Thursday, December 5, 2013

Joyfully and expectantly waiting

It's the most wonderful time of the year! At last, Christmastime is upon us. I'm high on apple-cider and spiced scents; sugar is constantly coursing through me from intravenously feeding on sweets.

My kids can hardly stand the waiting for all the presents to be unwrapped on Christmas morning.

And somewhere in the mix of all the carols, the books, the movies, and the joy of the season.. we are diligently pointing our children to the real, undying, and unchanging Joy of the season. It is after all the real reason why we celebrate this time of year, it is Jesus' birth. Glory!!

My heart is overwhelmed at the thought of God in the Flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. Hallelujah!

This Christmas season, we are focusing hard on Jesus.

One practical way we encourage our children to focus on Jesus throughout the season is to not encourage belief in the mythical Santa Claus. We definitely watch Santa Claus themed movies, read books about him, and even do some crafts that include him. But we are honest with our kids and let them know that he's just a fun make-believe guy. We also discuss how the story of the modern day Santa Claus came about, through Saint Nicholas. (This post actually goes way more in depth with all of this though.)

While we read fun, secular style Christmas books during the Christmas season, we try to focus more on books whose central theme is the birth of Jesus. Whether the book be a more traditional one, or even a story about a bird who happens upon the stable where Jesus was born and flies to tell all of the other created things of His birth… we try to keep it Jesus-centered.

And for the first time, we are doing an Advent study as a family. We are setting aside time each night.. or every 2 nights, depending on what life throws us each day, to read through the Word and expectantly wait to celebrate Jesus's birth on Christmas morning.

 I have a tendency to get a bit carried away and dive in a bit over my head on things. I decided not to do that with our Advent study though. I didn't want to get carried away with all my plans and hopes, only to feel overwhelmed 1 week into it and give up! This year, we're keeping it pretty simple.

I found a great kid-friendly Advent study through the Verge Network. Basically, we are just reading through the Jesus StoryBook Bible  (which I love), or the "grown up" Bible. We started at the beginning of the Bible, and we're working our way story-by-story, seeing how desperately we needed our Savior to be born.

To make it a little more tangible for the kids, I slapped together some decorations I had laying around the house for an Advent style calendar thing! An old wreath I bought and had planned to use for some craft, but never did anything with. A frame the hubs made for our daughter's birthday party holds the word "Christmas" quite nicely, while some burlap scraps painted with the letters "Merry" adds great texture. Then, I splurged on some Christmas-y scrapbook paper, printed some numbers on 'em, stuck a hook through them, and hung 'em on the garland. (On the back of each piece of paper, I wrote which story accompanies that day. Right now, our garland not-so-accurately shows we have 22 days till Christmas. We gots some catching up to do!)

It is my hope and prayer that through all the motions and all the joy of this Christmas season, and through our time of study each night (or ever 2 nights) our children are filled with a joyful longing to celebrate Jesus's birth. That the joy they feel seeing Christmas lights holds no comparison to the joy of knowing the true Light of The World. (John 8:12) That the happiness they feel over letting Christmas paper fly off of carefully wrapped presents would be only but a glimmer compared to knowing what a true gift Jesus is to us and the salvation only He can bring.