Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

05 December 2011

Getting heads, hearts and hands ready for Christmas # 2

[Much of the content of this post is a re-post from a couple of years ago, with a few additions.]

So, bearing in mind the principles of out-celebrating the secular world, praying about our activities and creating gospel-laden traditions, what are some practical things to do to steer children (and grown ups) towards the real meaning Christmas when we are surrounded by secular commercialism?
But before you read on, here is the standard health warning that comes with all lists. Do not attempt to do every item on this list in one year. Nor feel guilty if you do none. And so, to the list...

* Make sure you actually read the Christmas story!

* Emphasise that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birthday. So do some of your own family birthday traditions on Christmas day. A popular one is to have birthday cake on the day...and of course the best time to do this is at breakfast because there is often little opportunity after that!! Cake at breakfast time will surely create a great memory! But if you can't stomach cake for breakfast, it makes a child friendly alternative to Christmas pudding when you have your family feast.

* Have a nativity set at home. When the children are young have one that isn't too precious and let the children play with it, act out the story with it and generally engage with it.

* Look for the nativity scenes set up in shopping centres. Make a point of going and looking at them and talking about them with the children. Be seen in the shops doing this! And send a note of thanks to the manager for including it in amongst the decorations.

* Have an advent calendar. These are good for including daily readings, activities, treats or just simply counting down the days until Jesus' birthday and children LOVE them.

* On advent calendars, if you are a godparent or aunty (or uncle...not sure if any men read this blog!) or grandparent...if you have a special child in your life who is not your son or daughter, think about maing or providing an advent calendar for that child and then provide the contents for it every year as your special gift to that child. What a great tradition. How did I think of this idea? Well, I didn't! Our boys' godparents came up with this idea. They gave our oldest son the actual calendar with the pockets for his first Christmas and every year they supply the goodies for the pockets. It is a wonderful, wonderful gift. Thanks guys!

*  Stuck for Advent Readings?  There are lots to be found on the internet.  Or get a copy of the "Jesus Story Book Bible."  The format of this children's Bible is such that there are twenty one stories presented from the Old Testament (which "whisper Jesus name") and then the Christmas story is presented in three stories. That makes twenty four stories that will paint an Old Testament backdrop to the birth of Jesus and then tell the story of his birth. Twenty four superb readings to do with children - one a day - during the month of December leading up to Christmas.

* Tap into the great Christmas CDs and DVDs that are available. Have Christmas carols playing in your house and car.  Colin Buchanan has a great CD/DVD called "The King of Christmas" for kids.

* Presents...
Consider church first, presents second.
Chat about why we have presents - remembering Jesus birthday and reflecting the gifts the wise men brought.
Look at the story of St Nicholas (the origins of that man in the red suit) and observe his emphasis on giving rather than receiving. The Grinch who Stole Christmas  by Dr Seuss also encourages looking outwards and thinking about what else is important at Christmas rather than just being greedy for gifts.
Pause to say a prayer of thanksgiving before the unwrapping begins.

* Get the children to make Christmas cards that feature the real meaning of Christmas to give to...their teacher, best friend, grandma, godparents, someone they know and love, someone you would like them to thank.

These are a few ideas I've seen, heard, collected and/or done.  There are many more.  Have fun doing what you can in the midst of all that is December.

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