“Mrs. Chapman, do you know how to cook?” asked one our five little charges. I’m guessing that her 9-year-old mind generated this question based on the fact that I don’t own an apron (except for the frilly, Laura Ingalls one my granny gave me) and that Mr. Chapman was the one who had volunteered to help the girls bake cookies the night before. It probably doesn’t help much that most of our meals are served in a dining hall–a fact I’m often very grateful for but may regret some day if I still haven’t learned how to cook a turkey.
Holiday cooking isn’t the only thing that makes this time of year chaotic; most of us have gift buying, wrapping, decorating, Christmas parties and a list of other things to add to already busy lives. It can be hard to escape the frenzy (definition: a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior) long enough to remember the real reason for all of the hoopla.
The first two posts in this series, 7 Days of Focus on Jesus, were aimed at the heart; this one is full of intentional, Jesus-centered activities, all free or almost free and needing little or no preparation:
1) Make a Christmas acrostic as a family.
This one comes from my elementary teacher tool belt. We would often start or end a unit by creating an acrostic to show what students knew or had learned. Sometimes, we used a word like “friend” to help remind us what it meant to be a good friend (i.e. Friendly, Respectful, etc.).
For Christmas this year, Robert and I made an acrostic for the word “Christmas” to show what our family values during this season.
You can use an app like Pixlr to design a graphic to print and display or to use as desktop wallpaper. Another idea would be to make a wall hanging.
2) Play the ABC Christmas Songs game.
I don’t know about you, but our family travels ALOT during the holidays. Taking advantage of time spent in the car is a great way to slow down and focus on what matters.
I grew up in a musical family, and we were constantly singing in the car. Around Christmas time, we would play a game to see if we could make it through the alphabet singing Christmas songs …
A. Angels we have Heard on High
B. Baby, it’s Cold Outside
C. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
D. Do You Hear What I Hear?
… you get the idea.
You may have to get creative for Q and Z, but family fun will definitely ensue! I realize that not every song will be about Jesus, but many of them are–especially some that kids may not be familiar with yet. This creates an excellent opportunity to look up the lyrics together as a conversation starter. For example, many children may not know how much time passed between Isaiah’s messianic prophecies and the actual birth of Jesus (about 700 years). This fact brings new meaning to the words of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
3) Try a variation on the traditional Secret Santa game.
Many families or workplaces exchange gifts at Christmas time by secretly drawing a name and buying small gifts for that person leading up to Christmas Day. Why not do something similar but make it about small acts of kindness instead of monetary gifts? Family members can do chores for one another or make a cup of hot chocolate, leaving an anonymous note behind. Everyone will experience the joy of serving others as Jesus did, and trying to figure out who drew your name can be quite amusing.
4) Pray for the people who send you Christmas cards.
It’s pretty hard to not to grow more selfless when you are praying for others, and Christmas cards are a practical way to expand your prayer list. The photos many people include with their cards will give kids something visual to attach their prayers to, and you’ll never be sorry you made time to listen to a child’s heartfelt request on behalf of another.
5) Act out the Christmas story.
What child wouldn’t want to drape on a sheet robe, don a headpiece made from a towel, and grab a stick from the backyard to play the role of Joseph? It’s one thing to hear about the Christmas story and another to step into Bethlehem’s stable (the cardboard box from your giant artificial tree) and declare the words spoken 2,000 years ago. They will be written on your child’s heart forever. I know–as a little girl, I stood on a piano in a white robe and tinsel halo shouting “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
For another way to get the Christmas Story into your child’s head and heart, here is my variation on “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”:
What does your family do to focus on Jesus during the Christmas season? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on Facebook, especially if it’s something my 2-year-old old would enjoy!