Incarnation Cycle

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14


what is the Incarnation Cycle?

The Incarnation Cycle anticipates, celebrates & affirms Christ as Messiah and God with us. Advent is the first season of the Church year. It lasts for four weeks and begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. During Advent we prepare and wait for Christ's coming. The Season of Christmas begins on Christmas Day (December 25) and continues for 12 days. We celebrate Christ among us during Christmas. January 6 begins the Season after Epiphany, when we acclaim Christ as revealed to us in the fulfillment of prophesies. This season lasts until Ash Wednesday.

why is celerating Advent, Christmas & Epiphany important?

Advent is a season of fasting and waiting, not only in preparation to celebrate Christmas, but also in longing for Christ to make himself known among us now and in His second coming. Advent and Christmas are often confused because many people begin celebrating Christmas before it arrives. Just like the season of Easter is prefixed with a season of preparation (Lent), so too Advent is the season of preparation for the season of Christmas.

To celebrate Advent as a time of preparation and waiting, however, we must do our best to shift from the cultural confusion of the season, refocusing our hearts toward hopeful longing. In Advent, we remember how the world waited for his first coming, and we practice anticipation for his second coming. After the waiting of Advent is over, we celebrate Christmas Day and welcome Christmastide as a time to feast, rejoice and celebrate Immanuel, "God with us." Christmastide is a holy and joyful season of celebrating the profound delight of the birth of our Lord and King, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. The season lasts from the evening of December 24th to January 5th (the 12 days of Christmas) and culminates on January 6 with the Feast of Epiphany, on which we remember the Magi coming to worship the Christ Child.


how can we celebrate Advent?

prepare him room

Schedules and spending can get carried away this time of year – make sure your values are reflected in your calendar and checkbook.  Explore one of these thought-provoking resources, then talk about what it inspired in you with a close friend who can help you put it into action.

Some suggestions to prayerfully evaluate your holiday priorities:

advent wreath, wandering wise men or jesse tree


Make or purchase a wreath, arrange 4 candles around it (one for each week of Advent) plus another 1 for Christmas Day in the center.  Set aside a time each week (Sunday morning breakfast? Wednesday dinners?) to read and consider the week’s theme as the candles are lit. There are different ways to do this:
HERE IS ONE IDEA that looks simple and is great for families.
HERE IS A BEAUTIFUL ADVENT WREATH you could invest in - and it can double for Lent.  It comes with an Advent guide.
Follow this link to the Wandering Wisemen Activity Set from Fresh Wind Studios. It comes complete with hardcover children's book and 37-day family devotional, and 3 plush wisemen. This is geared especially toward young children.

A Jesse Tree is a decorative tree used during Advent to retell the stories of the Bible that lead to Jesus’s birth. Each day of advent you place a symbolic ornament on the tree and read or talk about the Bible story associated with it. 

decorate your home

With a Creche (Manger Scene)

The Bridge on 8th Street in downtown Holland has some beautiful choices. Set up your creche together then with your child(ren) act out the story with the figures.

Expand on the theme:

  • Follow the Blessing for the Creche Liturgy.
  • Pull out cardboard, fabric and a glue gun to build on the set – incorporate the road on which Mary & Joseph traveled, the homes where they were turned away, a hillside for the shepherds and other parts of the narrative.
  • Set up a manger scene (animals, human figures, etc.) gradually as advent progresses, but place the magi far from the creche. They move closer each day until arriving at the manger scene on the Feast of Epiphany (Jan 6). This movement serves as a reminder that even those who begin the journey far off are welcomed to the Christ Child.

Hang origami stars up from the ceiling for epiphany or on the tree for each day of Advent.  Use colorful magazine pages to make inexpensive and beautiful decorations.  You could make a trail of stars for little ones to follow to the Christ child on Christmas morning.

Make a banner out of paper or cardboard with a favorite line from a Christmas song or Bible verse.  There are several beautiful designs online you can customize to your style. String it across your dining room!

Set an extra seat and special table setting at your dining room table throughout the season of Advent to make a place for the Lord.  This can serve as an ongoing symbol of our welcoming and longing for him to be present among us and for his return.

Celebrate Saint Nicholas & Saint Lucy's Day

December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day - St. Nicholas was a 4th century bishop of Myra (now modern Turkey) and the patron saint of children. Born to devout Christian parents in the Asia Minor, Nicholas was known for giving to the poor and served as the inspiration for the figure of Santa Claus in the USA.

  • Instead of receiving gifts on this day, collaborate as a family to drop off a bag of goodies or presents at the doorstep of a family in need. Gift certificates or cash gifts in their mailbox with a note may be another way to bless your community.
  • To remember the generosity of St. Nicholas, hopeful children can put out empty shoes on the eve (Dec 5th) of St. Nicholas Day. Parents place gold chocolate coins, fruit, gifts or other candies in their shoes for children to discover in the morning.
  • Plan a special dinner (candlelight, perhaps), decorate with red and white (the bishop’s colors), and retell the story of this saint.
  • Here is a PDF with history and more ideas for kids, including a reader's theater interactive play.
  • Here is a link with a bunch of picture books, resources and more ideas.

December 13 is Saint Lucy's Day -  Light a cancel and read about her while you enjoy sweet rolls for breakfast or a snack. Read about Saint Lucy here or if you have young children, read from this lesson here. Children can make a crown of candles (use felt or paper) and a sash and dress up as St. Lucy. Traditionally on St. Lucy’s feast day, the oldest daughter of the family wears a white gown, a red sash, and a green wreath (often with candles) on her head as a crown. The white gown is meant to signify purity since St. Lucy died a virgin. The red sash represents her martyrdom- she died out of love for God. The wreath on her head means “eternal”- God’s love is never-ending and eternal. The candles bring forth light, which is what her name represents. Lucia means “light.”

how can we celebrate Christmas?

Make Luminaria


Reflect on Jesus being the light of the world by illuminating your front yard with bright candles of hope.  On Christmas Eve, line the path to your front door with small paper bags with battery powered tea light candles inside. Plastic cartons or aluminum cans with designs punched into the sides are alternative design ideas. Look for more ideas on the internet.

Imagine these lights "welcoming Mary & Joseph as they search for a place to stay for the night" just like we welcome Jesus into our home and lives. Read John 8:12 as you light each candle and reflect on Jesus’ light that dissipates all darkness. 

Christmas Eve worship

Participate in a special Christmas Eve worship service. 

12 days of Christmas


Give one simple gift each of the 12 days of Christmastide.

Swap your Advent candles for the white Christ candle. Light the white candle every evening through Epiphany (January 6).  You may want to add daily readings and prayer.

Sing a portion of The Twelve Days of Christmas each day and add a matching ornament to your Christmas tree. This song may have had secular origins, but Christians have used the lyrics to explain basic tenets of the faith to young children since the 16th century. Here's an article on the symbolism/meaning of the gifts (scroll down in the article).


Plan special meals with family or friends. Splurge on delicious food and drink, use your best dishes and linens, put some joyous music on and share a prayer of thanksgiving before you feast!

Make your favorite seasonal cookies or sweets - save special recipes just for this time.

how can we celebrate Epiphany?

House Blessing

A house blessing is an invitation for Jesus to be welcomed in your home. Traditionally, priests come to bless parishioners’ homes during the season of Epiphany. Some chalk their doors with C + M + B to indicate the traditional names of the three magi (Casper, Melchoir and Balthasar) and also the first letters of the Latin Christus mansionem benedicat meaning “may Christ bless this house.” The + sign indicates the sign of the cross.

  1. Begin with the prayer below.
  2. Chalk 20 C+M+B 25 (current year) over a main doorway.
  3. Prayerfully walk through your home dedicating each room to Christ and His presence, chalking small crosses in each area.

Here's a common house blessing prayer to use: 

The three Wise Men, Casper, Melchoir and Balthasar, followed the star of God’s Son, who became man 20__ (name year) years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Visit, O Blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever, Amen.

go star gazing

Pack some hot cocoa, a snack and bundle up! Find a remote location where you can view the winter night sky. Imagine what it would have been like to travel by following a star, over a long distance in hopes of seeing a special king, and then - to find him! Ask children, "What do you think they brought with them? Where do you imagine they slept? What might they have said when they found Jesus?" and other questions that spark curiosity.

Traveling Wise Men

We know little about the Wise Men except that they came from the East and were most likely astrologers and learned men. Some early Christian paintings assume there were as many as 12 of them venerating Jesus, but Catholic tradition settled on 3 to match the number of gifts they presented Jesus. The new star at the time of Jesus’ birth indicated a sign of a new king being born. The Bible doesn’t indicate when they found Jesus in Bethlehem, but Christians typically celebrate their arrival on January 6th. 

  1. Set up: On Christmas Eve, after placing Jesus in the nativity set. Place the wise men figures a few yards away, east of the creche. 

  2. Practice: Each night, move the wise men closer to the nativity to symbolize their journey to find Jesus. With young kids, you could make the movement into a “hide n’ seek” game in which you strategically move the wise men while they are sleeping and challenge the kids to find them each morning of the Christmas season. 

  3. The Magi should arrive at the nativity on January 6, Epiphany, at which point you might celebrate with a King Cake, a house blessing (directions below), and reading of TS Eliot's poem Journey of the Magi.

King Cake

On Epiphany (Jan 6), celebrate Jesus is the king with a traditional king cake. King cakes are served all over the world, so you have many options. In Spanish-speaking countries, rosca de reyes is a sweet bread shaped in an oval ring with dried fruits on top. In France, galette des rois is a round cake with puff pastry and fruit filling topped with a cardboard crown. In Switzerland, the cake is often pull-apart sweet rolls while in Scotland it’s fruitcake and in England it is a star-shaped jam tart. In New Orleans, king cake is typically a brioche in a ring with green, purple and gold sprinkles. Find a recipe online that looks good to you. Bake a cake and hide a little surprise inside (i.e. stainless-steel jewelry ring, dried bean, plastic baby Jesus).  

Eat the cake on January 6th with friends or family. Cut the king cake in equal pieces. While everyone closes their eyes, someone holds up a piece of cake and the youngest determines who will receive that particular piece. Whoever finds the surprise in their slice is crowned the King/Queen of Epiphany. Each family can determine what royal privileges are won. Little ones might enjoy making a special crown for this purpose.