Hall hutch where I put my seasonal items at the entrance in my hallway--My Grandmother's hand painted creche scene--always put awry through out the season as everyone handles it!
I would fill my home, (still do!) with interesting things children could touch and explore. A basket of golden books just the right size for little hands with Christmas stories. The camel shown yesterday, the little dolls we would imagine stories with, last year's cards to cut up and glue onto construction paper, picture books with my children's pictures in them through the years on the coffee tables, Lincoln logs to build a Christmas village right on the hearth. Little hand jingle bells to wear on their wrists to shake as babies when we would sing, rhythm shakers, whistles and cazoos to help make up the Christmas band for our adnvents, coloring books and crayons or pencils in a basket to draw with while we read the Christmas verses, popcorn, fruit, pretzels and snacky things like cheddar fishes, with hot chocolate or tasty herb tea before we went to bed. The creche scene my grandmother made--with cows and donkey, lambs, wise men and Jesus, Mary and Joseph were each placed and held and cherished. (We also had a wooden one the younger ones could pretend without the worry of breaking.)
Outreach party to neighborhood kids
We would have a decorating party with our children for the Christmas tree and often invite their friends from the neighborhood as a sort of outreach. We would have a tray with specific decorations on it--that all the children could take turns putting on the tree as we read the different verses with each decoration.
First we would talk about the evergreen tree, representing everlasting life--The tree is always green, as Jesu came to give us everlasting life, so that we would never die but always be with Him in heaven forever. John 3: 16
A number of candy canes--each child would put a candy cane on the tree.
Luke 2: 8-13 is read. This passage tells of the shepherds who were out in the fields, keeping watch over their sheep when the angels appeared.
The canes were symbols of the shepherd's staff--those shepherds who first heard of the news of Jesus being born. Jesus talked of being the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. John 10: 11
We also speak of David seeing God as his shepherd and we read the first part of Psalm 23. The staff reminds us that Jesus will always take care of us and watch over us wherever we are.
The swirl of the candy cane also shows the red of the blood Jesus spilled when he died for us on the cross, by protecting us from the death that sin would bring to us. The white shows that because of the sacrifice, we are washed as white as snow.Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though the are red like crimson, they will be like wool."
An angel would come next. The angels were in the second part of this passage. They were celebrating Jesus's birth with great music, just like all the great music our family loves to sing and enjoy. The angels were God's special messengers who came to the earth with His messages--to Mary, to the Shepherds and to sing of His great glory as they do in heaven. Matt. 1:20; Matt. 2:13
Then we would sing one song.
Next, Matt. 2:2 A star for the top of the tree--God made a special star to celebrate Jesus' birthday. He put it in the sky so that the wise, learned men of the world could come to worship Him.
Lights to string around the tree remind us that Jesus is the light of the world. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwelt i the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined." Matt.4: 16 Also, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but ill have the light of life."
A little treasure box--Matthew 2:11"After coming into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Even great kings and scholars believed in Jesus and came to give him gifts fit for a king.
Gold represents the idea that we should entrust our money and wealth into His hands--
A little vanilla candle to put on the tree--this fragrant gift that they brought to Him means that they found Him worthy of worship.--this represents our worship of Him--and that we pray to a God in heaven who hears our prayers and answers us.
A little packet with cloves, cinnamon sticks wrapped in netting and tied with a ribbon. This represents the myrrh. The spices were used to prepare someone for burial. Each of us has only a short time on earth and while we are here, we need to present our lives to Jesus so that when we see Him face to face, we will have lived our lives to please Him.
A little Christmas tray filled with candy canes ends the time. We say that the tray represents the idea that even though Jesus was the king of the whole world, he came to serve others and to show them the sweetness of His love and forgiveness--and then everyone gets to lick their candy cane.
This is just a summary, (Clay has it somewhere all written out!) But you get the idea. It always made the tree and all the ornaments on it meaningful when our children were young. And even the babies, when they didn't understand everything, liked toddling up the tree and putting something on a branch.
Service--each year we would take the children, even as little ones, to sing or speak or teach at homeless services and have each of them put some money into the offering. We would then pray for all the ones they remembered meeting throughout the month.
We would make plates of cookies and cards to deliver to needy or lonely people in our lives. So many respond to babies and toddlers and little children that the children never forgot it.
Some years, we would take some friends and sing carols at the Retirement home, with a big Christmas tree cake and hand made cards. All my children loved this and they were taught how to deal with elderly and converse with adults.
We always had a Christmas open house for neighbors and a few close friends. We would color the invitations and walk around the neighborhood to put them in mail boxes and then pray they would come. it was our desire to make at least one new neighborhood friend each year to follow up.
Also, as the girls got a little older, our yearly tea luncheon for moms and daughters and friends. More on that in a couple of days.
Finally, we played music all day long and night. And we would listing to one song from the Messiah at a time in the morning or at night and read the corresponding verse from it. When they reached 5 years old, we prepared them for the their first Messiah concert. We told them it was a reward for being so big and strong. We would always prepare them for sitting still and trying to listen for several thoughts in each song and that we would take them out for a treat at the end of the concert and hear what lines they remembered.
Now, all of our children love the Messiah. We couldn't have known that when they were little, because sometimes they would squirm or fall asleep. But it was going deep in their soul.
So, just a few of the things we did and gave us so many memories together. Not every thing every year, but we repeated these things over the years and they became a rhythm to our lives and the kids all learned to do their share of work and cooking and cleaning to keep it all going. Enjoy your little ones! It passes too fast. But my delight begins tomorrow as Joel comes home. Happy weekend!