As parents, we often find ourselves “flying by the seat of our pants”. You know what I mean: The precious bundle is born, and it seems life just flies … and we have these great intentions, but truth be told, we’re just trying to keep up with the daily pace! The season of Christmas seems to intensify all of these factors, and before we know it, another holiday season has flown by, and with it, missed opportunities — forgotten conversations. I think one of the most important qualities of effective parenting is being prepared — and this goes into all aspects of raising our families.
It’s crucial to remember as we parent, especially when our children are young, that we are their number one source for information. We are the keepers of their little minds, the watchers over their hearts, and the instillers of truth as they will come to believe it. As we parent during the Christmas season, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind as we go throughout our daily, hectic, schedule-packed, lives. I thought it might be helpful to share some ideas we used when our sons were young to continually keep Christ in the center of our activities, and in the midst of our home.
Edwards Family Christmas Traditions
The Advent wreath and candles is a great way to keep a visual reminder of the story of Christmas. The miraculous coming of a Savior! The symbolism in the greenery and the lighting of the candles are wonderful teaching points to help our children remember what’s represented by these items. Wreaths are easy to make: Styrofoam wreath, glue some greenery and berries, add four tapered candles (select colors you like: I choose deep cranberry) one large white candle in the center, hot-glue some festive ribbon and voila! Every night, (hit or miss) we would read selected scripture passages, light the candle for that week, sing a Christmas carol (hit or miss).
ADVENT ORNAMENT CALENDAR/ADVENT TREE.
I got the idea somewhere over 20 years ago, to create an Advent calendar out of felt. It had little pockets that hold small ornaments, and each day, a child would select that day’s ornament and place it on our Advent tree. Half of the ornaments are secular, and half are biblical, telling the story that leads up to our celebration of Christmas, December 25th. The secular ones are things like snowflakes, wreaths, gifts, bells, etc., and can easily be tied into spiritual conversations with our children that continually remind them of the symbols of the season. I updated my fabulous felt calendar this year with some burlap!
We also made it a tradition each year, to purchase a new Christmas book that we added to our collection of Christmas books we would read each night to our kids. Most had a spiritual theme, but some were secular, with a good moral lesson. There are tons of great books available today!
DOING FOR OTHERS.
We have always made a point to adopt a family or child to buy gifts for at Christmas, and take food to the shelters, etc. We also support those we know who are serving in international missions in various countries.
WHAT TO DO WITH SANTA …
In our family, from the very beginning, we basically made an effort to downplay Santa, and uplift Jesus. We had a book that told the story of the real Saint Nicholas, who loved Jesus and blessed others because he loved Jesus. We didn’t make a big deal out of “what do you want Santa to bring you?”, and though Santa did bring them a present, the biggest, most desired present was always from us – their parents, because we wanted them to know we loved them so much, we wanted to bless them with that gift. Also, from the beginning, some other friends had followed a pattern of each child receiving 3 gifts, tying in the Wise Men bringing 3 gifts to Jesus. And so this is a pattern we have tried to be consistent with — some years better than others!
Just keeping it real here: my boys are grown now (pretty much), and they will tell you we didn’t always do these things consistently! But I’m so glad I had a plan, and have tried through the years, to be as consistent as possible. As parents today, we must prepare and plan to create consistent opportunities to have continual conversations with our children about spiritual ideas that have eternal significance. The world is constantly bombarding our kids with its indulgent, self-focused culture and we only have a window of time before our kids are grown and gone. We must make every effort to keep Christ in our midst … not shoved aside as we scurry through the hustle and bustle of the ‘holiday season’. JESUS. He IS Christmas.