TODAY’S FORECAST: Thankful for the creativity in this world.
As a parent, one who is still constantly growing in my own Christian faith, I often struggle to come up with meaningful activities to help our kids remember the real “reason for the season.” Among the usual tasks such as shopping, cookie-baking, decorating and visiting, this year I have really challenged myself to impress strongly on our kids the importance of the Savior’s birth and all that this means for them and for people of all ages. In lieu of a blog post today, I’ve compiled a list of activities that you can do with your own families to bring Christ into Christmas. Some of these are things my mom and dad did with my brother and I growing up, some we have carried on with our own kids. Some are things that I’ve seen on other blog sites and I’ve tried to assign credit wherever it’s due. For those of you with kids, especially little ones, I hope this takes a little work out of your holiday season and gives you some peace of mind that you’re helping them grow in their faith. In participating, you won’t be able to help growing in yours as well! I would love to hear any success stories or other ideas as well on my Facebook page or in comments. Merry Christmas!!!
Advent chains/calendars. Everyone has heard of making paper chains to countdown the days until we celebrate Christmas. Go a step further and include a short “memory verse” inside each link so that your kids are getting exposed to a variety of bible passages over the Christmas holiday. Need memory verses? Go here to get a head start, http://ministry-to-children.com/easy-bible-verses/ but remember that spending time in God’s word is what He calls us to do. You know your family, you know your circumstances. Choose verses that are personal and meaningful to you. God’s word is for every time, every situation and every challenge!
If this sounds like a bit too much involvement and time, don’t fret. Buy a paper Advent calendar with bible verses and put it on the refrigerator. Each night before the kids go to bed or at breakfast time, our kids take turns opening a door and reading the bible verse. We buy the ones with the bible verses printed right on each door, so that when the door is opened, there is a verse to read and discuss. We involve the kids in choosing the calendar each year to get them excited about Advent.
Cushioning Baby Jesus’ bed with goodness. The goal is to make the Baby Jesus’ bed as soft for Him as it can be (after all, He’s going to have quite the load to bear with our sins, the least we could do is make his bed as an infant softer, right?) My mom did this one year when my brother and I were little. She had a basket with a baby Jesus doll in it that she put under our Christmas tree. At the beginning of Advent she challenged us to make His bed soft for Him to lay in by doing good deeds for each other and earning a piece of cotton to put in the basket. Another variation of this I’ve heard is that a mother made a manger for each child and put it in their room at the start of Advent. When the child did a good deed or acted responsibly, the mother had them write that event on a strip of straw (construction paper) and fill up baby Jesus’s manger that way. On Christmas morning, each child awoke to a Baby Jesus in their manger in a softer bed.
Nativity. This is one my parents started with my brother and I, and we do it with our kids now every Christmas Eve. One by one, we take the nativity figures out of their settings. Then we read the Christmas story.
HINT: You can compile accounts of Matthew and Luke’s gospels to encompass all the characters (angels, shepherds, three wise men, etc.) or use a biblical children’s storybook. If you use a storybook, I would recommend showing them the bible and telling them that the same story is found in the bible and is God’s inspired word.
As our family reads the story, the kids take turns putting the pieces back in the nativity as they are encountered in the story. A variation of this is that my mom puts the nativity as the center of her table at Christmas dinner. She has broken the story up into a play script of sorts and we all get assigned parts to read at dinner, including a Narrator. The kids love it. Little ones who can’t read can still put the figurines in place. If you need more speaking parts don’t forget Zachariah and Elizabeth, census-takers, inn-keepers!
Donate some time, money, gifts to a local charity, but don’t forget the “why.” There are literally hundreds of charitable or service organizations and looking for donations during the Christmas season (Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, Salvation Army, local church and scouting food drives/soup kitchens, Harvest for Hunger, hospitals, nursing homes, Red Cross – just to name a few), so finding something to do isn’t usually the problem. It’s not so much the doing but explaining the “why” behind it. Even if you simply take store bought cookies to a neighbor, try discussing why giving is so important, not just at Christmastime but all year. Here’s a great site with verses about giving to help jump-start your discussions. http://christianpf.com/21-bible-verses-about-giving/
Making a Jesse tree. The Jesse tree represents Jesus’ family tree. The name is taken from Isaiah 11:1, in which Jesus is referred to as a shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse, the father of David. The ornaments on the Jesse tree tell of Jesus’ ancestors, and of the events leading to Jesus’ birth. (http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/Christmas/What-is-the-Jesse-Tree.aspx) Here are two sites that have printable ornaments and devotionals for the Jesse Tree. We did this as a family two Christmases ago. We put up a paper Christmas tree on our sliding glass door by our dining room. It was good family time in the days before Christmas.
Christmas Lights! Every year our whole family gets into our jammies, piles into the car and drives around one night and looks at Christmas lights. The thought occurred to me today that this year I’d like to do the following before we go on our annual trek. Read the following passage.:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12. (NIV)
Instead of making the search for beautiful light displays about an over-commercialization of a pagan Christmas, we can use the beauty of them to teach our kids about what they can represent, Jesus’ light to the world!
Blessing of the Christmas tree. This is a variation on the previous suggestion, but different in some regards too. Every year on Christmas Eve, we would come home from church and the house would be dark. Dad would use holy water from church to bless the Christmas tree and our house. He would ask God to take away all the evils that might be lingering there and would ask that God bring the “true light of Christmas” into our home and our lives. Then we’d turn on all the tree lights and Christmas lights around the house to show that Christ’s love had permeated the blackness and officially kick off Christmas. We haven’t carried on this particular tradition with our kids and right now I’m kicking myself and asking myself why. Mental note to talk to Bob about this one tonight!
HINT: You don’t need holy water to ask for God’s blessing, but it was a neat part of our growing up ritual. I love this and I am definitely planning to re-adopt this year!
A Stocking for Jesus
Each Christmas we hang our stockings with care,
And fill them with gifts for loved ones to share.
But do we forget that the first Christmas night
God gave us His Son who gave us His Life?
A sacrifice so great- how can we repay?
We can say “Thank you Jesus” on this His birthday.
Hang a stocking for Jesus and fill it with love.
Do good deeds for others to thank God above.
Throw Jesus a birthday party. On Christmas every year when we were little, my mom had a cupcake or cake that she baked (or bought for those of you who aren’t bakers!) for Jesus. On Christmas day, we all stood around the cake (with a white candle lit in it) and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. It could just be this simple or it can be more elaborate. You choose!
Gifts of love. In lieu of one gift that you would typically buy for your kids this season or that they would buy for each other or you, have them write a “love” note instead. If they have money that they have saved for Christmas gifts, let them put that saved money into the church collection for the poor/less advantaged and let them see you doing the same. The “letter” can be just a list of qualities you admire about each other or a true old-fashioned, hand-written letter written out of love. It should be wrapped up and placed among the other gifts under the tree. Before these gifts are opened, say a prayer together as a family thanking Jesus for His ultimate gift of love. Play this song. http://youtu.be/fr0Khzknt6w and then open your “love gifts” to one another. You can take turns reading or read them privately.
ABOVE ALL, PRAY TOGETHER!!!!