Part 4 of 4
In my three earlier posts regarding Christmas traditions that teach our children leading up to this final installment, I dealt with the reality that our kids learn by our example and specific illustrations and activities; about how we first need to focus on Jesus, then focus on others instead of ourselves. But we also need to set the tone for Christmas all year. Following are some ways to do that:
Prepare for Christmas All Year
- For your child’s own birthday, plan a special day with presents, activities, and individual time. This will set the stage for doing the same for Jesus on His birthday.
- During the year, buy things your children are asking for in the way of clothes (both necessities and treats) as you can afford them and give them to the kids before Christmas. Each time you buy them something, explain that Christmas time will be time for giving to Jesus. Set them up for it – create excitement and expectation by the following:
- Save money in a special bank all year for a Christmas gift to Jesus (have everyone in the family contribute toward this gift, or have each family member save in their own private bank) — and give the money or the gifts which you will buy with the money just before Christmas either to your church or to a particular mission or para-church organization, for use to bring Christmas joy and the message of Christ to a child or family. Think Christmas Child or Angel Tree or World Vision or the Salvation Army, for instance.
- If you give to the general ministry of an organization, have your kids write an accompanying letter or card with the gift(s), explaining how they saved all year toward this gift for Jesus and His work.
- Encourage your child to make gifts — have the whole family make their Christmas gifts for others. Plan time in September or October to decide what gifts the family will make and to whom they will be given. Have a gift-wrapping night for these homemade gifts when the whole family does wrapping together (except for those prepared for family members who are present at the time.)
1. Set realistic prices on purchased gifts for family and others – refuse to go into debt to satisfy your child’s every whim or to buy “guilty conscience gifts”. Buy some things during the year and take advantage of some great sales during the “off season” of retail sales, but wrap them closer to your gift-giving day so you don’t forget what you already bought.
2. Keep individual gifts to family members at no more than 2 or 3 gifts each, if they are purchased ones.
3. Create a festive atmosphere during the two weeks before Christmas – in preparation for the big celebration. Plan time for fun things together– like a special musical, a play or movies with the Christmas theme, (i.e., A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc.). Make a huge family bowl of popcorn to share together.
4. Help your children look forward to the season, without gifts to them being the focus of their attention.
- Give special privileges during the holidays, such as taking turns with the lighting of the advent candles;
- Plan all-nighters or late nights watching videos together as a family or doing a fun activity with special friends;
- Get together with other families to attend special church Christmas events or Christmas exhibits;
- Spend an evening driving around to see Christmas lights;
- Go caroling to neighbors or shut-ins or patients at convalescence facilities.
Realize that if your children are already older, the re-education will take time and work. If you do this joyfully, they will soon enter into that joy. Both parents must be equally enthusiastic about it. Encourage your children to ask their friends to join your family for some of the special occasions.
Share these ideas with other families in your church, with your extended family and with your close circle of friends. It would be very encouraging and helpful to the cause of a Christ-filled Christmas if your kids can see others doing similar sacrificial, life-instructive things during the Advent season.
Ask God to help you to come up with creative ideas for your own family with it’s own special needs. Keep the themes of “joy” and “praise” in your thoughts, speech, actions and activities during the Christmas season. For God Himself inhabits the praises of His people.
Hope this four-part series has been helpful and encouraging.
Have a wonderful, Christ-filled, blessed Christmas season!!!
©2011, Marcy Alves (edited 2012)
- Celebrating Advent With Kids – New for 2012 (godspace.wordpress.com)
Part 3 of 4
In two earlier blogs I began to share some ways to make your celebration of Christmas a joyful time, instead of a period of tiresome, meaningless rituals that have little to do with the birth of Jesus the Christ, and leave you an exhausted, bundle of raw nerves. You and your family need to first refocus on Jesus. Then you can properly . . .
Focus On Others
1. Emphasize to your kids that Christmas is a time for giving, not getting. Teach them how to be generous toward God by giving to others:
a. As a family, help to serve a meal in a soup kitchen on Christmas Day.
b. Let the kids help to make and serve a special Christmas meal in your own home to which you invite homeless people, or neighbors who have no place to go for the holiday, or people from your church who have no family in the area–single people, elderly adults, or foreigners and aliens residing in your town or neighborhood.
c. Visit someone in a nursing home or a children’s hospital on Christmas Day.
d. Bake cookies for neighbors, shut-ins, or service people (the postman, garbage collector, etc.), considering dietary limitations if you are aware of them, such as those of diabetics.
e. Send a money gift to a Christian organization that deals with world or national hunger, housing for the homeless, etc., in the name of someone on your list who is hard to buy for. Have your children write a card to the person in whose name you are making the gift, explaining what your family did in that person’s name.
2. While your child is still young, teach him/her about personal generosity that reflects God’s generosity to us. Let’s face it: none of us were born with natural generosity. We learn how to be generous by example and teaching from others.
David and I have some friends who encouraged their young son to select a few of his Christmas gifts, before opening them, to take to less fortunate children. He learned to give. Today, as an adult, he donates time and money to such enterprises as Habitat for Humanity. Several other families have their children give some of their toys that are in good condition to children who have none; or to spend some of their own money to purchase gifts to send to a less fortunate child somewhere in the world.
More to come . . . Part 4
©2011, Marcy Alves
edit and re-post 2012
- How Advent Can Be Much More Than “The Christmas Season” (glennpackiam.typepad.com)
- Giving From the Heart for the Holidays (mystiblu.wordpress.com)
Part 2 of 4:
In spite of the commercialization of Christmas, there are ways to put Christ back into the center of the Christmas celebration. It may take a great deal of effort to correct old, ingrained habits, but the rewards will be great as you find your energy and enthusiasm increasing instead of dissipating during the holiday season.
Here are some valuable tips to aid you as you re-invest the Christmas season with awe for our wonderful Savior; as you teach your children how to celebrate the incarnation — the coming of God to earth in human flesh.
Focus on Jesus:
1. Read the Christmas story together as a family at dinnertime or as a part of other family “together” time. Perhaps combine the reading with the lighting of advent candles and read the Scriptures that relate to each candle. This would space out the Christmas story over a 5 week period. Have a different family member read each time from an age appropriate Bible – i.e., a young child could read from a children’s Bible. Talk about why God sent His Son into the world in a human body and follow it through to the cross and the empty tomb.
2. When entertaining guests during the holiday season, both Christians and unbelievers, emphasize the real reason for celebrating Christmas:
a. sing carols together, with someone accompanying on guitar or keyboard;
b. share testimonies or personal stories from other Christmas seasons;
c. suggest special prayer for others who may not be having a happy Christmas, such as: our troops overseas, the homeless, nursing home residents, those who have experienced recent personal losses, or those who do not know Christ’s love;
d. read aloud stories with a Christmas theme;
e. watch videos or DVD’s with Christmas related themes that teach Christian values. Talk about the story themes.
More to come . . . Part 3
©2011, Marcy Alves
As we approach this Christmas season, we are “life-instructing” our kids about what this most holy day signifies. The old axiom may sound trite, but it’s painfully true that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. We are painting pictures everyday with our lives. How we act and react in front of children results in mental image reinforcing mental image, day after day, year after year. What we say often cannot be heard because of what we do and how we do it. What kind of permanent images are you impressing on your children? What kind of “stuff” for tomorrow is filtering into their minds today?
Children learn through a song on the radio that Santa Claus is omniscient: “He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he sees you when you wake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” But do they also know that God is omniscient? That what He sees in our lives is far more important than what a fictional character sees?
How do you handle yourselves during the Christmas season? Harried, rushed, short-tempered, neglectful of your family and your spiritual responsibilities? Do you withhold gifts all year but give more than you can afford at Christmas? Your children are watching and learning what Christmas is all about.
More to come . . . See Part 2