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What We Give Our Kids for Christmas

Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to point our hearts to Christ, yet because it is so FULL of events, shopping, eating, and gathering, it can very easily become a season we simply get through. As a parent, I’ve often found this a stressful season, so keeping it simple and utilizing a few of the typical Christmas traditions to point us to Jesus has allowed us to make it through the month, while also enjoying the “reason for the season.”

UPDATED 12/5/2019

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. Though we don’t know exactly how many gifts the wise men gave the Christ-child, there are three mentioned in Scripture: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these point symbolically to the Messiah and His purpose for coming to earth.

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

  • Gold – symbolic of kingship
  • Frankincense – was used in worship and represents the presence of God
  • Myrrh – was used to prepare a body for burial

I love this song from Keith and Kristyn Getty and the way they refer to these three gifts. “Shepherd’s bow before the lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts of men from distant lands prophesied the story. Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will make a way and by his blood he’ll win us.”

Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (Official Lyric Video)

NEW Lyric Video for "Joy Has Dawned Upon the World" Visit www.gettymusic.com/merrychristmas for free MP3 & sheet music downloadsWritten by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, this carol was written as part of a collection teaching through the Apostle's Creed and tells the story of the Gospel throughout the verses. Consider using this in your church and pairing it with a classic carol such as "Angels We Have Heard On High." Enjoy this video? Come sing along with Keith & Kristyn at one of our concerts! Full tour schedule at www.gettymusic.com/christmas. Like and leave comments below! #TuesdayTuneUp#GettyMusic#IrishChristmas#SingChristmas

Posted by Keith and Kristyn Getty on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well. (Isn’t this sweet picture so cute? My kids are much older now, but this is from our early days of giving three gifts.)

A Gift of Gold – to Jesus Our King

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This looks a bit different every year. When they were younger, each child got a set amount of money to give a present to Jesus. Specifically, a gift to give to others in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). They’ve given animals through World Vision gift catalogue, donations to our local Baptist children’s home, Gift-a-Verse through The Seed Company, and more. We’ve also had years where we they pooled their money to add to the annual gift we give for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. As they have grown older, we encourage them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus including ways for them to earn the money they give … but they keep fairly well-stocked in cash from generous grandparents.

As a symbol of their gift to Jesus, they each get a gold ornament. These are usually just $1 ornaments from WalMart, but I’ve added a tag to each to help us remember the year and what they gave. (I didn’t start the tags until later on, so I don’t have all the year’s gifts labeled.) When they leave the house, they will have their own set of ornaments to keep. I hope they will grow to treasure these ornaments and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

A Gift of Frankincense – to Meet with God

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.” Exodus 30:34-3

The second gift is something that will encourage them in their walk with Christ; something they will use to meet with the Lord. Some years they’ve received a new Bible, devotional book, or Bible study. One year they got a basket to hold all their “quiet time” items, including a prayer journal Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , pens, and K-cups of hot chocolate reserved only for their time with God. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grow in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Myrrh – to Connect with One Another

Ok, so there is no great way to connect with the symbolism of myrrh! But we’ve traditionally made this third gift something that helps us connect with one another. Board games, a family gaming system, Disney passes (We can get these for really cheap as Florida residents. When we do this, this is also in lieu of birthday gifts, birthday party, Easter basket, etc. for the rest of the year!) Especially as our kids get older and we all have our different activities launching us out and about, having experiences we all share together has been amazing family time.

St. Nick Stockings

Another fun way we’ve used Christmas traditions to point to Jesus and His call on our lives to live for His glory is through our stockings. Instead of filling them with things, we fill them with small gifts and encouraging words to one another, focusing more on the latter than the former.

In the past, we’ve put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month. However, with moving and the craziness of the kid being older and our schedule fuller, we’ve been lax on this tradition. This year will be a great time to make a more concerted effort to encourage one another.

When the kids were smaller, they tended to give us little trinkets of theirs they thought mommy or daddy would want. So sweet.

One of the really fun things is that we store all the notes within the stockings the rest of the year. So each year when we hang our stockings, we have past notes to look through. (I try to jot the year on the back of the notes. Most are just small pieces of paper.)

The real “St. Nick” was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We’ve talked to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  was a great resource when my kids were little, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ. It might be fun to watch again as its been a few years since we’ve done so.

I’m so grateful we get this time of the year to intentionally point our hearts to the coming of Christ!

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When the Word takes on a new meaning

I love to study the Bible! It is a joy to see truths jump off the page.

For me, finding the main points of a passage is like a framing picture I can pick up and put on my desk—a tangible, visible representation of who God is and what He wants from me. Characteristics of a true Christ-follower become clearer, commands are more distinct, Christ’s greatness better seen.

I can pick up these “framed” truths and observe them again and again. Over time, my desk collects frame after glorious frame—portraits of the masterpiece of Scripture.

I’ve been in the Psalms for a few months now, and I saw Psalm 86 in a different light recently. I’m sharing about today over at Caroline’s.

I hope you’ll join me!

 

Die Young {Book Review}

“…when his love is all that surrounds you and all that contains you and all that you contain, then life is a whole new ball game. What was down is now up, what was death is not life, what was less is now more, and what was weakness is now strength; there is no more death for you. It is all nothing but life. No one can kill you when you are already dead.” —Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, Micheal and Hayley DiMarco

Wow. I’m not sure about you, but when I read this, I am intrigued. What do Michael and Hayley DiMarco mean by this?

Hayley and Michael make some strong claims in this book. That if we die to self, we actually obtain real life. If we become weak, we become strong. Really, they are not the ones making these claims—these truths are all over scripture.

There is so much about the Christian life that is up-side-down. In Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, the DiMarco’s have done a fabulous job helping us understand the up-side-downness of the gospel—and how it give us joy and hope for growth in our day-to-day walk with God.

Die Young, DiMarco, Book Review, crossway

One of my favorite things about this book are the “Here Lies” sections. Peppered throughout the book are stories—confessions, really—of Micheal and Hayley’s journey of dying to self. They share some deep, honest past and current struggles. I appreciate that. Their stories give me courage to live out my own sin-stained story, and to strive for more of this dying-life.

In Die Young, you will receive practical, applicable truths for our journey of sanctification and the fight against our flesh—the left-over old self in us that craves to do what is against God.

Here is a peek at all this book holds:

Death is the new life.
“There is a death that comes that isn’t meant to destroy you but to destroy that in you which was never meant to replace the hand of God in your life.”

Down is the new up.
“…it takes a strong redirecting of our minds to put us back on thinking more like sinners saved by grace than royalty destined for only the best of things.”

Less is the new more.
“…the less we treasure, cherish, and worship here in earth, the more our hearts yearn for the things of heaven, that is, God and his will.”

Weak is the new strong.
“As you come to accept the things you can’t do, you learn to rely on the One who can.”

Slavery is the new freedom.
“The self that we all have can either be an empty vessel ready to accept the life of Christ into it, a temple to his holy Spirit, or it can be occupied with more human things—self-will, self-effort, self-dependance, self-esteem, self-importance. All of these focus on the little god inside of us rather than the true God above us.”

Confession is the new innocence.
“When you die young you are honest about sin because you care less about your own life and standing than you do about God and his standing.”

Red is the new white.
“To belabor your sinfulness is to ignore the blood that cleanses you from all unrighteousness. When we die young we die to our right to hold onto the memory of our sins…”

Dying Young is available for purchase now, and will be released on January 31.

I was given a pre-released copy of Die Young in exchange for my review. All opinions stated are my own.

Read more of my Crossway book reviews.

What to do with Santa?

Santa doesn’t come to our house .

{Gasp!}

Yes you heard me right. We don’t do Santa.

I know this is a hot topic, and before I go anywhere else, I want to say that I am no way suggesting that Santa is evil, or that families are “in sin” by having Santa come to their home. This is where our family has personally landed, as we strive to point our kids to Jesus during the Christmas season.

That being said, here is what we have decided as a family when it comes to Ol’ St. Nick.

We desire to avoid confusion.

There are many reasons for why we chose this route; the bottom line is that we don’t want to muddy the waters when it comes to teaching our children about God. Noel Piper puts into words exactly how we feel about Santa (emphasis mine):

For several reasons, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. First, fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Second, celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the crumbs of reality.We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able, at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort that understanding.

Third, think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical preschooler. Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the “attributes” of Santa:

• He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
• He rewards you if you’re good.
• He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
• He gives you good gifts.
• He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

—Noel Piper, Treasuring God in our Traditions (You can download this book for free here.)

So what, then, do we do with Santa?

We don’t ignore Santa.

We don’t ignore Santa when we see him in the mall. They get a bit excited to see him, just as they would Mickey Mouse, Sleeping Beauty or Lightning McQueen. But in our kids minds, as much as they can comprehend, he is fictional.

While Chris and I feel completely confident in our decision to not have Santa visit our house (we have made the same decision for the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) there is some good that “Santa” can bring to our celebration of Christ’s coming. 

St. Nicholas was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We talk to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving is a great resource, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ.

I really love this idea, where “in the spirit of thoughtfulness and generosity practiced by St. Nicholas, family members put little cards, treats or gifts inside.” We put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month.

We desire to guard other family’s traditions.

My oldest son is in First Grade and I cannot be there every moment to cover up his mouth before he shatters his classmate’s Santa dreams. I try to remind him, whenever Santa comes up, that it is not up to him to tell people about Santa; it is up to the parents to tell their children the truth about Santa, NOT HIM.

So, what do you do about Santa? Incorporate him in your traditions? Ignore him?

Bedtime prayers in the Orr Household {as overheard by Mom and Dad}

Kenneth: Ok, so here is what you do. Pray and ask God to come into your heart. Say, Dear God, please come into my heart.

Anna: God, come into…

Kenneth: No! Say Dear God…

Anna: Dear God…

Kenneth: Will you come into my heart?

Anna: Will you come into my heart?

Kenneth: So I can be a Christian.

Anna: So I can be a Christian.

Kenneth: So I won’t go to hell.

Anna: So I won’t go to hell.

Kenneth: OK, now I’m going to go tell mom.

{little boy footsteps}

Kenneth: Um, Anna just prayed out loud, that she wanted God in her heart.

Mommy: Oh, yeah?! Why did you want her to pray?

Kenneth: So she won’t be in hell.

Mommy: That’s good that you don’t want your sister to be in hell. What’s the worse part of hell?

Kenneth: Jesus isn’t there.

Mommy: That’s right! You know, Kenneth, what you did is what Christians are supposed to do. We are to tell others about Jesus, and about their need for Jesus—because of their sin—and about how they can be with Jesus forever.

{little girl footsteps}

Mommy: What happened, Anna?

Anna: I prayed to ask God in my heart.

Mommy: Oh, yeah? Why?

Anna: Because I want to become a Christian

Mommy: Why do you want to be a Christian?

Because I love you.

…………………

This made me smile.

So, obviously there is still much Anna to grasp about the gospel (and Kenneth about evangelism).  There are many more conversations to be had. However, I just love that my six-year old is sharing the gospel my three-year old! (And just so you know, we really don’t talk about hell being the primary reason to become a Christian. I think Kenneth has heard it at church a few times, and his little mind is fixated on it.)

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Linking up with Inspired to Action, The MOB Society, and Scripture and a Snapshot: