December is a busy time of year. There's the hussle and bussle of decorating and preparing for the holiday, shopping for friends and family, and going to parties and church events. Many years it seems like Christmas has come and gone before I'm actually ready for it. I do not often take the time to sit down and reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas, and that is so important for families today. Kids are bombarded with television ads for new games and toys and the holiday has become all about gifts. We want to help you to find ways to put your family's focus back on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior. One of our team members, Melita Thomas, wrote the following for her church's advent guide. She was gracious enough to let us share it with you. Here's wishing you some time to sit and enjoy Christmas with your family.
Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, and wise men, all welcomed Jesus into the world. Likewise, families can celebrate Advent by welcoming Jesus into their homes. Advent is a time of inviting Jesus to be a part of family conversation, traditions, and activities. Here are some ideas to try with your family this Christmas season.
Tell the Christmas Story
Bring the Christmas story to life in ways that engage all five senses. The more senses children use, the more meaningful the experience.
- Act out the Bible story. Read the Bible narrative or let a family member narrate the action in his or her own words.
- Visit a barn and smell hay. Imagine what it would have been like to be a shepherd visiting the manger.
- Look together at biblically accurate (true to life) pictures of the Christmas story. Then look together at pictures of your child as a baby. Ask questions such as: “How did Mary and Joseph prepare for Jesus? How do parents prepare for new babies today?”
- Read the story from the Bible by the light of an oil lamp or candles.
- Construct a nativity scene from readily available items. Children often enjoy playing with the figures and creating stories about the characters.
- Make puppets and present a puppet show of the Christmas story.
Share the Spirit of Giving
Christmas is the time that we remember the giving of the ultimate gift… the gift of God's
Son. Children are already focused on receiving gifts at this time of year, so use simple ministry action projects to teach about sharing and giving. While donating money or a purchased item is a good thing, the giving of time and self often teaches more important lessons. God didn't send money… He gave Himself for us.
- Share with God's creation: Make homemade goodies for the birds (who need extra food in the winter for fat and warmth). String popcorn on thread or roll pinecones spread with peanut butter in birdseed. Hang these from trees or bushes that are visible from a window. The skin of orange halves can also be filled with a peanut butter/seed mixture and hung outside.
- Share with senior adults: Bake and decorate cookies to give away. Package them in airtight bags, then in paper bags that have been decorated by children. Deliver them to senior adults in the church, your neighborhood, or a care facility.
- Share with friends/neighbors: As a family, bake cookies or loaves of bread to share. Children can make cards to go along with the gift, as well as help decorate the gift with ribbon, etc. Deliver the treats to friends, neighbors, or community helpers (such as firefighters, police officers, or emergency medical response personnel) as a family.
- Share with children: Choose a ministry or agency, which receives used toys in good condition. Help your child go through his or her toys and choose toys to give away to others. Or take your child Christmas shopping to pick out a new toy for a child who is less fortunate.
Prepare a Bed for Baby Jesus
An Advent custom from Eastern Europe involves preparing a bed for Baby Jesus by doing things for others that are pleasing to God. Choose a container such as a small box or basket. Family members may each place one piece of straw in the “bed” for every kind and helpful thing they do for someone else. On Christmas Eve, look together at the soft bed your family prepared for Jesus by showing kindness to others.
Make a Christmas Photo Album
Create special Christmas photo albums or scrapbooks. Include pictures that show your family engaging in Christ-centered Christmas activities such as children’s choir presentations, church events, etc. Incorporate pictures from past generations to help communicate the timelessness of the gift of Jesus.