Simple activities to help you celebrate the real reason for the season
A walk through the Moyers' home in December reveals a variety of Nativitysets, both large and small, but not one contains a baby Jesus figure. Four-year-old Lydia Grace Moyer can tell you why. "Jesus is born on Christmas."
Not until the morning of Dec. 25 do the baby figures appear in their beds of straw. Lydia jumps out of bed and races downstairs to rush from one manger to another. As the preschooler hugs baby Jesus, welcoming Him to their home, her mother smiles. What better way to begin the day, focused on God's gift to the world?
We say we celebrate our Savior's birth on Christmas, but in our dash to make it the perfect holiday, we often lose sight of Jesus. The following simple, sometimes unusual suggestions will help you and your family focus your thoughts on Christ during this special time of year.
Create a Jesse tree. It's hard for children to wait for Christmas and harder still not to think about the presents they will get. Use an Advent Jesse tree and companion book to help them prepare their hearts for the true meaning of the season. These small evergreen trees are decorated with ornaments that symbolize stories from the Bible. Look online for a detailed description of ornaments that are often used.
Each day in December leading up to Christmas, your children can make or unwrap an ornament to hang on the tree while you read one of the 25 devotionals that trace God's redemptive plan from the beginning, long before Jesus was born. The readings culminate on Christmas with the birth of the new "shoot . . . from the stump of Jesse," as foretold in Isaiah 11:1.
Watch a Christmas play. Whether it's the Nativity story or an allegory such as "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," a stage performance brings a story to life like no movie can. Children thrill to a real baby's cry or to Aslan's roar. If no live play is available, perform one. The children in my family always put on a rendition of Christ's birth as told in Luke 2.
Imitate the wise men. Buy only three presents for each child in remembrance of the Magi's gifts to the Christ child. These presents don't need to be expensive in order to be meaningful. To keep Christmas Day focused on Jesus, some families postpone their gift exchange to Epiphany on Jan. 6. By tradition, Epiphany recalls the arrival of the wise men to worship Jesus and so reveal Him to the world as Lord and King.
Share Christmas joy. Spread Jesus' love by helping others and by lifting the spirits of those who might not see a reason to celebrate. Together as a family, visit a nursing home, serve meals at a mission or church, or pack and deliver Christmas baskets for food pantries. Make sure your children know you do this not to earn God's favor but to love Him by loving others.
These are just a few ideas to help you start your own family traditions. Use them to create times when you shut out the hustle and bustle of the holiday and focus on the "holy day" when love came down from heaven as a tiny baby to dwell among us.
This article first appeared in the December, 2008 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2008 Tracy Crump. All rights reserved.