December 24, 2010

The great thing about New Zealand is that we get to have Christmas before the rest of you… we also get to hang out on the beach!

Merry Christmas everyone, have a fantastic time with friends and family, no matter where you are.

Christmas Traditions: Decorations

December 7, 2010

Goes without saying really, it just wouldn’t “feel” like Christmas without decorations. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, but I love sparkly things.  I love tinsel, I love candles, I love colour coordinating the Christmas tree… ok that one might be because I have a problem…

Most Christmas decorations have some kind of story to tell.  Even if they originated from some kind of pagan tradition you can find a way of using them to tell the story of the original Christmas miracle.   Here are some thoughts…

  • Gold and silver: royalty, Jesus is King and some wise guys brought him gifts.
  • Christmas tree/green: represents life, Jesus is the giver of eternal life.
  • Red and White: Jesus’ blood + he was perfect and pure

As for pink, purple and blue… I dunno, make something up.

Make decorating a special time.  Perhaps you do it together as a family on the first Saturday of December, but whenever you do it, TALK about it.  Take your time and talk about different parts of the Christmas story as you go, using the decorations to draw their attention to it.  Whenever the kids see the decorations, they will remember what you told them.  Just something else to point them towards Jesus who is the most important part of it all!

I tend to avoid Santa, elves, reindeer, snow men etc decorations just because they don’t add anything towards the real point of Christmas.

Nativity Set

I saw this in someones house and I had to get one… a beautiful wooden nativity set that sat on a coffee table.  It was large carved out blocks that fit together and painted different colours.  I think it was from Trade Aid but unfortunately I couldn’t find one quite like it, but found something along those lines in Trade Me.  A plastic one would do the same thing.  It’s cool to have it somewhere where it can get played with.  Once again you can use it to tell the Christmas story, then when kids play with it they will think of the story, they might even be able to retell it using the pieces of the set.

Christmas Tradtions: Op Shop Christmas

December 5, 2010

For the past two Christmas’s our family has done an op-shop/trade aid/gifts for life Christmas.  Now that we’re older the idea of spending money on gifts just cos that’s what you do at Christmas when we pretty much already have everything we need seems silly.  Why do we spend money on stuff we don’t really need meanwhile kids on the other side of the planet starve?

So mums great idea was an op shop Christmas.  We spend the money we otherwise would on a Gift for Life or something similar and buy each other something from an op shop.  It’s caused us to be really creative and have a lot of fun with what we get for each other.  This would also be a great idea for a family who don’t have the luxury of spending extra money on Christmas.

Last year I took the 4 kids I look after to an op shop cos I needed to do a bit of last minute shopping.  They ended up finding presents for each other.  the most expensive gift as about $2, and everything they got was either new or had a special character to it.

So if you don’t mind buying stuff that someone else has already used then this idea has lots of potential.  What a great way of teaching kids about the value we put on material things.  Gift giving doesn’t have to be about how much you spend or where you get it from to be valuable.  It’s the time, effort and thought that makes it special.

Christmas Traditions: Christmas Bear

December 3, 2010

This one isn’t overly spiritual or significant, it’s just plain fun… and really CUTE!

I’ve been known to be a winner at finding treasures in op shops, yea I like to call it a gift.  So one day last year I was shopping for our family op shop Christmas (something worthy of a separate post) and I came across this little treasure.  I took him home (at the steep price of 50c) gave him a little wash (to be on the safe side) and made him part of the family.  Introducing… Christmas Bear

Christmas Bear sits on the side of the couch all December.  He is available for hugs for anyone that needs them.  He can be used to comfort upset kiddies (he’s been known to be a great listener to the occasional adult too).  Just like a puppet who only talks to the adult then the adult tells the kid He can be used to teach kids stuff  and behavior management… “Christmas Bear tells me that if you tidy the toys he’ll give you a big hug”, “Christmas Bear wants to hear a story about Christmas, do you want to listen too?”.  Kids can tell Christmas Bear how their day has been or how they feel about something.

I got Chrisrmas Bear out of the cupboard today while the kids were at my place and they were really excited. One of them even tried to use him to comfort a younger sibling when she was upset (emphasis on tried).  This character (or any others you want to create) come alive in a kids imagination while still being tangible enough that they know the difference between what is real and fantasy.

At the end of December Christmas Bear goes into hibernation along with the rest of the decorations.

Christmas Traditions: Seriously Santa

December 1, 2010

Ok, the Santa thing.

Before we start, here is a joke…

What do dyslectics do at a prayer meeting? The bind Santa. *Que the uncontrollable laughter* (ps I had to use spell check to spell dyslectic correctly)

The Deal

Santa can be quite a controversial topic in Christian circles.  Some don’t do the Santa thing usually citing commercialization and materialism as the reasons while others have no problem and jump right in.  I don’t want to tell anyone which side of the fence is right, but I do what to encourage parents to really think about the decision they make.

If you don’t know much about the history of Santa then look it up.  Wikipedia is always a good place to start.  There are a few different variations that the idea of Santa came from, and interestingly a lot of them involve Christian figures.  Either way, the model of Santa that our kids are exposed wears red, rather chubby but somehow manages to fit down the chimney, lives in the North Pole with a bunch of Elves that make toys (replicas of the ones you can buy from your local toy store), has reindeer that pull a flying sleigh, steals milk and cookies, knows when you’re bad or good… the list goes on.

Despite the obvious flaws in the scenario, kids still have no problem believing in Santa.  Kids have incredible God-given imaginations.  Believing in Santa is so exciting.  Waking up on Christmas morning to find out what he has left in the stocking, what kid doesn’t love that?

My Challenge

So I’ve got two main things I want to add to the discussion…

First, the obvious, the emphasis that Santa adds to Christmas on me getting what I hope for.  It’s can easily become a self-centered thing.  Truth is that even without Santa, it’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in it.  It’s not that different from getting birthday gifts.  I remember as a kid anticipating some kind of happiness when I receive gifts.  Have you ever seen a kid rip into a bunch of prezzies, then at the end hear them say, “is that all?”  Ha, I’ve heard it!  And if I didn’t say it then I sure felt it.  I can remember very clearly at the end of one Christmas day feeling very sad.  All the things I had hoped in that day were over.

The key here is HOPE.  Kids really do put their hope in Santa to bring the gifts they perceive will give them some kind of selfish fulfillment.  As Christians we know that the only thing worthy of our hope is Jesus Himself.  Everything else other then Jesus will let us down.  It wasn’t until I had a personal belief and trust in God that I didn’t feel that down feeling at the end of an anticipated event like birthdays or Christmas.

So given that gifts from Santa aren’t the only object of our selfish desire, unless you’re going to cut out birthday gifts and other gifts altogether, I don’t think it’s reason enough to boycott Santa.

The second is based on BELIEF.   A friend once told me about how she became a Christian.  She was the ripe old age of 4.  All her life (all 4 yeas) she had held a belief in Santa.  She knew about God.  The story goes that one day her neighbor broke the bad news to her, she had been lied to, Santa was not real.  Very soon after this life shattering event (actually I don’t think she thought it was a big deal) she suddenly became acutely aware of how real God is.  In her 4 year old way, she began a friendship with God.  My friends recons that it was kinda like Santa filled this space in her heart that should have been for God.

Lying or Fantasy

Is it OK to encourage kids to imagine characters that aren’t real?  Imagination a fantasy are a normal and very important part of a child’s emotional development.  So I still don’t really know the answer to that question.  But here another issue about believing specifically in Santa, if we lie about Santa (a character who knows if we are bad or good, who has the potential to fulfill the desire of our hearts) and kids are to put their hope in him and try to be good for him, then what are they to think when we tell them to do the same thing in Jesus?

A Possible Solution

I REALLY like how my parents approached the Santa thing when I was a kid.  We “played” Santa.  I remember clearly one of the first years that we did this, I must have been 2 or 3.  I remember mum smiling and telling me that they are going to pretend to be Santa, sneak into my room and leave something on the end of my bed.  I can’t imagine being more excited then I was then.  My imagination played along, and while I knew Santa wasn’t real the way God is real, it was still loads of fun.  I woke up a thousand times during the night, kicking my feet to see if something was on the end of my bed.  One year I opened it all when it was still dark.  My heart was still very focused on GETTING.  So this solution didn’t cover that issue, but it sure dealt with the belief one.

So, there you have it.  Whatever you decide to do about Santa make sure you know why.  Most importantly, make sure you talk through these issues with your kids.

Creating Christmas Traditions

December 1, 2010

Quite a few of my friends are at a point in life where the have young families and are talking about creating Christmas traditions.  It’s a great way to create memories and a sense of belonging and identity as part of a family. But another cool thing about it is that traditions can be used to point ourselves towards Jesus.  The old cliche says, Jesus is the reason for the season.  How easy is that to forget?  Especially in such a materialistic self centered world.  Kids especially get gripped by the sparkle and lights, the food and presents.  No matter what they learned at church on Sunday it’s kinda easy to get distracted.

Kids (like the rest of us) need be reminded in the midst of all the other stuff we love about Christmas that it is actually all about Jesus and to make Him number one.  That’s actually what Advent is all about. The Latin word that Advent comes from means “coming”.  It’s a season of expecting something… it has the potential to be a season where we once again focus on Jesus, remember that He is the centre of EVERYTHING, and that He is coming again… ADVENT.  So how bout create some traditions that not only bring familes together and create memories, but point us all towards Jesus.

I’ll try and post a few ideas over the next couple of weeks… I will field test them first with the kids I look after, and some will be from my own family and childhood.  If you’ve got any ideas then sharing is caring!

P.s here is the wikipedia article on Advent, give you some context to it.