Christmas

8 Christmas Tradition Do-Overs (and Do Over and Overs!)

Originally Published December 18, 201410712912_891059970934938_3725900191529207112_n

I love being one of the “older sisters” in the Christian blogosphere.  Reading about other writers’ young children brings back sweet memories of when mine were that little. It also gives me the opportunity to occasionally bring in the “been there, done that, here’s how I would go back and do it better if I could” perspective. And that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

I wish I had realized as a young mother that once you start a Christmas precedent, or fail to start one, it can be really hard to change later. Looking back over 20+ years, here are some Christmas traditions and precedents I would go back and change, and others I’m glad we started early and kept.

1.
I wish we had minimized gifts.

Instead of showering each child with several gifts, large and small, I think I would either do one “large” gift plus stockings (candy and dollar store type items), or two to three small to moderate gifts, plus stockings, per child. Not only does limiting the number and price of gifts cut down on the holiday “gimmes” so you can refocus Christmas on Christ, but there are a couple of practical reasons this can be helpful. First, if your family is still growing, you may end up with too many children (we have six) for multiple gifts to be financially feasible. Second, family finances aren’t foolproof. Your husband could lose his job. You could decide you want to be a stay at home mom instead of working. Anything could happen. If your kids are used to tons of gifts every year, a financial setback will make Christmas disappointing.

2.
I wish we had given more experiences and fewer material gifts.

We’ve all bemoaned the kids getting a toy they’ve BEGGED for for months only to play with it for a few days and tire of it. Not only that, but toys can take up a lot of space. And think back to your own childhood. What do you remember and appreciate more, the material gifts you received, or the memories of spending special time with your family? Plus, experiences can be spaced out over months and weeks and can be enjoyed all year long (and they don’t even have to be wrapped!). How about giving each child a calendar for the new year with things penciled in on certain dates? An afternoon at the skate park. A day trip to the aquarium. Lessons he wants to take. Mother-daughter mani-pedis. A family outing to a local festival. Making cookies together. It gives everyone something to look forward to.

3.
I wish we had done Advent. 

I’m a lifelong Southern Baptist, and, not to sound too old and codger-y, but, in my day, we really didn’t do Advent (a lot of SBC churches still don’t). I was in my 30’s before we began attending a church that even did Advent candles on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. And I was in my 40’s before I became aware of all the wonderful devotionals and worship activites available for families to enjoy together during the Christmas season. Nightly family worship is a great way to bring the focus of Christmas back to Christ.

4.
I wish we had “rescheduled” our December baby.

Don’t get me wrong here. I would still have my son, just in January, if possible, instead of December. Of course, pregnancies can be unpredictable, and babies are a blessing no matter when they arrive, but as anyone born between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can attest, birthdays around the holidays tend to get lost in the shuffle. It is extremely difficult to schedule a child’s birthday party in December and have anyone attend because everyone is already committed to Christmas parties, family activities, and traveling. December birthday presents and parties also add to the expense of the holidays.

5.
I’m glad I did a yearly Christmas newsletter.

I started doing this the first year we were married. While most folks write a little blurb about what each family member has been up to since last Christmas, my format is a bit different. I do twelve little blurbs, hitting our family highlights for each month of the past year. When I’m finished, I send them out with my Christmas cards. I also keep a copy and put it into my “newsletter notebook.” Now, we have a complete family history. My kids love reading back through them every year, and it has also been helpful to us for record-keeping and filling out forms (remembering which year we moved to a certain house or when a child sustained a particular injury, for example).

Christmas tree

6.
I’m glad I didn’t do a “theme tree”.

I have seen some absolutely gorgeous Christmas trees. There’s a color scheme. All the ornaments match or coordinate. Maybe there’s a sports or regional or literary theme to it.

My tree kinda looks like a tornado hit a pre-school, made its way through a Hallmark store, and sucked up a souvenir shop before landing in my living room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s a memory attached to almost every ornament. The ones from my childhood. The ones we bought on our honeymoon and the time we went to Disney World. The ones the kids made in Sunday School. And all the children have certain ornaments that are “theirs,” (we mark them with their initials and the year) that they made or that were given to them. And one day, when they grow up and get married, one of their wedding presents will be a box containing all of “their” ornaments to hang on their own trees, so they can take some memories with them.

7.
I’m glad we have some family traditions
that are unique to our particular family.

There are some traditions that are common to lots of families, but it’s the ones that no other family on the planet does that can be extra special. For example, last year, after we got home from our annual family outing of picking out our tree, we sat around the table together and had hot chocolate. And chips and salsa. (I know. Weird, huh?) My 12 year old remembered this a whole year later and begged to do it again. It’s those little things that go the extra mile in binding you together and giving your family a unique identity.

8.
I’m glad we handled Santa Claus the way we did.

We decided before we had children that we would not lie to them about the existence or omniscience (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, etc.) of Santa Claus. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, for that matter). But there’s nothing wrong with the fun of Santa as long as he arrives on the scene without lies or claims to attributes only God possesses. So we sang Santa songs and told Santa stories, but on Christmas Eve, our children knew it was Mom and Dad filling the stockings. When they were very small, my husband or I would don a Santa hat and say something like: “You know how you like to play pretend? Well, mommies and daddies like to play pretend, too, especially at Christmas! Now it’s time for you to go to bed so we can pretend to be Santa Claus.” So far, no one is in therapy from us handling the Santa Claus story this way, plus there were no conspiracies with the older children to keep the secret from the younger ones, and no moments of devastation as each child grew up and found out the truth.


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Well, that’s my list.
What are some things you’d like to do over
-or do over and over- at Christmas with your family?

Christmas, Holidays (Other)

Have Yourself an Awesome Little Advent 2019: 12 (Mostly FREE) Advent Devotionals, Activities, and Resources

Is your family getting ready for Advent? Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming. And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are some awesome Advent resources for young and old alike. Most of them are free, but the ones that aren’t, I’ve marked with a 💰.

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December Advent!– Here’s an advent calendar, craft, and devotional all rolled into one! Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study resource that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!

 

Repeat the Sounding Joy– This Advent devotional by Christopher Ash on Luke 1-2 “will help you to celebrate afresh the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah in history, and learn what it means to wait for him with joyful expectation today. Each day’s reading includes a short reflection, a prayer, a carol, and space to journal…”. Get a $10 off (when you spend $20+) coupon here for The Good Book Co.💰

 

Need a good Advent playlist? I’ve created one on YouTube. Your favorite Advent (not Christmas) song isn’t included? Leave a comment (a link would be helpful) and I’ll add it if appropriate.

 

Joy To The World: Daily Readings For Advent– “In the midst of the business of December, take 5 minutes each day and let Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, warm your heart with joy that can only be found in the good news of Jesus Christ.” A 25-day Advent devotional guide.💰

 

 

Names of Jesus Advent Ornaments– One for each day, December 1-24. Create them on paper, cardboard, or wood, and study one of the names of Jesus each day leading up to Christmas. Free printables, too!

 

The Christmas Promise Advent Calendar– This “attractive lift-the-flap Advent Calendar for children 5-11 years old…comes with a booklet containing 25 devotions for December to help families explore the Bible together in the run up to Christmas.” Get a $10 off (when you spend $20+) coupon here for The Good Book Co.💰

 

Advent: A 31-Day Reading Plan– A “31-day Bible reading plan on ESV.org aimed at helping you enter into and reflect on the story of Advent this season.” Use it during your own quiet time or for family worship. You’ll need to start today in order to finish by Christmas Day.

 

Christmas Messages– Maybe sermons are more to your Advent listening liking than music. “In this set of Christmas sermons, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the account of the Magi in the gospel according to Matthew and the relationship of David and Saul in order to unfold the significance of Christmas and the incarnation of Christ.”

 

Advent Crafts for Kids–  “Scripture-based crafts from Gail Schoonmaker’s book, Big Picture Bible Crafts, can provide an opportunity to do something with kids that will help you explain the Christmas story in a simple and interactive way.” Download two free crafts.

 

Advent at The End TimeElizabeth Prata has been hard at work on her Advent materials over at her blog, The End Time. Check out her series of articles each Monday during the Advent season, exploring “some of the less ‘famous’ characters or events in the Nativity story.” This series started on November 11, so you’ll want to get caught up! And starting this Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), watch for Thirty Days of Jesus, “Scripture pictures that progressively work through Jesus’ life from incarnation to ascension.” You could share them on social media or change your cover photo every day to celebrate the season!

 

25 Christmas Myths and What the Bible Says– Was Jesus Born on December 25? Did the angels really sing to the shepherds? And what about that inn keeper? In his recently updated book, 25 Christmas Myths…, Gabriel Hughes tackles some of the folklore and false assumptions that have sprung up around the Christmas story and shares what the Bible really teaches. One lesson for each day December 1-25. Get a sneak peek below. Audio is more your thing? Gabe discussed myths 1-10 from the book last year on his podcast. 💰

 

Who says crafts are just for kids? How about making an Advent mini-book for journaling your way through the themes and Scriptures of the Advent season? Use materials you have on hand or head out to the craft store, choose some Scripture passages to add, and create a charming, gospel-centered heirloom you can re-read each year. You might even want to use it along with the 31-Day Bible reading plan above! (The video below is part one of three. Part 2  Part 3)

 

What’s your favorite Advent resource?


I do not endorse anything on any of these sites that deviates from Scripture or conflicts with my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs at the top of this page.
Christmas

8 Christmas Tradition Do-Overs (and Do Over and Overs!)

Originally Published December 18, 201410712912_891059970934938_3725900191529207112_n

I love being one of the “older sisters” in the Christian blogosphere.  Reading about other writers’ young children brings back sweet memories of when mine were that little. It also gives me the opportunity to occasionally bring in the “been there, done that, here’s how I would go back and do it better if I could” perspective. And that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

I wish I had realized as a young mother that once you start a Christmas precedent, or fail to start one, it can be really hard to change later. Looking back over 20+ years, here are some Christmas traditions and precedents I would go back and change, and others I’m glad we started early and kept.

1. I wish we had minimized gifts.

Instead of showering each child with several gifts, large and small, I think I would either do one “large” gift plus stockings (candy and dollar store type items), or two to three small to moderate gifts, plus stockings, per child. Not only does limiting the number and price of gifts cut down on the holiday “gimmes” so you can refocus Christmas on Christ, but there are a couple of practical reasons this can be helpful. First, if your family is still growing, you may end up with too many children (we have 6) for multiple gifts to be financially feasible. Second, family finances aren’t foolproof. Your husband could lose his job. You could decide you want to be a stay at home mom instead of working. Anything could happen. If your kids are used to tons of gifts every year, a financial setback will make Christmas disappointing.

2. I wish we had given more experiences and fewer material gifts.

We’ve all bemoaned the kids getting a toy they’ve BEGGED for for months only to play with it for a few days and tire of it. Not only that, but toys can take up a lot of space. And think back to your own childhood. What do you remember and appreciate more, the material gifts you received, or the memories of spending special time with your family? Plus, experiences can be spaced out over months and weeks and can be enjoyed all year long (and they don’t even have to be wrapped!). How about giving each child a calendar for the new year with things penciled in on certain dates? An afternoon at the skate park. A day trip to the aquarium. Lessons he wants to take. Mother-daughter mani-pedis. A family outing to a local festival. Making cookies together. It gives everyone something to look forward to.

3. I wish we had done Advent. 

I’m a lifelong Southern Baptist, and, not to sound too old and codger-y, but, in my day, we really didn’t do Advent (a lot of SBC churches still don’t). I was in my 30’s before we began attending a church that even did Advent candles on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. And I was in my 40’s before I became aware of all the wonderful devotionals and worship activites available for families to enjoy together during the Christmas season. Nightly family worship is a great way to bring the focus of Christmas back to Christ.

4. I wish we had “rescheduled” our December baby.

Don’t get me wrong here. I would still have my son, just in January, if possible, instead of December. Of course, pregnancies can be unpredictable, and babies are a blessing no matter when they arrive, but, looking back, when we were trying for my son, I would have taken March “off”. As anyone born between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can attest, birthdays around the holidays tend to get lost in the shuffle. It is extremely difficult to schedule a child’s birthday party in December and have anyone attend because everyone is already committed to Christmas parties, family activities, and traveling. December birthday presents and parties also add to the expense of the holidays.

5. I’m glad I did a yearly Christmas newsletter.

I started doing this the first year we were married. While most folks write a little blurb about what each family member has been up to since last Christmas, my format is a bit different. I do twelve little blurbs, hitting our family highlights for each month of the past year. When I’m finished, I send them out with my Christmas cards. I also keep a copy and put it into my “newsletter notebook.” Now, we have a complete family history. My kids love reading back through them every year, and it has also been helpful to us for record-keeping and filling out forms (remembering which year we moved to a certain house or when a child sustained a particular injury, for example).

Christmas tree

6. I’m glad I didn’t do a “theme tree”.

I have seen some absolutely gorgeous Christmas trees. There’s a color scheme. All the ornaments match or coordinate. Maybe there’s a sports or regional or literary theme to it. My tree kinda looks like a tornado hit a pre-school, made its way through a Hallmark store, and sucked up a souvenir shop before landing in my living room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s a memory attached to almost every ornament. The ones from my childhood. The ones we bought on our honeymoon and the time we went to Disney World. The ones the kids made in Sunday school. And all the children have certain ornaments that are “theirs,” (we mark them with their initials and the year) that they made or that were given to them. And one day, when they grow up and get married, one of their wedding presents will be a box containing all of “their” ornaments to hang on their own trees, so they can take some memories with them.

7. I’m glad we have some family traditions that are unique to our particular family.

There are some traditions that are common to lots of families, but it’s the ones that no other family on the planet does that can be extra special. For example, last year, after we got home from our annual family outing of picking out our tree, we sat around the table together and had hot chocolate. And chips and salsa. (I know. Weird, huh?) My 12 year old remembered this a whole year later and begged to do it again. It’s those little things that go the extra mile in binding you together and giving your family a unique identity.

8. I’m glad we handled Santa Claus the way we did.

We decided before we had children that we would not lie to them about the existence or omniscience (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, etc.) of Santa Claus. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, for that matter). But there’s nothing wrong with the fun of Santa as long as he arrives on the scene without lies or claims to attributes only God possesses. So we sang Santa songs and told Santa stories, but on Christmas Eve, our children knew it was Mom and Dad filling the stockings. When they were very small, my husband or I would don a Santa hat and say something like: “You know how you like to play pretend? Well, mommies and daddies like to play pretend, too, especially at Christmas! Now it’s time for you to go to bed so we can pretend to be Santa Claus.” So far, no one is in therapy from us handling the Santa Claus story this way, plus there were no conspiracies with the older children to keep the secret from the younger ones, and no moments of devastation as each child grew up and found out the truth.


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Well, that’s my list.
What are some things you’d like to do over
-or do over and over- at Christmas with your family?

Christmas, Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ December 11, 2018

Here are a few of my favorite recent online Christmas finds…

Christmas might be the easiest time of the year to get a foot in the door to share the gospel with unsaved friends, loved ones and strangers. That’s why I love this article by Allen Nelson over at Things Above Us called A Christmas Gift for You. You can share it around on your social media pages to help others understand what Christ did to save us. And if you’d like to use it as a devotion at a Christmas party, tuck it into your Christmas cards, use it as a bulletin insert at church, or something like that, you can contact Allen for permission to reprint it.

 

If you love Handel’s Messiah, check out Messiah: The Podcast Series Advent Calendar. “It took George Frideric Handel 24 days to complete the musical score of Messiah – the most famous oratorio ever written. This podcast advent calendar tells all the stories about the people, the places, the music, the drama and the gossip that is connected to the maiden performance in Dublin 275 years ago.” (I think this is more of a history website than a Christian website.)

 

Wonder why some Christmas songs are so ear-catchingly popular? Music nerds can tell you, and here’s one to do just that. Vox gives us Adam Ragusea explaining The Secret Chord that Makes Christmas Music Sound So Christmasy. 

 

And speaking of Christmas music…need some to listen to? Amazon has several Christmas songs and albums you can download for free! (Listen discerningly.) And if you’re shopping at Amazon, be sure to check out Amazon Smile and donate part of your purchase to the Christian ministry, organization, or church of your choice!

 

When Christians think “Christmas” we usually think Luke 2, and maybe Matthew 1-2. But…John? My friend and fellow LSU alum, Nicholas Maricle, shares this lovely article on the Incarnation: John 1, the Word, and Jesus over at his blog Thinking Theologically. Do yourself a favor and give him a follow!

 

Josh Buice has another awesome quiz for us at his blog, Delivered by Grace. Test your knowledge with: Christmas Quiz: How much do you know?

 

And last of all, an early Christmas present for me (thanks to reader and contributor, Laura!). Phil Johnson and Todd Friel discussed part of my article Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do on the December 10 episode of the Too Wretched for Radio podcast (around the 15:42 mark). I’ve mentioned that Todd was the first to introduce me to the idea of biblical discernment when I “accidentally stumbled across” the Wretched TV show one night while flipping through the channels. And I listen to Phil often, love his preaching, and have a great deal of respect for him on a number of different levels. So while this brief mention on a podcast that the majority of the world has never heard of wouldn’t mean much to most people, it was a real honor for me.

Christmas

Have Yourself an Awesome Little Advent 2018: 12 (Mostly FREE) Advent Devotionals, Activities, and Resources

Is your family getting ready for Advent? Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming. And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are some awesome Advent resources for young and old alike. Most of them are free, but the ones that aren’t, I’ve marked with a  💰.

Please note, I tried to vet these resources and writers as best I could for sound doctrine, but not all of these folks are thoroughly familiar to me, nor have I read all of these materials. Be discerning, and always make sure every teaching you embrace matches up with what God’s word says.

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December Advent!– Here’s an advent calendar, craft, and devotional all rolled into one! Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study resource that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!

 

coverLet Every Heart Prepare Him Room– This is a family Advent devotional from Bible teacher and mom Nancy Guthrie. Along with devotions for every day in December, this resource includes explanations of some hard-to-understand aspects of popular Christmas carols and discussion questions to draw in your elementary through high school-aged kids. 💰

 

close up of a candle on a christmas tree

Joyous Expectation– Lynnae McCoy offers a weekly Advent devotional. The first week she helps us remember that “The King is on the way!” with a free printable. (Click on “Tagged With: Advent” at the end of the article for remaining devotionals.)

 

Lutheran Public Radio– Looking for sacred music to listen to during Advent? According to my reader who recommended this resource, “They play church music appropriate to the season of the church year,” so you might want to keep LPR handy all year long! Listen online at the LPR website or on the LPR app.

 

Worship Ideas for Family Time at Christmas– Jerry Vogel and his wife “always plan a dedicated time for family worship.” Here’s how they did it. Maybe it would be a fit for your family, too.

 

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The Christ of Christmas Advent Devotionals– These weekly devotional readings are excerpted from Calvin Miller’s book, The Christ of Christmas.

 

 

 

2009-11-18_0909aNames of Jesus Advent Chain– Paper chains are a fun and easy craft for families with little ones, and this one even comes with a printable template. Count down to Christmas with the Names of Jesus Advent Chain from Spell Outloud.

 

Know Him by Name– There are enough red flags with Focus on the Family that it’s not a ministry I proactively recommend, but they’re generally doctrinally OK enough that I’m comfortable sharing this Advent devotional with you to use as a template for your own family time. Use the Scriptures they’ve provided, tweak or beef up the teaching portion, and select some of the fun activities (advent wreath instructions and free printables) to do with the kids.

 

Love Came Down at Christmas– “Over the course of December, this devotional [by Sinclair Ferguson] walks through 1 Corinthians 13 phrase-by-phrase, showing us that “love is” the Lord Jesus himself…Each day’s reading finishes with a question for reflection and a prayer.” 💰

 

 

Christmas Messages– Maybe sermons are more to your Advent listening liking than music. “In this set of Christmas sermons, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the account of the Magi in the gospel according to Matthew and the relationship of David and Saul in order to unfold the significance of Christmas and the incarnation of Christ.”

 

Advent Crafts for Kids–  “Scripture-based crafts from Gail Schoonmaker’s book, Big Picture Bible Crafts, can provide an opportunity to do something with kids that will help you explain the Christmas story in a simple and interactive way.” Download two free crafts.

 

Come, Let Us Adore Him– “This book of daily readings for the month of December by best-selling author Paul David Tripp will help you slow down, prepare your heart, and focus on what matters most: adoring our Savior, Jesus.” Download a free excerpt of the book (readings for December 1-4). 💰

 

 

What’s your favorite Advent resource?