How will we worship Him this season? Endlessly shopping? Hustling about and adorning our homes? Will that be our tribute to our Savior? Or will we bring peace to troubled hearts, good will to those in need of higher purpose, glory to God in our willingness to do his bidding? Jesus put it simply, ‘Come, and follow me.
— Elder Ronald A. Rasband
I love everything about this time of year, but I’ll admit, it’s easy to get caught up in the materialistic parts of the season. It’s so fun to decorate, buy gifts, and make goodies, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, focusing too much on these things can take away from why we celebrate Christmas — to remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Tonight, we had the opportunity to listen to the annual LDS Christmas broadcast. While I admit, I didn’t listen as carefully as I could have (Jack was wrestling Forrest and I to the ground!) there were several things I heard that really touched me. Even if you aren’t LDS, I definitely recommend listening to it…it has great messages for people of all faith. The quote at the beginning of this post is from the broadcast.
Although Jack is still very small, after listening to this broadcast, and hearing our dear prophet, Thomas S. Monson, proclaim, “To catch the real meaning of the Spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ”, I’ve had a renewed desire lately to come up with ways to keep Christ in Christmas. Don’t get me wrong — we’ll still anxiously await the arrival of Santa Claus, exchange gifts, and go look at Christmas lights, but I hope that as Jack grows up, he’ll be able to have a love for this time of year, not just because of the gifts, but because of a love he’s been able to develop for Jesus Christ.
Here are several ideas I’ve come up with on how to Keep Christ in Christmas for children (though really, many of these ideas can be applied to people of all ages!) I know that everyone has different beliefs, but I feel that people from all faiths can enjoy some of these ideas. I also wanted to recommend this book called http://amzn.to/1tclsOg. It is an easy read with some great ideas on how to remember why we celebrate Christmas!
1. White Stocking
The white stocking is something my mom started quite a few years ago. I think she must have gotten it at a church activity. A simple, white stocking hangs at the front of the rest of the stockings throughout the Christmas season. Whenever a person does something kind for another person, or just has something to be thankful for, they are encouraged to write it down, and put it in the stocking (anonymously.) On Christmas Eve, my mom reads each of them out loud. Some of them are silly, others very touching. But they all are meant to be our gifts to Jesus. It’s fun to hear what others wrote down, from the children to the adults. It’s always something I really look forward to, and I hope to continue for years to come.
2. Give to Others
There are so many ways to give to others this time of year. It doesn’t have to be some big elaborate event — it can be as simple as shoveling your neighbor’s drive way. By involving your children, you can teach them about how Christ was
- The 12 days of Christmas – as a family, select another family or individual that you feel could use a little bit of Christmas cheer. For 12 days, leave a small gift (it doesn’t have to be big) on their porch anonymously. Kids LOVE doing things like this, especially if they get to prepare the package, or drop it off and run. You can do different variations on this (bring gifts for the entire family, if your budget allows it, bring a different Christmas book on each day, etc.) I know many people who have been a recipient of something like this, and it meant a great deal to them.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or children’s hospital
- Tie fleece blankets for those in need – we always do this at our family Christmas party
- Donate clothes or toys to an organization or person in need. I saw one idea where, after opening all the gifts, going through the older toys in the house and having your child select a few to donate.
I really loved this video; I feel like it is a wonderful way to teach children (and remember ourselves) why we give gifts at Christmas, and the best kinds of gifts to give:
Set up a Nativity scene (or multiple) around your home. Use it as a visual aid when you teach your children about the birth of Jesus Christ. I would love to purchase the Fisher Price Nativity Scene someday, since it’s not fragile, and won’t break with little hands. I just heard of a cute idea, where you remove the baby Jesus figurine(s) from your Nativities until Christmas day, and you move your wise men a good distance from the nativity. Every day, let your children move the wise men closer. On Christmas day, let your children search for the baby Jesus (that you’ve wrapped up), have them unwrap it, and put it in the Nativity. The baby Jesus they unwrap is the first gift they will unwrap to help remind them that Jesus is the center of the holiday.
My friend Kristina recently created a list of some great ways to celebrate the Nativity with your children. Be sure to check it out for some more ideas!
4. Build Bethlehem with Blocks
This is a fun one to incorporate with the Fisher Price Nativity if you have it. Bring out all your blocks, and tell your children about the birth place of Jesus. If you have a little nativity, set it up, and then have your children create the town of Bethlehem with blocks. If you don’t have a nativity, let your kids make one out of blocks, too! It’s a great way to let them use their imaginations, but teaching at the same time
5. Study Scriptures about Christ
Throughout the month of December, make a special effort to read scriptures pertaining to Jesus Christ. We try and do regular scripture study in our home (try being the key word), but that can get a bit long for children. Take some time at the beginning of the month to find individual verses of scripture of Christ that you can read and talk about with your children!
6. Listen to Religious Christmas Songs
I love all kinds of Christmas music, so I’m not saying don’t listen to White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, or Frosty the Snowman. But be sure to include some beautiful religious songs as well. Sing them with your children! There’s so many wonderful religious Christmas songs out there. Here are a few good ones:
Also, I recently got a CD called “Redeemer” by Nashville Tribute. It has songs all about the Savior and His life. I highly recommend it.
7. Christmas Caroling to a Nursing Home or Hospital
Several times at BYU, and also when I was in high school, I went with a group of other people to sing Christmas carols to a local nursing home. There was nothing sweeter than visiting with these people, many of which never had any visitors. I loved when they would sing along, and thank us with true gratitude for coming. This is a great way to bring Christmas joy to some others; I know that lots of people in nursing homes love especially when children come along, so this is a great activity for the whole family!
8. Hay in manger
When I was younger, I remember going to church and being sent home with a little, paper manger, and a small bag of hay. Throughout the month of December, we were supposed to put a piece of hay in the manger whenever we did something Christ-like. The goal was to have it filled up by Christmas.
9. Attend a Christmas musical performance
There are all sorts of musical productions going on this time of year; take some time to research ones in your area and go see one. If you are in Colorado, the Colorado Mormon Chorale has some coming up, and they always do a great job!
10. Attend a Creche display
If you’ve never been to a creche display, I highly recommend finding one to go. I know back in Colorado, there was one that we went too, and it was such a neat experience. It’s basically a set up of all sorts of Nativity scenes — small ones, large ones, ones from different cultures. The one I went to had beautiful musical performances going on the entire time. Children and adults alike can enjoy looking at these pretty displays depicting the birth of the Savior.
11. Discuss the symbols of Christmas
Do you know the symbols of Christmas mean? This site does a great job of explaining what they mean, and this looks like a great book that discusses them as well. As you decorate your house for Christmas, you could discuss these symbols.
12. 25 names of Christ ornaments
On 25 ornaments (simple, glass or plastic bulbs will do) write down the different names of Christ (here is a list of them.) Each day, have your child hang one of the Christmas tree. This is an awesome set of pre-made ornaments featuring the Biblical names of Christ.
13. Keep it Simple
It’s easy to do extravagent things on Christmas — that’s what all the commercials and TV shows tell us to do. As I already mentioned, I love all parts of this season, including the decorations and treats and gifts. However, trying to simplify can help both you and your children focus on having a Christ-centered Christmas.
14. Talk about Christ with Others
I think the greatest gift that we can give the Savior, is to talk about Him with others, and spread the message of His life to others. This is something I definitely can be better about. I know everyone has different beliefs, but if you are ever curious about what I believe, feel free to send me an email, or visit Mormon.org. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you celebrate Christmas! With that, I wanted to share this video. I feel it shows a beautiful depiction of the birth of the Savior.
No matter how you celebrate Christmas, I hope you all will smile a little more, more a little more generous, and spend time with your family!