Confession time: We put up the cheater Christmas tree this year.
You know the one. The prelit, teeny-tiny tree that barely supports five ornaments and takes .75 seconds to set up.
Thing is, with four children ages 6 and younger, church activities, school parties and three family Christmases to attend, the big tree and the kid-proofing precautions that go with it were just too much this year.
But our children are getting older and things are getting easier. And as I straightened out the plastic-and-wire branches of the cheater tree, I promised myself that next year, we would do the big tree. And more importantly, I promised myself our family would spend the effort we’d saved this year to teach our children about the most important part of Christmas: the gift of Jesus Christ.
As I mentioned in my last article, about a faith-focused Thanksgiving, my husband and I deeply desire to keep Christ at the heart of our home and our holiday celebrations. It’s a hope we share with many in our area, including longtime Lubbock residents Kris King, who attends The Gathering of Lubbock, and Kaye Greer, who attends Lakeridge United Methodist Church. Both these women have wonderful faith-filled traditions and ideas their families observe at Christmas, New Years and beyond.
Set the scene
Both Greer and King are big fans of Nativities … at one time, Greer owned more than 200!
Greer said she would have her children help her put out Nativity sets and talk to them about the characters and events.
“So they knew the whole story, and they could recite it to me,” she said. “It was something that was hands-on to them.”
King said she likes to set up all but the Baby Jesus in each Nativity scene. Then, after church on Christmas Eve, the family turns on music and lights candles before taking turns placing the babies in each manger scene.
If you, like me, wince at the thought of how long your heirloom shepherds will last in the hands of a chubby toddler, never fear. There are so many wonderful kid-friendly Nativity Scenes on the market now (there’s even a Fischer Price Little People version) you can use for activities like these.
Use the handmade ornaments
Greer always had a tree she allowed her children to decorate themselves, using ornaments they made.
“Which was hard sometimes,” she said, with a laugh.
But those handmade ornaments her children were so proud of became a favorite part of the family’s Christmas.
“I always think, Christmas is for children,” Greer said, “and I wanted them to be a part of it.”
There are so many wonderful children’s Christmas books with Christian messages, Greer said.
Books of this sort are part of one of King’s family traditions: a Christmas book tree. Each year, before the decorations are put away, her daughter wraps the family’s Christmas books in holiday paper. At the beginning of the Christmas season, she piles the wrapped books in the shape of a tree. Each night, throughout the season, the children can pick a book to unwrap and read as a family.
Back to the Bible
Greer said they also always tried to read the Christmas story from the Bible during the season.
“Stories are great, books are great, but the Bible is the word of God, it is the truth,” she said.
This can help set precedent for a child’s life, Greer said.
“I always like for them to know the Bible,” she said, “to read the Bible, and to always go to the Bible if they have a question.”
King celebrates New Year’s Day by choosing a scripture to “dig into” for the coming year.
A recent example is Psalm 46:10: “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NIV)
In addition to studying the verse in detail throughout the year, she also explored related books and materials.
Focus for the future
King said it’s important to continue to focus on faith beyond the holiday season … and to work alongside others in the faith community to point your children to Christ.
“They catch it from different people,” she said. “You can’t do it all yourself, their Sunday School teacher can’t do it all themselves.”
Even things you have in your home can serve as a witness to your children and visitors, she said, recalling a time a plumber asked them about their faith after spotting a Bible left out on a table.
This made me think of my sister’s beautiful home in Houston. While visiting there recently, I was struck by the many displays of scripture and inspirational thoughts on display in her home … on chalkboards and in hand-lettered artwork on her walls. I hope to find ways to imitate this in our home in 2019.
What about you? What ways do you plan to focus on faith this Christmas and New Year’s? I’d love to hear from you.