When I was a child, my family had many traditions leading up to Christmas. We celebrated the old German/European tradition of Saint Nicholas Day with the filling of stockings on December 6th. We always had a glittery Advent Calendar to help us understand the Christmas story, which we faithfully opened every day. Our Advent log, with its fresh evergreen branches and 4 purple candles had a place of honor at our table on Sundays. Christmas Eve was all about going to church, where we children received a brown paper sack with an orange, some nuts to crack and a few candies. And, of course, Santa Claus came after we went to sleep that night, even though we didn’t have a fireplace chimney for him to come down.
Now, you have to understand that I was a very impressionable child. I might have mentioned in my past blogs that I had some imaginary friends—the reindeer that my father, who was an artist, painted on my wall would “come to life” and follow me around. I talked to him often. Santa was real. And then there was Jesus. I imagined He was really sitting beside me. He played with me sometimes, too. (This is what happens when you live in the country with no playmates except your brother and visits from cousins every so often for the first five years of your life!)
I remember being pretty confused about the connection of Santa and Jesus when I was young. So, to make sure that my children were not confused by Saint Nick, Santa, and Jesus like I was, I was always on the lookout for things that would encourage their faith and honor Christ at Christmas. Apparently, that search continues as I now think about my grandchildren. (And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Santa or St. Nick!)
At any rate, here are a few 2014 ideas I’ve come across for your children, grandchildren, or maybe you, if you’re a kid at heart. (I found most of these by surfing the web and thought they looked fun. Most of them are free.)
The Joyful Elf is a book that was written by an acquaintance from Beautiful Savior. Author Kari writes, “This December you and your children can go on a daily journey of fun activities tailored to living a life of kindness. Preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth, Santa is excited to send a special helper! He is sending his sweet little elf friend, who will bring a special task for your family to do together every day. These activities will open your little one’s heart to the people around them for a celebration of Christ’s birth that you won’t forget!”
Thriving Family’s’ 2014 Advent Calendar (from Focus on the Family). This is so great! Very colorful! Children place the Bible character on the poster and hear the short devotion, scripture reading and prayer each day. Reminds me of the Jesse Tree we did when our kids were growing. Free, just download and print.
Holy Family cut-out manger scene. (You can tape these around small paper cups so they stand up to make your own manger scene.)
All of these things are fun for kids and adults alike, but I think the thing that speaks to me most from these words I’ve written is that Jesus does sit beside you. He is with you always, whether you imagine Him there or not. How thankful I am for this fact! I pray that you can sense His presence no matter the situation you are going through in the midst of this busy but powerful season.
Peace be with you, my friends!