real and true. I did not stop believing in Santa until the 5th grade, quite old I’d say to be finally letting go, despite the fact that I had found all of my and my siblings Letters to Santa in a box when we moved from one house to another. When my mom finally, plainly and simply, told me the truth about Santa, there was not a little disappointment.

The prophecies and foretelling of Christ’s coming likely had a similar mythical and legendary quality about them, as well as some confusion and disappointment in the unfolding events. The Jewish people, in faith and hope, held onto the prophecies that this Son of God would come and free them from their bondage, make all things right, give them untold gifts of peace on earth. When Christ as a babe finally did come, the questions began. A baby? Born to poor and unassuming parents? And then to watch his life unfold…carpenter by trade, youth teacher in the Synagogue, healer of the sick and then crucified?? Surely this is not what the prophecies were all about?!

In a similar, though lesser quandary, I wrestled with the news about Santa. You mean he isn’t a jolly man in a red suit? He doesn’t ride in a sleigh pulled by reindeer and there isn’t a North Pole with elves at work all year? You mean to tell me, that all along, this was just my dad?

Now my father is not perfect, but he is jolly. He loves to give gifts. His exuberance is infectious and he seems to know everyone he meets. To be told that Santa was actually my dad all those years was not a bad deal at all. In fact, he was a real, flesh and blood man, with whom I lived 365 days of the year and he delighted in his children. This was a much more substantial and enduring Santa than the plastic, tinsel-trimmed version I had been imagining.

To a far greater degree, what we now see as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of old, may be disappointing to some at first. but upon closer look, is richer and deeper and more beautiful than we could ever have imagined. We find that the Messiah, though he did not lead a revolution to overthrow the Roman oppressors, has indeed conquered all our enemies and risen victorious, raising us with Him. We find that He is flesh and blood, that we are His children and He loves us dearly. We discover that He delights in us, and knows us by name. He definitely knows if we’ve been naughty or nice, yet instead of giving us a lump of coal and exacting the penalty for our sin from us, He paid it all Himself. We find as we walk deeper with Him that the promised One is actually “an exact representation of the Father” (Hebrews 1:3), perfect in every way.

What we had hoped was Santa, we now see is our good and faithful Father, the Son being His exact representation, come to earth, in a manger, as a babe.

As you prepare for and enter into this holy season of Advent, may You be enabled to see your Heavenly Father for who He really is. Not some fabricated version you have made up to craft a good story, but the real flesh and blood Messiah, God come to us, Emmanuel, the baby King.

Live this week and beyond in the joy of knowing He lives with you 365 days of the year, delights in giving good gifts to His children, knows you completely and loves you unconditionally.

With grace in every stitch,

Jennifer

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7