Where was He? I looked around in the mass of crumpled tissue and packing materials, went back through the boxes of already packed up ornaments. I rechecked the other nativity boxes. I got down on hands and knees and peered under every piece of furniture. He was nowhere to be found!
Now this is where I expose the fact that I am not a great mother. Not by a long shot. I start yelling and fussing at my children to stop their present inferior and unimportant activities, even if those activities may be Godly ones like reading their new Bible storybook or their young men’s devotional book, in order to GET IN HERE AND HELP ME FIND THE BABY JESUS! Now my “Momma Logic” reasons that since, 1. I do not play with the toy manger set and 2. One of them was the last one to handle Him, that one of them must be to blame for his current missing status and therefore my current state of frantic frustration.
Don’t they know how much work decorating and undecorating is? Don’t they know that their careless misplacing of THE key piece of the whole shebang is stalling my progress and throwing my meticulously organized schedule to the wind? How dare they lose something as important as the Sweet Baby Jesus? What kind of mother has kids who lose the Star of Bethlehem? What kind of mother is flushed and ranting like a lunatic at her children about the Christ, rather than acting like Him?
That would be me.
After minutes of tense silence and clenched jaw while I simmered, Charlotte Rose squeals joyously while triumphantly brandishing the tiny babe lying in the plastic manger in her tiny little fist. She has been victorious and has saved the day, all while beating her brother to the punch. She beams as she proffers the baby and says sweetly, “Look, Mommy, he was in the sofa the whole time. I don’t know what you were so upset about. You said Jesus lives in our hearts and we should always act like he is in there. I guess maybe he got tired of being stuck in there and hopped on the couch!”
From the mouths of babes, wisdom does flow! I was rocked. I smiled at her, gave her a big kiss and sat back on the floor, humbled and ashamed. I had yelled and acted like a crazy person over a small piece of plastic, when I was missing the whole point. At that moment, I realized Jesus was missing all right, but it wasn’t from a cardboard box full of plastic toy figures. Jesus had temporarily gone missing from my heart.
How often do we get so caught up in the chores and clean up, the removing of the outward signs of the holidays, that we remove the celebrated One from our hearts as well? While busy stowing the decorations in the attic for next year, do we pack away the Savior too? This Christmas I am considering leaving the kids’ manger set out all year for her to play with. Maybe if He stays unpacked all year I will have a visual reminder of the time we had to almost put out an Amber Alert for Him. And maybe if she plays with Him all year, my daughter will know that, although He loves being in our hearts, He is welcome to hang out in the sofa sometimes too.
From my crazy household to yours, we wish you peace and blessings this Christmas.
One of our Christmas traditions... Reading the Christmas story with family.
Something we do every year is bake Jesus a birthday cake. We usually sing Happy Birthday that day, too!
When Louise first asked me to write about our family traditions and mainly how we have tried to keep Christ the center of Christmas in our home over the years, I was a little stumped because a lot of how I feel we have done that is through conversations. I could name a list of treasured traditions that are carried out each year (heaven forbid I mention not doing one and at least one of my kids would revolt, even at their older ages). But really, they aren’t all that “Christ-centered”, just Christmas centered. So I went to the source-my kids. I asked each of them individually, “How have we tried as parents to keep Christ the focus of our home during the holidays?” And ALL of them had the same response in at least several ways.
One thing we have always done is before a single gift is opened on Christmas, we read the Christmas story from Luke together. We also have tried to help our kids understand that it’s never about the presents, how many, how big- but about THE Gift that God sent us in Jesus.
Each year for as long as I can remember, we have done boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and for the last 9 years, we have gone with our youth group to process boxes. That experience has truly opened our eyes to what the phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” means.
Over the years, we did advent calendars when they were small, adopted needy families for the holidays, put dollars in the red buckets- lots of little things. I think a big part of keeping Christ the center starts in our hearts and with our attitudes during the holidays. Whether we are baking cookies, putting out reindeer food, packing a shoebox, watching a Christmas movie- it’s all about LOVE- The love that the Father lavished on us when he sent his Son to earth. And if we can reflect that love to those around us by being kind and patient and giving, especially during the holidays then that speaks volumes to our kids. Don’t misunderstand, I have definitely had holiday seasons of at least inward stress because I wanted things to be “perfect”, whatever that is. But I am learning more and more as my kids are growing and some are not living here anymore that the greatest gift I can give is a peaceful and loving heart focused on Christ and cherish the moments I have with those I love. God IS love- and I want to be a good reflection of that.
My favorite Christmas tradition involves my husband leading our family in communion and or prayer after a day of serving others. (He leads differently every year)
The families that make up Camp Legacy divide up and take food to the neighbors of the camp. This is a sweet time that our family looks forward to where we love giving to a stranger and taking some time to listen and talk with them. Our children have grown so much in how they learn to share the love of Jesus with others. Often times now they lead the conversations and share the story and love of Jesus with those we visit. When all the families return to the camp we gather for a meal and end the night around a camp fire where the story of Jesus' birth is shared and where we all join together to sing hymns. Before we all leave for the night the husbands of each family gather with their specific family members. Our family uses this time to reflect on our blessings and maybe even hardships that have occurred over the last year. We talk about what God has shown us about himself and how we have served others. Our time wraps up with the leaders of each family leading prayer. Its a beautiful and fun day we gather with our family and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
“For a child will be born for us…He will be named…everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Christmas has always held very special memories for me. When I was growing up, I remember going to bed on Christmas Eve not able to sleep. When I went to bed, our Christmas tree was decorated with not a gift under it. I would be in bed with my eyes shut, listening for the sounds that stories promised…reindeer paws! I would always drift off for a little while, but I could not wait to wake up my mom and dad and see what Santa had left us under the tree! Every Christmas…my mom and dad were there. One Christmas, I remember getting a Simon game, a Merlin, a bunch of records/albums, a typewriter…pure joy as a child! Not one single memory of a Christmas that my dad was not there. My dad was not a perfect dad, but he was there. As I have grown up, I am not sure my children can think of a Christmas that my dad has not been there. He has always shown up with gifts in his hands and a lot of jokes. He would only stay a few hours and he was ready to go home…but he was there.
This Christmas is my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away last January and this has been my year of “firsts” that everyone has told me about. As I have tried to get through the season with joy, I have had a lead stone on my heart and a lump in my throat knowing my dad will not be there.
This morning, I was reminded that I have consolation. I have a Father in Heaven that is always there. Thousands of years ago, God knew that I would need a reminder in my time of hurt. Through a prophet named, Isaiah, God leaned down and gave me refreshing joy! “For a child will be born for us,” (for Stacey) “He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My Father in heaven never intended for my earthly father to be there every Christmas. His Son would fill that place. His Son would be born in a very uncomfortable stable, in very uncomfortable circumstances for people like me to have stability and comfort in His love for us! My Father in heaven never intended for my joy to rest in the comfort of what has always been. My Father in heaven intends for my comfort to be in Him alone. He sent His Son to encompass all of my “emptiness” and “loneliness”! He sent His Son to be my Prince of Peace when change in inevitable! He sent His Son to be my joy in my sorrow!
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This Christmas, I will look to the Son on Christmas morning and be filled with peace!
Here’s an idea to help your family focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Have each person decide what gift he or she might give Jesus. Suggest that each spend time in prayer and ask Him what He would like from each one. It does not have to be monetary, though it can, but it does need to cost something on behalf of the giver. Focus on what changes might need to take place in order to grow closer to Christ. Maybe an idol needs to be surrendered or a habit needs to be broken. Write the gift to be given on a slip of paper, wrap it, and place it under the tree. On Christmas morning, open the gifts. If anyone is willing to share his or her gift, encourage them and offer to help by holding them accountable. Encourage everyone to keep the slip of paper in a place where they will be reminded throughout the year of the gift that was given to Jesus.
Merry Christmas from Parking Space Faith!
We always did a nativity advent calendar. The girls alternated turning over the square each day to see which piece of the nativity showed up. My daughter,Christine, uses Noel Piper's nativity advent to tell a bit of the Christmas story each day through Christmas day. The boys help tell the cumulative story each day. By Christmas Day, they tell the whole story.
One way we try to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas is as simple as reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning from Luke 2. We began this when our oldest were young, with the thought that we would do this every year. That is in fact what has come to pass. Even as our children have gotten older, there’s still that excitement about opening presents on Christmas day. We’re not trying to discourage that. But they know, have come to expect, and actually encourage the reading of Luke 2 before we do anything. Nothing gets opened until we’ve met and read.
That’s just a reminder to us all that this day is about Jesus. It’s not a formal thing and we don’t pre-decide who will read it. We simply pile onto a bed, pull out a Bible, and read. Typically there’s a simple prayer as we finish, giving thanks for Jesus’ birth and for how the history of mankind changed on that day. This is VERY simple and something anybody could do. It’s not profound on the surface, but it some ways it’s very profound.
Growing up in my family, we eagerly waited for Christmas morning so the presents could finally be opened. My daddy would first open his Bible to Luke and read the Christmas story to us, before any of the gifts were taken from under the tree. Later, the grandchildren took turns reading the familiar passage of the birth of Jesus before a single package was opened. Some years they assigned roles, gathered up towels and scraps of cloth for costumes and even an old rocking horse to act out the journey to Bethlehem.
Now the grandchildren are grown up and there are no more babies for the role of Jesus. Still someone is chosen to read the story. Year after year the time for gift giving remains focused on the perfect gift from God, His Son, our Savior. Even after half a century, this tradition has remained.
Last year, we were aware of a family who had experienced a season of great hardship. We chose to be a "secret angel" to them, secretly leaving them gifts periodically throughout the month of December. A short note with either a scripture verse or an encouraging word would accompany each gift. The gifts were minimal in cost. We would go late at night and leave the gifts on their front door steps.
Family Christmas PJ's
This has little to do with keeping Jesus at the center---but it does build a family tradition and unity.
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