Friday, December 11, 2015

Helping Kids Remember the Reason for the Season

To You:

I absolutely love this time of year!  As the lights go up around town and the radio plays Christmas music nonstop, there are so many reasons to rejoice.  Yesterday I drove by our little village square and loved the fact that displayed side by side were a nativity scene and a Chanukah menorah.  I am grateful to live in a place where cultural diversity is embraced.  I know not everyone feels it, but it is such a worthy goal to love and be loved regardless of religion or lack of it.  That love is what this season is really all about.  Whatever its origins, Christmas for me today stands for Christ, the ultimate example of pure love.  Christ said, "Love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  As He spent His life in service and then gave His life as a sacrifice, Jesus Christ truly showed what it means to really love.  What a perfect time of year to focus on Him and and help our children have opportunities to feel the Lord's love and share it.

It can be easy to get caught up in shopping, get-togethers, Santa lists, and travel plans, so I have compiled a list of ideas to help our kids remember the true reason for the season.  Much thanks goes to my parents who started many of these traditions with us when we were kids.  Thank you for making the season magical in all the right ways...

Ideas for Helping Kids Remember the Reason for the Season

  • Participate in a Community Donation or Secret Santa
    • Options are plentiful this time of year!  Involve the kids as you choose a donation to support.  I never feel like I need to participate in all of them obviously, but let the kids think about what a child like them would want for Christmas, and then give it away.
  • Make a Blanket

    • This year we encouraged the kids to save some of their birthday money to buy fleece to make blankets.  The kids loved it!!!  They each chose fleece, cut it, and tied it.  Our four-year-old needed help, but my six and eight-year-old surprised me with their focus and interest. We donated to Project Linus who has chapters nationwide that provide blankets for kids in local hospitals.  You can also contact a hospital or homeless shelter directly about donations.
    They all got pretty snuggly with their blankets!
  • Christ-Centered Advent Calendar
    • The advent calendar is a tradition dating back to the 19th century.  The countdown to Christmas is fun for children as well as adults.  You can use this free printable to make your own Christ-centered advent calendar.  Enjoying growing together as you read scriptures, discuss the reason for the season, and apply Christ's teachings.  It's no problem to start late, just choose your favorites for the remainder of the season.
  • Narrated Nativity
    • Instead of just putting up your nativity decoration, read the story of the nativity found in Luke Chapter 2 and Matthew Chapter 2.  As you read about the different events and people of the nativity story, take turns placing the corresponding decorative piece into the nativity scene.
  • Sing
    • Sing, sing, sing!  Christmas carols bring cheer.  Use Sunday to especially listen to soft versions of the carols and Christ-centered hymns, like this incredible song.  Sing one of these Christ-focused carols before bed each night.
  • Nativity Play
    • Read the story of the nativity from the Bible as you act it out.  This is a favorite family tradition that we have always done on Christmas Eve.
  • Secret Service Ornaments
    • Make several small ornaments or use red and green craft fuzzy balls.  When someone does a service for another person, they can put an ornament on the tree or a fuzzy ball in the jar.  See how many you can do before Christmas.
  • Carol
    • "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!"  Yes, we love Elf, and we love caroling!  I don't think growing up we ever missed a year of piling into the minivan, driving around town, dropping off goodies, and singing to our friends of all faiths.  It may be a lost tradition, but in my experience, even out-of-tune voices are appreciated.  Avoid "To-Do List Overload" by starting early and keeping gifts simple.  Consider caroling at a nursing home or hospital–another childhood Christmas Eve tradition.  (It's a good idea to contact the location before going and see what their guidelines and schedules are.)  Kids can make cards or simple ornaments to give away, but their smiles are always enough!
  • Read
  • Talk about Symbols
    • The Christmas lights around town can remind us that Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12).  Candy canes can remind us of the shepherds' crooks of those that visited the baby Jesus and that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).  This site has a cute free small printable booklet for kids about Christmas symbols.  This site has a simple list for reference.  When it comes to symbols there is no right or wrong of course.  (The candy cane upside down can also be a J for Jesus!)  Talking about these symbols can help us each learn and turn our minds more frequently to the things that matter most.
  • Wise Men Give Gifts
    • Read Matthew 2:1-12.  Discuss what it means to be wise and how these men displayed wisdom as they knew the signs of the coming of the Savior, travelled to see Him, and brought Him gifts.  Talk about what gold, frankincense, and myrrh are and how they were valuable treasures.  Discuss what kinds of gifts Christ would like today.  Each person write down one gift he or she can give to the Savior.  Put it in the package and place the wrapped package under the tree.  Open the gift on Christmas and see how well you've each done giving your gift to Christ.
  • Play Nativity Set
    • Have a nativity scene that the kids can play with.  My mom always had a soft set, and we have the Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Playset.  Pull this out at Christmastime, and be amazed by how much the kids love to imagine and play with it.
  • Write a Letter
    • Write letters or make cards for homebound friends, servicemen (can check with local Red Cross chapter about if they participate in "Holiday Mail for Heroes"), local hospitals, missionaries, or anyone you feel would appreciate the thought.  Keep it simple with crayons or mix it up with paints, glitter glue, stickers, or stamps.
  • Family Gift Exchange
    • Get the kids thinking about other people's presents.  :)  Large families can draw names and exchange gifts with one sibling or cousin to cut down on costs yet make sure everyone is included.  
  • Remember What's Important
    • This is for me!  We can plan and plan activities to help our kids remember the reason for the season, but if we ourselves are distracted by shopping, to-do lists, and the chaos of the times, if we haven't really internalized that meaning, the Spirit of Christmas will not pervade our homes as deeply.  If we ensure that our personal thoughts, prayers, scripture reading, and motives are focused on Christ, this will have a greater impact on our children than anything we can plan.  As I read tonight, I was struck by Christ calling out those "which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:24).  As we try to help our kids remember, let's avoid hypocrisy and focus ourselves on those things that really do matter.  Are our children feeling Christ's love for them?  Are we showing forth Christ's love for others?  
    • The best Christmas is a Simple Christmas.
    • What matters most to you?  What makes your Christmas meaningful?

We just received a Christmas card from some of our dear friends.  He has been fighting cancer, and they have been a tremendous example to us of living with faith.  I was struck as I read a line on their card: "We count it a blessing to be together for Christmas and enjoy sweet moments with our children."  Surely those are not empty words. 

I hope that each of you will have reason to rejoice this holiday season as we help our children, and ourselves, remember the true reason for the season.

Love, Marielle

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