Traditions that Bring Christ Home - Part 2
- 2005 14 Dec
[ Editor's Note: This is the last of a two part series. To read part 1 of this series click here. ]
As Christmas draws near, many families look for ways to focus on Jesus and His selfless giving to the world. By integrating traditions of service and worship into their holiday season, these families seek to help their children see beyond commercialism into the heart of Christ.
"Our family has a tradition of giving a birthday present to Jesus every year by helping other people at Christmas," said Anne McDonald. "Last year, we volunteered for a week to wrap thousands of presents for the Gospel Rescue Mission. Then, we helped out with the Christmas dinner held on Christmas Eve. My son (12 at the time) insisted it was the best Christmas ever."
Selecting and purchasing gifts for the needy is another option for families who want to reach beyond themselves. Organizations, like Operation Christmas Child or Angel Tree, make this type of giving easy to do. Fourteen-year-old Sarah talks of the time her family worked with Angle Tree to make sure a girl, just younger than herself, had gifts from her father who was incarcerated.
"I think it would be depressing to have your dad in prison," said Sarah. "I hoped our gifts would make her feel better. It was fun trying to figure out what I would have liked at her age and I enjoyed knowing I helped someone through a hard time."
Other families select newer toys or other gently used items from their home to wrap and donate to needy families. According to Gail Martin, author of The Christmas Kite, it is important that children experience generosity and compassion as a part of their Christmas memories. "Through Christmas they can learn that what we do for others is the same as what we do for Jesus," she said. She also encourages parents to allow children, even younger ones, to be fully involved in the process. "Let them help wrap the gifts even if it's just tearing off the tape."
Another way to give to the needy is to purchase gifts from organizations where the profits go to benefit others. One family plans to do their Christmas shopping with Amani ya Tuu (www.amaniafrica.org), an organization that trains displaced African women to sew beautiful quilts, bags, and toys. The products are sold to support the women and their children.
Jennifer Clark Vihel trained her children to give within their neighborhood. Their family created or purchased a small gift for a neighborhood family for each of the seven days leading up to Christmas. The children were in charge of wrapping the gift and of stealthily getting it onto the neighbor's front porch each evening. On the last night, they left a larger gift and a card revealing their identity. "The children had the most fun trying not to get caught!" said Jennifer.
Jennifer said the years they chose retired people with no children at home were some of the best. "The older couples discovered who was leaving the surprise and had such a blast watching the kids trying to sneak that night's gift onto their porch. To hear the kids giggle as they rushed home and scurried into the house to avoid getting caught was my blessing. One of the nicest things about this tradition is it taught the kids about the joy of giving.""
Another family who loves to give an anonymous gift doesn't know who the recipient of their gift will be. They begin praying for this person early in December, asking God to send someone who really needs it. Then, during the after Christmas sales, the family spends a day shopping together and goes out to eat. The waitress who serves them that day gets a $100 bill for a tip! The family leaves quickly after placing their tip on the table, so they can't be traced. This has become the children's favorite part of Christmas.
Focusing on Worship
Looking for unique worship experiences is also important to families during the Christmas season and they often begin by celebrating Advent.
Karen Witemeyer has a wooden Advent scene that hangs on the wall. Beginning Dec. 1st, her children open the first little box and pull out a tiny piece of the nativity. Each piece has an accompanying scripture telling of the incarnation. But she encourages people to celebrate advent with their children with or without fancy props. "Before we got the wooden set we did something similar using portions of scripture each night. Celebrating Advent is a great way to spread the excitement of Christmas over the whole month and use the time to focus on the Savior."
Carrie Turansky author, homeschooling mom, and wife of Dr. Scott Turansky, founder of The National Center for Biblical Parenting (www.biblicalparenting.org), says her family has special books they save to be read only at Christmastide. They read some of the books aloud and others on their own, allowing them to worship as a family or in solitude.
Worshipping through the visual arts is a blessing that can easily be overlooked. "Take time to look at art that portrays the Christmas story," says Carrie. "Let your children try their hand at creating a Christmas drawing or painting. Younger children can create a collage from old Christmas cards. These gifts can then be offered to Jesus as an act of worship or to the neighbors as an act of service."
Like other families, the Turanskys have a special collection of music they bring out for the season. "Many of the Christmas Carols have wonderful stories behind them," Carrie says. She recommends sharing with your children the stories behind the carols to give them a deeper understanding of their worship. She recommends Joni Eareckson Tada's book, Christmas Carols for a Kid's Heart, which includes stories of 12 Christmas carols and a fully orchestrated CD.
Music is also a part of Evelyn Evans favorite Christmas experiences. One occurred when a friend invited her family to join in listening to the Hallelujah Chorus. "We used a Bible and looked up verses as we went along," said Evelyn. "The fireplace was on and the room quiet. Scented candles flickered while we enjoyed the music, spicy cookies, and hot tea. It was wonderful." Evelyn recommends selecting only portions of the work if children are present. "You don't want the experience to become so long that the younger ones can't appreciate it."
A special worship tradition for the James family starts about 4:00am on Christmas morning, when the world is quiet. "I make a treat like hot chocolate and some cookies or muffins, and we light candles, but have no other light," said mom, Pamela. "We sit together holding hands while my husband says a beautiful prayer. Then, we sing songs that really bring into focus what it means to be a Christian. We like the wee hours because we can worship in peace. There are no people knocking at the door or calling on the phone. It's just us and the Lord and it's awesome."
Bringing Christ Home
Whether you choose to incorporate one of these ideas into your family tradition or have a special tradition of your own, may this Christmas be a blessed time of bringing Christ home to your family.
A home schooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers home schooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional, Soul Scents. Subscribe to Soul Scents at www.soulscents.us. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us.