|Ava playing with some of her first Christmas toys...just about sums it up, huh?!|
Christmas changes when you become a mom, doesn't it?
The first couple of years are sweet and easy--the baby smiles, eats wrapping paper, bangs haphazardly on the box of the toy you gave them, you hang the "First Christmas" ornament on the tree and take lots and lots of pictures.
And then things start to get more complicated...even by the time they are, well, 3 or 4 in my case. Our minds become infiltrated with lofty desires to decorate the house, go out to see Santa in the mall, buy great gifts to ensure that their eyes light up when they open them. We want to check out light displays, and make cookies for the swap at your mom's group. We go all out with the tree and perhaps even buy extra decorations for the outside of the house, all in the name of creating a Christmas our kids will remember...a magical experience.
But what is it that we are wanting them to remember?
The magic? The excitement? The thrill of it all?
Those are all fun things...but are they the real things?
I thought I had the real meaning of Christmas hammered into my daughter's head last year (in the nicest way of course!)..."What is Christmas all about?" we would ask her compulsively, feeling a sense of pride as she answered correctly under the guise of watchful eyes.
"Jesus' Birthday!" she would say.
"Oh how cute," we'd all say smiling.
We colored nativity scenes, put one on our kitchen window, read books about Christ and the little drummer boy and the manger.
Fast forward 330 days or so.
As we started seeing the lights again, and the blow up Santa's in the stores..."Do you know what Christmas is all about?" I asked, expecting her to know the answer.
pause. pause. pause.
Uh-oh, I thought.
"Uh...Uh...Santa?" she said hesitantly (I'm thinking she guessed I was looking for something deeper by the look on my face, but it just wasn't coming to her 4 year old mind.)
Argh! Gosh darned the man in the red suit.
"AVA! Really? Try again...."
I probably overreacted a little...
"It's Jesus' birthday!!!!!"
"Ohhhhh.....right," she says.
She's gotten it right ever since! However, it did stop me in my tracks. How did we miss that? How did she not remember? What can I do better this year so that her two year old sister remembers next year when initially asked, that the real reason we celebrate Christmas is to celebrate Christ.
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with talking about Santa...we don't overdo it in our house--we lightly allude to the fact that mommy and daddy and Santa all drop a few gifts under the tree. We will stop and say hi to Santa in the mall, and joke about how he'll have to sneak in through the sliding glass door in back since we don't have a chimney.
But light talk or not on our parts, our culture does such a great job talking up Santa, that even if we never said the name our kids are going to be slightly confused by everything they are seeing.
So what are some proactive steps we, as parents can take?
Celebrate Jesus' Birthday. Fortunately, Ava is in a wonderful preschool this year that is going to be celebrating Christmas for what it really is. They have a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party planned their last week of school, and I am confident the story of Christ's birth will be strongly emphasized. I've heard of families making cakes and cupcakes to sing Happy Birthday, and have seen these very cute plates in stores and on Amazon. We just might pick one up!
Create a Scripture Based Advent Calendar. A friend of mine (Sarah Ehret should get full credit for this...she is a wonderfully creative mom!) shared an idea that I have been thinking about...they have an advent calendar in which they place a different part of scripture from the story of Christmas in each of the boxes. Their girls pull the scripture out and read a new verse for each day and then re-read the pieces they've already read. Sarah said that by Christmas last year her daughter nearly had the story memorized. How cool is that?!
Consider Investing in good Resources. I downloaded this wonderful e-book from http://truthinthetinsel.com/. Amanda, the author, spent many years in full time children's ministry before having her own children-- her passion, talent and God given skills for connecting with kids through crafts and scripture are so evident in this book. As I said to my husband to defend any skepticism about spending $4.99 on an e-book..."I just spent $4.75 on an eggnog latte at Starbucks (which I think is ABSURD by the way...it might be my last!), isn't it a better use of money to spend $4.99 on something that will help me to engage our kids for the entire month in a meaningful way?"
He fully agreed. (If you're husband's giving you the funny money "eye", I give you permission to use my line!).
There are tons of resources out there...Be deliberate to spend a little bit of money to buy something that will have a big impact. Heaven knows we spend plenty of dollars on stuff that doesn't!
Read and Play. Other than that, we will try to read lots of books and I'm thinking about picking up a "playable" nativity scene (Melissa and Doug makes one). We will also be sure to read the Christmas story on Christmas morning (a tradition from my own home...my parents ALWAYS read the Christmas story to us before we were allowed to open gifts...well, in our later years anyway).
My hope is that next November, as we see the first evidence of Christmas in the way of lights and decorations, and I ask my daughter..."Hey babe, what's Christmas all about?" that there will be no pause or hesitation...that she will simply and enthusiastically say, "Jesus Birthday!"
I suppose I can say honestly that of all the tasks and goals I hope to accomplish this month...that the most important is to instill reflections that last longer than the month of December and that there is eternal significance in our Christmas worship.
Do share...what are some your favorite ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus during the Christmas season?!
(This post is the first of four (and only four!) that I will offer in December. Check in every Sunday between now and Christmas for more Reflections on Christmas.)
If you'd like to read the many wonderful ways women around the country are preparing their hearts and their children's hearts for Christmas, click on the image below, scroll to the bottom of the post and check out their blog posts about "preparing".