We live beside a Garden of Remembrance, which means on the second Sunday every November there is a ceremony to remember those who fought on our behalf during the First and Second World Wars. We love it, the sweet sorrow, the band, the uniforms, the outdoor service – whatever the weather. It is a tradition and something I would never want to see fall from our calendar. Traditions are important, not only do they fill in our personal history but they remind us to be grateful to those who have been before us and fought for us and strived for us.
Let’s face it, we aren’t very good at remembering the important things that really define our lives. We are very careful to selectively remember events. Can you imagine what the world would be like if our grandparents hadn’t fought during the World Wars… we really do owe them our freedom. And yet for all the memorials and monuments we still forget their efforts and we forget to be grateful.
If you look at the Old Testament God provided lots of tangible things to help the Israelites remember where they had been and their great rescue. The Israelites were called celebrate certain feasts, like the Passover and they had symbols to remember great events that had happened in their past and to their ancestors…how often do you read about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We too need to remember great events in our history and as we head for Christmas I think that we need to remember the awesomeness of Jesus being born… and often that gets lost in the hype as the world as Christmas gets taken over as another massive hallmark event.
So we need to think about what traditions and ideas we need to follow in our homes that make the reality and the history come alive for us and a stark reminder to us about what Jesus came to do for us. I need the traditions we follow in our home to shout out to my children their Christian history – just as loudly as seeing a rainbow always reminds them that the world will never flood again.
So while our very selective brains remember the feasting, the gifting, the visitors and friends from year to year I am wanting my children to remember that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus… madness that we have to spell it out but if you were to look at any store window you would be unlikely to perceive the real reason for Christmas. You can not rely on Church and Sunday School to teach your kids about Christmas, they simply don’t have enough time… they only focus on Christmas during December and have at most three or four Sunday mornings before Christmas to teach about it… you have to do it in your home to stick the story to their hearts.
So Se7en Ways we can build memories and remind ourselves and our children what christmas is really about:
- Christmas Carols: More Carols than jingles!!! Christmas Carols really are packed with truth. We put them on and belt them out and in no time even the youngest of our kids know the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and so on… Take your kids to the evening Carol Service – yes they stay up late but it is once a year and so worth it. They will remember the magic of singing Carols to candlelight for a long time to come.
- Be thoughtful rather than gifts and wrappings: We can get so caught up in looking for just the right gift, especially for those tricky people that have everything. Hello!!! People that have everything don’t need gifts and we shouldn’t anguish over it!!! Our kids are learning from our example!!! I would rather spend my time and energy creating gifts with my kids and if we have money saved up I would much rather give it to a worthy cause than buy another expensive gift for the old aunt with already bulging closets.
- Read the Nativity Story: It is fine to read the Grinch and other Christmas stories but remember to also read the Nativity story over and over again… Read it from the Bible, read it from Bible story book, tell it, talk about it. Act it out, pretend you are the shepherds one day and the kings the next… tell the story over and over again… It is an awesome story you cannot over dramatize it!!!
- Have a memorable Feast: Many events in our lives are celebrated with a feast… but we don’t need to go mad. I know Christmas is once a year but that doesn’t mean you have to spend three days creating original mint jelly and serve three different roasts and get up in the pre-dawn to prepare. Good food is great, a heap of good friends is better… but you don’t have to eat the national budget of a small nation at one sitting. Everything in moderation!!!
- Use Advent to tell the story some more: It is fun to have an advent calendar and to be sure it is fun to open a window and receive a little chocolate… But we use our Advent calendar to add some more Bible story to our day… and we make our way through the Jesse tree day by day… Yes you can make hand sewn ornaments and spend hours creating them, but I just print out the pictures and talk about them…
- Keep the Gifting Sane: We always say that but how do we do that!!! We always say we don’t want our kids to think Christmas is all about the gifts and stuff… well it’s quite simple stop shopping!!! Our kids get very simple gifts from us for Christmas… they are by no means deprived and have far more than most children in the world. The question remains: How do we make the day special without spending the whole day on gifts. Well we often do a project together, make something for the garden, one year we made a scarecrow, one year we decorated t-shirts. Families are important but if you don’t schedule time together you won’t ever spend the time together. Mark family time on your calendar and stick to it.
- People before things: How do we put people before things? Our best Christmases have always been when we have found a lone family visiting Cape Town and invited them round, one year we had missionaries from Japan, one year we had some Bible college students over that couldn’t get home for Christmas. Christmas can be really lonely for people visiting a city… and we live in a world where we are always trying to “find space” and “down time” and “get away from it all”… Yet we say to our kids “People before things…” and we pack our time with activities and ALL the people we have to see and simply forget that there are lots of people out there that would add value to our lives if we just let them.
- Make it Fun: There is no harm in having a tree, or Christmas stockings, or surprises. Often times folk say they just think it is all pagan… Like most things moderation is the key and as long as our children know that “All good gifts come from their Father in Heaven” and that the ultimate Gift was His Son, I think we will have covered our truth about Christmas.
And The Se7en +1th Thing:
Hopefully these few Christmas Traditions can make Christmas time special for our kids and will help them to remember what Christmas is about. Building a day of Christmas Remembrance that they can pass on to their children and their children’s children!!!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.