*My dear friend Caryn Christensen is guest blogging today. I am so blessed to have her sharing with us today.
Even though my family celebrated Christmas growing up, we didn’t go to church, so the first time I heard about Advent, I was naturally curious.
The term is derived from the Latin word meaning “coming”. Many Christians celebrate Advent, (which is a period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas) to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas ~ the coming of Christ. With the “coming”, there’s an implied “waiting”.
And let’s face it; we live in an instant-everything society that pushes commercialism to new heights every year. It’s no mistake that we see Christmas decorations being put up in the stores in late summer! The message is “Buy, buy, buy!” and sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the frenzy.
When our daughters were young, I knew they would be susceptible to focusing on receiving presents. After all, what child isn’t? As a Christian mom, I wanted the following for our girls:
Encourage their natural tendency to be “givers”
Minimize the focus on presents
Stir a genuine interest and curiosity in them about the birth of Jesus
When decorating my home for Christmas, I’ve always done “First things first” by putting up the Nativity set in a prominent place (not necessarily under the tree). It sets the tone for the entire month of December.
Using that same idea, when our eldest daughter was 3 ½, I decided to purchase a very simple (and inexpensive) nativity set for her ~ one she could handle without worrying about it breaking. I used a drawer from a toy dresser as the backdrop for the manger scene, and found a decorative gold star to represent the Bethlehem star. I set the “stable” on the hearth, near the floor so she could have access to it.
Then I placed all of the pieces of the Nativity except the baby Jesus, (put Him out of sight, but don’t forget where!) in the center of the dining table.
I also put a glass container filled with slips of paper with age-appropriate ways to give to others written on them, such as “Make a picture for Daddy”, “Help Mama set the table”, “Clean up your toys”, etc. Explain to your child that by helping others, they are being a gift themselves ~ just like Jesus did for us.
Encourage older children (5 yrs. and up) to offer their own ideas to “Be The Gift”, such as reading a book to a younger sibling or help to pack a lunch, etc.
Each evening, we would read a portion of the Christmas story to our daughter at bedtime, then in the morning, she drew a slip of paper from the container. After she completed the “task” (there was no time limit), she was allowed to take one piece of the Nativity from the center of the table and place it in the manger.
I feel like I need to insert this instruction at this point…perfectionists, beware!! You know, those of you who let your kids “help” decorate the tree and then rearrange the ornaments after they go to bed! This is not, I repeat, this is not about the Nativity looking perfect. It doesn’t matter what order your child chooses the pieces, or where they place them. I tell you this from experience because I would find the wise men in various places in the house, and everything within me wanted to prompt my girl into moving them “where they belonged”. It’s okay. Just tell yourself that they are on a journey to Bethlehem ~ a preparation for the coming of Jesus. You can make sure all the pieces are present and accounted for by Christmas morning!
There are only 8 pieces to our little Nativity set and obviously more slips of paper than that, so we just had to get creative and improvise by adding to the manger scene. Your child can prepare for the coming of Jesus with a hand full of straw, stuffed animals, angel figurines, or just about anything that creates an “audience” for the newborn baby.
Finally, remember the baby Jesus you kept aside? Your job is to place Him in the manger on Christmas Eve (before you go to bed) so that on Christmas morning, your child finds Christ the Savior “born” in Bethlehem.
Caryn is wife to her BH (Better Half), mama to two beautiful daughters, and Mrs. C to her elementary school music students. She’s an ordinary woman with an extraordinary story that she seeks to live out with purpose and joy. She enjoys cream with coffee, photography and cowboy boots. You can find her at carynchristensen.com