This morning I told Rachel a story about a little girl and her birthday party. There were beautiful decorations, the very best food was prepared, everyone was dressed up, and there were presents everywhere! Rachel's eyes lit up as she imagined the scene.
But I told her that something very sad happened next. Even though it was the little girl's birthday, no one paid any attention to her. No one spoke to her or seemed to care that she was even there. The grown ups excitedly chattered about how great the party was and they complimented themselves for the delicious food and all of their efforts. When it was time to open presents, she sadly discovered that not a single one was for her.
Rachel's eyes widened with the injustice of it all. She couldn't imagine that anyone would treat this poor birthday girl so cruelly. And while I had her full attention, I explained that that's what happens to Jesus so often on Christmas Day. Even though Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of Jesus' birthday, he is often sadly forgotten. I told her that if we're not intentional, it could happen in our home too.
It saddens me that even though I love Jesus, it is so easy for me to get swept away in the preparation, the buying, the wrapping, the baking...
So as Matt and I begin to form traditions with our young family, we are asking hard questions about the way we celebrate and why. How can we honor God and make Christmas about the One who it is truly about?
Like we so often do when considering something, we took out pen and paper and made a list of ideas. I humbly share these ideas with you not because we have it all together, but because I am so burdened by what Christmas has become, and I am so alarmed by how I can almost robotically fall into it year after year.
How can we be intentional about honoring Christ this Christmas through meaningful traditions that involve the children?
1. Celebrate Advent with a Jesse tree each day of December! The children really look forward to this nightly tradition. It's short and sweet and perfect for little attention spans.
2. Focus more on giving rather than receiving and let the children help! This year we baked for a bake sale whose proceeds will help build a school for our missionaries in India. Baking with a 4 year old and 2 year old is definitely a lot more messy, but they had a blast and it gave me an opportunity to talk to them about children in need.
3. Prepare a Voice of the Martyrs Action Pack! Choose a country (Iraq, Pakistan, or Sudan) and receive a vacuum bag from VOM and a list of suggested items to fill it with - blankets, clothes, sheets, etc. After you mail your action pack back to VOM, it will be sent to a person in that country who has far less than we could ever imagine. This is our gift to my in-laws. It's not a gift for them, but they are so blessed to know that someone in great need will receive blankets, clothes, a Gospel storybook, and other necessary items.
4. Send an extra Christmas gift and letter to the missionaries or Compassion child you support.
5. Shop with your children for Toys for Tots or participate in a Giving Tree at your local church. Our Giving Tree supports local families in need. It's always fun to shop for children the same age as my children. They get really excited about the gifts we pick out and the amount of compassion a small child can display is humbling and inspiring!
6. Reach out. Every year we bake cookies with another family and give them to our neighbors as we Christmas carol! (And no, we don't sing well, but we do it anyway - haha!)
We're still working out ideas for what we can do on Christmas Day, so that post is coming soon. What do you do in preparation or on the day of Christmas to make Jesus first? We need ideas!