Helping Your Children Celebrate Christ This Christmas by Cortney Whiting

With the celebrations of Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Santa Claus, it is easy for many messages to be infiltrated into the true message of Christmas.  Here are ten easy ways in which your family can remember and honor Christ this Christmas.

  1. Go to a Communion Service – if your children are too young to receive communion, explain to them what each part represents.
  2. Visit a live Nativity scene or a Walk through Bethlehem.  This allows children to experience what it might have been like on the day of Jesus’ birth
  3. Read children’s books on the story of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Remind your kids that without the cross, there would be no need for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
  4. Participate in a mission’s project or let your children purchase a gift for a missionary.  Explain that missionaries tell the good news about Jesus like the shepherds did.
  5. On Christmas Day, play “Find the baby Jesus.”  Place the baby Jesus from the nativity set somewhere and have your children search for Him. Give them clues from the Bible (such as He is under the star, etc.).  Allow the child who found Him to place Him in the manger (or with the rest of the nativity scene).
  6. Sing religious Christmas carols with your kids.  This may include caroling in the neighborhood or at a nursing home.
  7. Get an Advent Calendar This allows your children to anticipate the birth of Jesus every day in a fun way.
  8. Make Christmas ornaments that incorporate Bible verses about Jesus’ birth.
  9. Donate a present to someone less fortunate in honor of Jesus. Tell your children how Jesus came to earth as a Servant.
  10. Make a birthday cake for Jesus and have a birthday party for Him.

What do you do to celebrate Christ at Christmas?

Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two children.  She received her ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and now works as a Children’s Minister in Norcross, GA.

Celebrating Jesus’ Birthday by Jeanie McLean

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source: pd2020

In “How Many Candles Does Jesus Get on His Cake?” in the December issue, Jeanie McLean offers suggestions on how to encourage children to focus on Christ during the Christmas season. Here are some additional tips and helpful links.

  • Use a child-friendly manger scene to teach the Christmas story to younger children. They can make their own manger scene out of blocks, fashioning figures from toilet paper rolls. Or use the manger scene you already own, if there are no breakable pieces or ones that would be a choking hazard. Read the story from a children’s Bible and allow children to manipulate the pieces as you tell the story.
  • Consider telling parts of the story each day, having Mary and Joseph progress to the manger from another part of your home. Set up “Bethlehem” in one area, with Mary and Joseph in another. Read the entire story on Christmas morning, when children can finally place Jesus in His manger bed.
  • Lead children to give gifts to Jesus of their time. Are there local nursing home residents who would welcome a visit from a child? Is there a community ministry your church serves that might need help stacking cans or boxes of food this month?
  • Learn more about Lottie Moon and why Southern Baptists’ Christmas offering was named for this martyr of the faith.
  • Tell your children Lottie’s story while making her recipe for tea cakes.
  • Teach younger children about missions in Asia, including Christmas stories, music, and activities at this site by the International Mission Board: www.caravanfriends.org.
  • Show the video “Errbody in the Church Helpin’ Lottie” video on YouTube to older children.
  • Find prayer requests for international missionaries at www.kidsonmission.org.

Gifts That Give Back by Jessie Weaver

Here’s my great Christmas confession:

  • We don’t do Santa.
  • We don’t have a real tree.
  • The very small amount of gifts that my children get from us generally come from a thrift store.

It’s not how I was raised. My sister and I always received a huge pile of presents, a few of those from “Santa.” But where are those gifts now? Except for our original Nintendo, which is happily housed with my husband and me, I have no idea. A lot of those gifts got great love: Barbies, Cabbage Patch dolls, board games. But I don’t know that our Christmases would have suffered without half of those things we wished for on long lists.

Nowadays, I prefer to keep the focus on Jesus’ gift. This year, my kids (4 and almost 2) and I will be going through Truth in the Tinsel, an Advent e-book that guides them through Scripture while we make fun ornaments. We’re also opening a Jesus-focused Christmas book every night and reading it together.

As for presents, they’ll get plenty from their two sets of grandparents, being that they’re the only grandchildren on both sides. We’ve encouraged them not to overdo it, though, because our kids already have so. many. toys. Experiential gifts are my favorites, and art supplies are basically “consumables” for little ones.

I hope my 4-year-old will be able to help me pick out some gifts that give to others, too, and start to understand that others around the world have needs far greater than ours. We start impressing this idea with packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and continue throughout the holidays.

Here are some of my favorite gifts that give to others!

  1. For $100, you can give a family in need a goat and two chickens through World Vision. This provides a family with goat’s milk and eggs – and the families that receive them are asked to pass along chicks to other families.
  2. For just $9, you can feed a hungry baby for a week through Samaritan’s Purse. It’s Gift 40 in their catalog.
  3. Any donation is appreciated through Compassion’s fund to help provide education fees for children in need.
  4. These fun paper bead necklaces are $25, hand-crafted by women in Kenya, and help support Mercy House Kenya.
  5. Buy an adorable cupcake bib for $6 on Etsy, help support relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy.
  6. $25 from each $50 plate purchase of this cute, recycled glass plate goes to support City Harvest in NYC, an organization that raises money to feed those in need.

Do you have any favorite gifts that give back?

Turning Holiday Service into Gospel Opportunities by Tobin Perry

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source: alessandropinna

The holiday season is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year to serve others. Your family will have no shortage of opportunities―whether it’s within your church, a local service organization, or another community group.

Yet it’s also an easy time to meet physical needs and ignore spiritual ones, if you are not intentional about sharing Jesus. Here are a few tips to help your family take advantage of gospel opportunities when you serve.

  1. Pray. Ask God to open up opportunities to tell people about Jesus―and expect Him to answer your prayer! Gather together as a family to pray for several nights before the service opportunity.
  2. Talk with your kids about your desire to see people come to Christ. Let your kids know the ultimate goal of holiday service is to introduce those you’re serving to Jesus.
  3. Work hard. When serving others, your family’s first witness comes before you ever open your mouth. What does your family’s effort tell others about the God you’re serving?
  4. Be a listener and be observant. Pay attention to those you’re serving and those you’re serving with and listen for opportunities to share the gospel. Model this for your kids.
  5. Know your story. In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, try to make sure each member of your family (in their own way and at their own level) can answer this question: Why are you serving us in this manner? Be ready with the story of your journey with God. Service opportunities aren’t typically the time for full-fledged apologetics discussions, but they are perfect opportunities to share your testimony. Be ready to share a short version though (maybe as short as one minute), so you’re not spending more time talking than serving!
  6. Serve freely. Never be so boorish about sharing the gospel that those you are serving think you are doing so in order to win them to Christ or invite them to church. Just be ready for the opportunities God gives you. He’ll provide!

Turning service opportunities into missions opportunities for your family doesn’t have to be scary. Just keep your eyes open!

Tobin Perry serves as the online editor for On Mission magazine at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia. He and his wife, Charissa, live in Woodstock, Georgia, with their three children―all under the age of 6!

Fun Traditions and UnTraditions by G.G. Mathis

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source: edjohnson841

The November issue of ParentLife declared independence on tired and tedious holiday traditions in the article “Freedom From Tradition.” Families were encouraged to celebrate meaningfully and playfully in ways that create lasting memories, not lasting fatigue.

Need some ideas for an out-of-the-ordinary way to observe special days at your house? We’ve compiled some of our favorites:

We bought two tiny Christmas trees, one for each of our sons to put in his room. The boys were allowed to decorate the trees any way they liked. Some years, the decorations would change daily—action figures one day, paper chains the next; even socks and underwear!

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we stock up on take-and-bake pizzas the night before. We bake them, eat from paper plates, and spend the day playing games together, not cooking!

We decided that a bunny visit on Easter Sunday detracted from the message of Jesus’ resurrection. So at our house, by mutual consent, the Early Bunny visits on the Saturday before Easter, leaving Sunday for worship and family time.

Nobody in our family cares much about football. So we plan a special dinner out on Superbowl Sunday evening. The restaurants aren’t crowded!

In our family, Roses Day (October 1) commemorates the day I received a dozen roses and a clue to the identity of the man I eventually married. Roses Day was such an important part of our family tradition, my daughter was puzzled after school one October first: “Mom, nobody at school has ever heard of Roses Day!”

Instead of a huge birthday present blowout that’s over in 10 minutes, we leave small gifts for the birthday boy (or girl) in unexpected places all day long.

We have a Thanksgiving tablecloth that comes out of storage every year. With fabric paint, each family member prints something for which he or she is thankful. It’s a great way to remember how God has cared for us over the years.

G.G. Mathis teaches preteens at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, Missouri.

To Santa or Not to Santa? by Brian Dembowczyk

s41315ca105437_31.jpgHamlet almost had it right. “To be or not to be” is a great question, but for many Christians, “To Santa or not to Santa” is truly the question to ask in December. Whatever you decide, can I make two recommendations? First, let’s extend grace to one another. The unity of the church should be strong enough to withstand a man in a red suit. Second, as a parent, don’t forget to filter this issue through the lens of honesty and tactfulness.

If you choose not to include Santa in your Christmas tradition, you will need to help your child respond to others who believe in Santa. While they may be tempted to tell their friends the truth about Santa, perhaps it would be best for them to demonstrate tactfulness and refrain from doing so.

If you decide to include Santa as part of your Christmas celebration, you will need to think through the implications of presenting Santa as real. One of our goals as parents is for our children to have the confidence that whatever we tell them is true. Don’t we undermine this when we claim that Santa is real? Perhaps the better approach is simply to share that Santa is make-believe. You can still have fun with Santa without compromising your child’s trust in your absolute honesty.

There’s one other important factor concerning telling your child that Santa is real. What happens to your child’s understanding of Jesus when he learns that Santa is not real? For years you have told him that Santa was real and at the same time also told him that Jesus is real. I would encourage you to consider carefully if your child’s understanding of — and genuine belief in — Jesus is worth a brief season of believing in Santa.

Brian Dembowczyk is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Assimilation at FBC Tampa, Florida. He is married to Tara and is father of Joshua (5) and Hannah (3). You can follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianDembo or check out his blog at missionaldiscipleship.blogspot.com.

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Our daughter (pictured above, with Santa at Sears) is 2 this year, and I still don’t think my husband and I have decided what to do about the Santa conundrum. He grew up not believing; I learned there was no Santa when I found his wrapping paper hiding in our basement around age 8. Did it damage me? Not much. But I see the author’s point. I’m interested to see what you have to say on the topic!

Our friend Rebecca Ingram Powell is doing a series on Santa Claus this week over at her blog that you might want to check out as well! – Jessie, Resident ParentLife Blogger

Real Life Solutions: Exposing Children to Drinking Relatives

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to parentlife@lifeway.com and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: We will be traveling to our relatives in another state for several family gatherings during Christmas. Two of my siblings are problem drinkers, and I am not sure how to handle this with my family. We do not drink, so my children are not used to seeing family members act up while under the influence. In the past, the drinking has gotten out of hand. My children are now old enough to ask questions. What do I do or say if the drinking starts to become a problem again?

A: Drinking during the holidays can get out of control and create many problems for families, especially in families where problem drinkers are in denial and do nothing to prevent getting intoxicated. The best advice is to make sure that when you visit, you have a way of escape. Even if your siblings offer to let you stay at their homes, reserve a room at a hotel. That way, if their behavior becomes problematic, you can leave.  

Before you travel, I would tell them and your parents that the past history of drinking makes you uncomfortable and that if things begin to get out of control, you will excuse yourself and leave. This way it puts the burden on them to moderate. If they persist in their behavior, you explained the rules ahead of time.

If you leave, have a talk with your children about the importance of family (the reason you continue to visit) but that there are times family members must set limits and boundaries on behavior that is unsafe or inappropriate. Being around people who are drunk is not something you want to expose them to or be around. Altered states change people in ways that are not always nice. This is a hard line to take but one that will earn the respect of your children and may cause others to rethink their enabling behavior.

Don’t allow anyone to put guilt on you for setting boundaries. You are not telling your family what to do but telling them what you will or will not tolerate to keep your family safe.

You can see more advice from Dr. Linda on her blog.

Do you have experience with having to set boundaries with family members? Please share your advice in the comments.

Not Just for Sunday School Teachers

The Levels of Biblical Learning (LOBL) is a simple but important ministry tool developed by experts to provide parents and teachers with visible milestones as you guide kids in their spiritual growth. The Levels of Biblical Learning gives a coordinated approach from birth through preteens by using 10 concept areas — God, Jesus, the Bible, Creation, Family, Self, Church, Community & World, Holy Spirit, and Salvation.

13_LOBL.jpgLet me just give you an example. This Christmas, you can talk about Jesus’ birth with your child in an age-appropriate way. You can start when your child is a baby … laying the foundational concepts and then building on them as your child grows.

Babies to 2s

  • God chose a family for Jesus.
  • Jesus was born.

3s to Pre-K

  • Angels told Mary and Joseph that Jesus would be born.
  • Jesus was sent to earth by God.

Kindergarten

  • People in the Old Testament told that Jesus would be born.
  • God sent Jesus to earth because He loves us.

Grades 1 to 2

  • Prophets in the Old Testament told that Jesus would be born.
  • God sent Jesus to earth because He loves us.

Grades 3 to 4

  • Old Testament prophets revealed God’s plan for Jesus to be the Savior.
  • Jesus came to earth in human form. 
  • Jesus understands what it eans to be human.

Preteen

  • God planned for Jesus from the beginning of time.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin.
  • Jesus was God in human form.

To learng more about the LOBL, be sure to visit www.lifeway.com/kids.

More Childproofing Tips

In the December 09 issue of ParentLife, Christi McGuire provided some childproofing tips for Christmas. But there is even more you might not have thought of. Consider the following tips.

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Poisonous Holiday Plants
Especially during this holiday season, keep the following list of plants out of reach of your baby.

  • Poinsettias — Poinsettias cause little reacion in most people; however, ingestion by small children may cause skin or smouth irritation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Holly — Ingesting small amounts can cause mild stomach irritation and drowsiness; ingesting large amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and extreme drowsiness.
  • Mistletoe — Ingesting small amounts may cause mild nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Ingesting large plants may produce serious poisonings.
  • Amaryllis— This plant can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
  • Christmas trees (pine, fir, spruce) — Most Christmas trees are not poisonous, but sharp needles can cause skin irritation and bleeding or choking.
     

Poison Alert: Toothpaste

104_toothpaste.jpgLook closely at your toothpaste tube and you will see a warning label. Since 1997, the United States Food and Drug Administration has required a poison warning label on all fluoride toothpastes, which contain the active ingredient of Sodium Fluoride, a toxic poison. Although only 1 percent of the toothpaste contains this toxic ingredient, you need to call the poison control center if your baby ingests more than the tiny amount needed for brushing teeth. Toothpaste that is pink, sparkly, and tastes like bubble gum may be easily mistaken for candy, posing a poison hazard for your unsuspecting baby.

 

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Socket-Lockits™
Check out this stylish new way to keep your baby safe! Socket-Lockits help reduce electrical and choking hazards in your home. Their unique patent-pending design incorporates:

  • Self-locking barbs to prevent tiny fingers from pulling covers off
  • A convenient pressure-button release to make removal easy for adults
  • A variety of designs printed with non-toxic ink to match any décor

Visit www.socketlockits.com for more information and to order!

Do you have other childproofing tips related to the Christmas? Share your tips with other ParentLife readers by leaving a comment!

Christmas Ramblings

99_MommyandJack2a.jpgLast Christmas season was wonderful and easy for my new little family.  Jason and I were still basking in the glow of being new parents. We were excited for extended family members to meet Jack. Jack was still young enough that planning holiday festivities around his schedule was no problem at all! But looking to this year … I was afraid things would be very different.

To be honest, I was worried this Christmas was going to be stressful. I was dreading putting out the Christmas decorations with a toddler underfoot, I was sure finding time to Christmas shop was going to be next to impossible, and I was concerned that all of the holiday festivities would throw Jack’s schedule completely for a loop! (I can see my husband now … shaking his head at my tendency to worry too much.)

The reality is … this Christmas season has been great so far! We put up the Christmas decorations after Jack went to bed one night! We kept things simple this year and didn’t go overboard. In fact, we put up the Christmas tree without any ornaments so that Jack could enjoy and explore it without us having to constantly monitor which ornaments he was handling. (Did I mention the tree is pre-lit? All we had to do was fluff it and plug it in! That’s my kind of decorating!)

While the busy part of the month hasn’t hit yet, I shouldn’t worry too much about planning around Jack’s schedule for Christmas activities. He’s very laid-back and has never had a problem being flexible!

And on the shopping front, we are almost done, and it has been fun to shop with Jack! We only have a few more gifts to buy for family. Then we can turn our attention to shopping for Jack … who surprisingly has become the hardest to shop for!

Last year Jack was too little to care what anybody got for him so we gave him practical things like bibs, blankets, clothes, and other essentials. But this year, there is a new pressure to get not only toys he will be excited about but also toys that are durable and will grow with him over the years. We only want to get him a few presents, so narrowing it down has been more difficult than I thought it would be. I’m sure all of the pondering will be well worth it though when Jack opens his presents on Christmas morning. I can’t wait to experience Christmas through his eyes!!

Are you looking for gift ideas that are memorable, flexible, and durable? Be sure not to miss the 2009 Christmas Gift Guide in the December 2009 issue of ParentLife.