Sunday, December 13, 2009
How We Keep Christ in Christmas
We live in a culture where it seems that the anticipation of Christmas is made up of one great, overwhelming to-do list. Must remember to send out family greeting cards, decorate the house, get the tree, decorate that, bake cookies...Oh, and buy presents!! What in the world am I going to get Aunt Betsy this year? And the kids...can we afford to get Eric that bike this year? And the Nintendo DS? And the [insert hot toy of the season].... and on it goes.
We've found our own family caught up in the trappings of the Christmas holiday, where we spent more time preparing for parties, gift giving, baking, and decorating than we did thinking about Christ Himself. We caught ourselves in this after Christmas last year, when it was too late to do anything about it, but we vowed that next year would be more Christ-centered. Well, it's next year, and so here are some of the ways that we are slowing down and putting Christ where He belongs: in the forefront of our minds and the reason for everything we do this month and all year long.
I was inspired to celebrate Advent with our family after reading Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions. A few months ago, we started having family worship in the evening after reading this book, and so celebrating Advent was a seamless transition. We light our Advent candles, sing traditional carols as well as worship songs, read a passage of the Bible related to the Christmas story (so far the passages have been prophesies of Christ's coming from Isaiah), read a chapter from our Story Bible, and then sing one more song. The kids may be too young to fully grasp what we're doing (that's debatable), but it is certainly centering our grown-up minds on Christ.
This year we bought a Schleich nativity scene with figures that are practically indestructible. It sits on a table that is accessibly by our boys and is played with often. This presents many great opportunities throughout the day to talk about who each figure is, why he or she is important, and to retell the Christmas story, which is essentially the gospel.
In Treasuring God in our Traditions, Noel Piper writes about a Jesse Tree, which is basically to gather every day objects that symbolize the attributes of God or Christ or parts of the Christmas story and put them on a tree. One idea is to have a separate tree or mobile for these objects, but we just put them on our main tree, near the bottom so the kids can see and touch them. Some of the objects we've put on the tree to represent Christ are a toy hammer and a saw (because Jesus was a carpenter), a toy loaf of bread (because Jesus is the Bread of Life), and a cross. The idea is to use this objects, similarly to the nativity figures, to talk to children about the attributes of God and Jesus. Some other objects Noel suggests are a lion (of Judah), a lamb (of God), Dove (Prince of Peace), Candle (Light of the world), or nails (crucifixion). We hope to add more to the collection next year.
Three Wise Men Gifts
We stumbled upon this idea after Christmas last year and we have been excited to start this new tradition this year. Each child gets only three gifts, and each gift represents the symbolism of each of the wise men gifts: One is a valuable gift (Gold), one is a spiritual gift (Frankincense), and the other is something for the body (Myrrh). While we don't assign spiritual significance to this particular method of gift-giving, it is a wonderful way to simplify gift-giving to our children. They've never experienced a deluge of gifts from us, so (hopefully) they'll never come to expect it.
One thing we'd like to work towards in the future is doing more for others with our children. We've donated as much toys and goods to good causes as our budget could handle, but I wish we could do more. Plus, the kids are still a bit young to be in the loop of what we're doing. Hopefully in a few short years the boys will be able to understand that our family is incredibly privileged and can participate with us as we give to others.