he churches are often filled at Christmas season. And no wonder, since people become attuned to the joy and peace of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Since the intrusion of insurance companies' demands, litigation, and such things, I don't foresee a return of my favorite Christmas church memory: the candlelight service. Every Christmas Eve, our Presbyterian church had a service with choir, carols, and candlelight. At the end of the service was a reverent time when each person had a small candle (with a stiff paper ruff to catch the wax) and the light was passed from person to person as each lit the next one's candle til the whole congregation was bathed in the soft light. The benediction was said and then we extinguished our candles. The feeling of that memory is inexpressible. Many churches have Christmas presentations, and they bring the message of Christmas with wonderful music, drama, and convivial celebration. Churches are also a trustworthy source of charity and ministry opportunities for the community. Check out what your local bible-believing church has available, along with their activity schedule for the season.
An activity that often is sponsored by a church,(but I also participated in through my school so many years ago), is Christmas caroling. We usually benefitted the Kinder Key organization, collecting donations as we caroled. But there is no reason that caroling should be limited! Why not get some neighbors together and serenade the surrounding area? Or a biblestudy group to hand out leaflets -or just for fun. Of course, in Ohio the weather has several possibilities in December: cold and clear (fine), cold and soft snow (fine), and cold with rain (definitely NOT fine). I cannot remember going caroling in the last named weather condition, so it must have always been cancelled. (Or I was just a wimp and didn't go). We always had little booklets with the music to common carols and practiced a little together before letting ourselves loose on the neighborhoods. Since I usually went with choir groups, we sounded pretty good-at least our reception was welcoming from our listeners. It could have just been Christmas cheer! I haven't been caroling for years, but I recall what fun it was and we always returned to a home base for hot chocolate and cookies or doughnuts. Online Christmas Songbook or Free Christmas Sheet Music
In the central Ohio area is an opportunity to treat yourself to the holiday performance of "The Nutcracker" ballet. A beautiful rendition is given by the Ballet Met. A person ought to try to see a performance at least once ,if they can. This particular company gives a condensed version at reduced prices for school children (and their parents). Look up the Festivals site to see if there is a performance by a ballet company in your area.
Another activity in this part of Ohio is a trip to the zoo. Columbus Zoolights is a big attraction, we've had fun making the trek several years, twice with some of the grandparents. Since the Zoolights goes through New Year's Day, it doesn't crowd the Christmas season-whenever it fits in!
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Ok, ok, what are we missing here? Where is Santa and the stockings hung by the chimney with care? This is my chance to find a cute Santa pic and post it, because I don't really tell my children anything about Santa, so I have no reason (until now) for all those great graphics. I don't have a personal vendetta against Santa Claus, I simply had a personal moral dilemma. Becoming a Christian early in my marriage, I wanted my children to realize the truth of Jesus, so the idea of telling them both the Christmas nativity story and the fantasy of Santa worried me. Eventually, "Virginia" has questions and it seemed easier to not confuse my children with the difference between the two traditions of Christmas. I don't pretend that my choice is for everyone- it works best for me. I love fantasy as long everyone involved realizes that it is fantasy.
So, how to give my children the excitement I had as a child? Rushing down the stairs to find what was in my stocking? I set up baskets, borrowing from Easter tradition. The baskets of differing sizes contain Christmas candy, small "stocking stuffer" toys, little presents of jewelry, whatever you choose. I like to put some fruit alongside- healthier choice than solid candy for breakfast.
pening the presents: at our house we always open one present (any one the person chooses) on Christmas Eve. This diffuses the almost unbearable tension little children have when all those wrapped up goodies are displayed under the tree. In a large family it has a wonderful look of abundance underneath; and to minimize the chaos Christmas morning, we hand out presents one by one.
You will notice throughout the site that our family has made numerous concessions to little children. I only wish I had not been so slow, because many of those things create the loving, simple celebration that Jesus, Himself exhorted. Bringing the little children to Him, becoming as a child, oneself: these were his admonitions. So, take time for each other and de-stress the season by baking, entertaining, shopping in reasonable amounts. Wouldn't your child value cutting out cookies and decorating them with you, as much as several toys (some of which break quicker than anyone anticipated?).So, go ahead, guywire the tree, shorten the formal prayers, liven up the scripture readings with an action play featuring the nativity set, buy a plastic nativity set, limit the gift list, let some of the cookies look like a nightmare of playdoh and every color sugar and sprinkle imaginable; you will have wonderful memories.