I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with the consumerist mentality in our culture and in myself, especially this time of year. we’ve tried to tone down the presents, but that never seems to work too well. and it’s rather hypocritical of me to ask for expensive stuff if I’m trying to make things more about Jesus and less about stuff. so the other night a few of us guys were hanging out and we started kicking around ideas for how to “keep it real” this Christmas with our kids especially. It’s clear that they (and we) gravitate toward getting presents and all the other fun stuff, so how are we to help them see Christ this Christmas?
By the way, Santa doesn’t even enter in the equation at our house (yet). He’s on the same level as the easter bunny, spider man and Clifford the big red dog. A cool story to have fun with. Besides, why should he get all the credit?
Anyway, we came up with a few things to think about to help keep it real. Anything else to add to this list?
Birthday cake for Jesus: Yes it sounds a little cheesy, but our kids are WAY into birthdays. We’ve been trying to teach the kids that Christmas is all about celebrating Jesus’ birthday, so why not have a cake? And since we like making special cakes for the kids, we’re thinking of making a star-shaped cake. Not sure how many candles we should have?
Advent Box: we started this one last year. there’s a door for each day, behind which hides a piece of candy (a skittle this year) for each kid, as well as a piece of paper with a verse or passage for the day on it. The list of verses was compiled by our friend BA. There’s also suggestions for activities and such to get the kids involved. Our kids are a little young for some of it, but they definitely love the advent box.
Adornaments: this is a cool set from Family Life (apparently no longer available — bummer). Each ornament is like a little board book, and each has a short lesson on one of the names of Jesus. We do this in conjunction with the advent box, and we let the kids hang them on their own little tree.
Kid’s nativity set: this little people set seems to be pretty popular, and our kids love the one we’ve got. Now that they’re learning the story, it’s cool to be able to act it out with them. And you just can’t argue with a donkey with a mohawk – which sadly isn’t in the current edition – nor are the shepherds for that matter, which doesn’t make much sense, since they were there that night and the wise-persons took a while longer, but oh well.
Giving in 3s: one friend said they limit their gifts to 3, to mimic the 3 gifts from the magi/kings/wise-persons, and they take time to explain to the kid why they’re doing it like this.
Playing the part: another friend has an old family tradition of acting out the Christmas story with the family. If there’s an infant in the house, he/she gets to play baby Jesus. Pets get to be sheep, and bathrobes transform the kids into shepherds. Not enough actors? No problem…shepherds can easily morph into wise-persons. I’m guessing spiderman and other super-types might make guest appearances in certain households.
Singing: we love music in our house, although sometimes we don’t sing or play enough. So this year every night after we do the advent box we all sing the first verse of Joy to the World. I was surprised that in less than 2 weeks Caleb pretty much had learned the song, and Alice wasn’t far behind. We’re also having an evening of singing and such with our small groups and their families. And we’re playing a little for church this week. Oh and I wrote a song too.
Giving: I know it’s pretty much inevitable that the kids will get more excited about presents than anything else (especially since all I have to do is take a look at myself). When I taught the 3 year old Sunday school, I’d ask what Christmas was all about and they’d always shout: presents! And these were kids who I’m sure were told and shown in many ways the real “reason for the season.” So I know it’s in the front of their adorable little minds. And I’m not anti-presents. For example, I really really enjoy the wonderful present I got last year, and anticipate that I will for many years to come. And I do enjoy giving gifts and making people feel loved that way. But…if presents are a major focus, I’d love it if we could really make it about the excitement of giving. Once again, I know this can be hard – all I have to do is look at my own heart and what I get excited about. But we’re trying to emphasize the giving aspect of Christmas to our kids, so Michelle and the kids made some cool ornaments to give away. we’ve actually had an informal tradition of making gifts for our families, which started mostly because we couldn’t afford much else. we’ve done greeting cards, candles, Michelle’s knitted items, mix CDs, etc. I always wondered if people think that’s cool, or if it’s kinda cheap? this year with a new job I thought we could afford nicer things, but it turns out that’s not really possible. so on with the tradition, and now that I think about it I’m glad we can keep it up. I hope those who receive such things share in the sentiment.
I’ve been trying to emphasize to the kids that God’s great gift to us was baby Jesus and the life that He brings because of what He did for us. Amid all the other fun stuff, here’s hoping we can all celebrate what it’s really all about.