Stations of the Christmas Story–A Family Activity

 

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Yesterday our family braved the mall–the Saturday before Christmas.  Our annual tradition of shopping as a family and purchasing gifts for each other was a great day. After a quick pow wow to share ideas (small ones for the siblings to get each other) we split off into pairs to shop, texting each other with updates and location status throughout the afternoon.   There were tremendous crowds, long lines, returns as we realized we duplicated gifts, and more lines.  There was Christmas music, food, and beautiful decorations everywhere.  The air was filled with a buzzing of excitement.  We came home tired but successful on our mission–and as a mom, happy to see the kids scheme and strategize to get the perfect gift for each other.

Yet, it is not the full picture of Christmas.  There is a deeper river of meaning that flows through the season–one that easily might be missed as the 25th quickly approaches.  Which is why tonight, our family once again gathered to do something together this season, but something a little more serious, a little more, holy.

With the lights turned down, and candles lit, we invited our children and our oldest daughter’s boyfriend, Isaac, to join us in The Stations of The Christmas Story.  This is similar to “Stations of the Cross” but with a Christmas theme.  We moved throughout 7 stations, reading the Christmas Story in Luke and Matthew, and the kids writing responses in a journal we gave them.  At a couple of stations  a song was played, at some, just discussion and not writing.  My hope was to bring the story of Jesus’s birth into a more tangible form, something our family could take with us going forward, hoping to silence just a bit the wants and wishes and commercialism of the season.

We had a great discussion about angels (a theme that runs through the story) and tried to put ourselves in Mary and Joseph’s shoes as they traveled this journey together.  We listened and shared and did a little bribing with ice cream if everyone hung in there for the duration!

Here are the documents I created for the night.  Please feel free to print out and use, or tweak for your own taste if you want to try this with your family.  (When you click on link, it will take you to another page that you will need to click the link a second time).

Stations of The Christmas Story–leader guide

Stations Journal–Journal Cover

Stations–inside of Journal

The inside of the journal is not quite lined up right–you’ll see if you print it out.  Just cut down the middle and line up inside the journal cover.

 

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PLEASE don’t feel like you need to squeeze this in in the next few days before Christmas in order to complete the Christmas experience for your kids!  Maybe file it away for next year, and just read the Christmas story together.

Tips for the experience:

Dim the lights to create a nighttime scene–the candles are a great effect.

Set up 7 candle lit stations around the house, ending in a manger scene if you have one.

Move from station to station as a group.  The leader guide (first document) is helpful for the adult leading the group.  The group members carry their journals around with them.

Ask each child to have a bible with them–they can take turns reading the scripture.

For younger children:

Take out 2-3 of the stations for attention span.  You can re word the questions for age-appropriateness.

“Stress-mas?”…or Something Better

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Christmas is almost here.

What does that statement cause inside you? Stress because you are not ready for the guests and the food and the gifts?  Or excitement because you love the Christmas Eve worship and the joy of Christmas morning and the unwrapping and the laughter?  Or both?

It is truly a dichotomy, this season.  I can feel total peace, excitement and joy, and almost simultaneously feel complete stress. Can anyone relate?  I love the music, and the sweet manger scene in our living room, and the tradition of cutting down our tree in the mountains, and the joy on our children’s faces when they open gifts they love.  I love buying new wrapping paper and doing ornament exchanges with friends.  I enjoy the cookie exchanges and the Christmas shopping with our family and the parties.   I love the hope that the season brings of Jesus’s birth and what that represents.  I love the holiness.

Yet, it is during these 3-4 weeks preceding Christmas that I feel so much stress (my friend Erin calls it “Stress-mas”).  It’s getting the Christmas cards out on time and organizing everyone’s gift lists to send out to family and racing to the store four times in two days to get the ingredients for the baking to be done, or that extra string of lights that just burned out on the tree or the pair of nylons needed for the party that night.   The frenzy seems inevitable.

This year I am trying to take the stress and turn it into remembrance.

See, all the stress revolves around things that spark anticipation.  We anticipate getting our friends Christmas cards in the mail, finding that perfect tree, picking out just the right gift, celebrating at friend’s homes, or that delicious meal being prepared.  And of course, the ultimate anticipation of  unwrapping of gifts Christmas morning.   God has built anticipation into the season because anticipation is what it is ALL about……Anticipating the birth of our Savior.

Isn’t that right?  The nation of Israel waited for hundreds of years for their Savior to come.  He had been foretold in scriptures and by prophets.  He was their hope!  They had to believe that someday God would become man and walk among them and reconnect them to God.  And he did, but not without the anticipation of his people over time.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, Or the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

We can’t forget that when Jesus finally became God incarnate, it was “FINALLY!”  Through generations and generations of patience and faith and bloodshed and hope, the people of God had waited for the promised one to appear on this earth.

And now, through so many woven threads of this season of Christmas, we recreate that anticipation.  We do and make and give so that we can make people happy, and we get to be expectant of that joy!  We look forward to so much leading up to Christmas Day, and while that can create stress, it is all for the joy of the season.  We are creating memories and establishing tradition.  We are sharing love.

If we are able, in the next few days when we are feeling a little frenzied, let us remember this idea of anticipation.   Like hunger pangs during a fast remind us to think of God, let the lists and the gifts and the countdown remind us of the reason for the season!  Let us remember Jesus and how much we look forward to celebrating His birth.

A Christmas List Helper for Kids

“I want, I want, I want……oh, and I want this too!”

Moms, you get this.  It is SO easy for our kids to become a little too “gimme” focused this time of year, and to a large degree it’s understandable! They are excited!  They get to ask for gifts they don’t normally receive, and the anticipation of Christmas is incomparable to most other experiences in their little lives. Yet, all this excitement can easily lead  to The Focus On The List.  The List becomes the central expectation, the hope, the culmination of Christmas Day.

What is Christmas?

Christmas is our response to God’s gift to us of His Son, and we give gifts to others in celebration and imitation of that love shown to us by God.

I have made it my mission the last several years to “reset” the true meaning of Christmas before the season even starts.  It’s like a re-wiring, so that when the media barrage starts, it sort of pings off my kids instead of seeping into their little bones.  We do this in several ways, and I have shared those in past year’s blog. Of course, our sweet Charlie Brown Christmas tree that stands in our family room seems to bulge with gifts as Christmas Day arrives, and the gift opening is joyous and wonderful, but I know (hope!) that deep inside, my kids understand it’s about more than this frenzied unwrapping of The List.

I just read a post on Facebook from my dear friend Wendy Edwards as to how she is hoping to set her kids up for the excitement of gifts while helping them to see the bigger picture of Christmas and I loved it!  With her permission granted, I would love to share her ideas with you:

POST TITLE: GUIDANCE FOR HER CHILDREN’S WISH LISTS

“Offering the children the Christmas wish list guideline again this year…their lists are always insightful…and sometimes really, really funny!”

Something you want, something you need,
Something to wear, something to read.
And something to share, for a girl or a boy,
A ball, a book, a game, or a toy,
To give to another, Christmas joy!

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(Amy jumping in here…I asked Wendy how she implemented this list, and combined it with the scriptures below.  She said the above saying helped her children focus their list and keep it simple.  It created a framework that reduced excess.  The scriptures below were shared with the kids over the course of a week or two, so that they wrapped themselves around the physical list for perspective.  They teach that even though we all love giving and receiving gifts we can hold and touch, there is a bigger picture and a heart attitude we can all enter the Christmas season knowing).

Here are the scriptures that go with the passage above:

SOMETHING YOU WANT  (His provision is abundant, beyond our needs)

I Timothy  6:17     Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Psalm 37:4   Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.

SOMETHING YOU NEED  (His omniscience He knows our need)

33   So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
SOMETHING TO WEAR (His provision/spiritual clothes)

Matthew 6:28-30    And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?


Ephesians 6:13-16  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

SOMETHING TO READ (His word)

Psalm 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.

Psalm 119:45-47 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.

SOMETHING TO SHARE (the blessing in giving, and for the last one– in receiving )
II Cor 9:7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

So, I hope this helped you as it helped me this year.  Instead of The List becoming the central hope, expectation, and culmination, let it be Jesus!Blessings to you during this Christmas season!

~Amy

 

10 Things

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I heard recently someone say that the best way to get through difficult times is to recite ten things you are thankful for every day.  It’s all about perspective, right?  If we have tunnel vision regarding our circumstances, and we are only focused on what is going wrong, we lose perspective, and things become dark and heavy in our hearts.

However, if we are somehow (and this is not always easy) able to find a few things each and every day to be thankful for we find ourselves feeling lighter, and our circumstances, while still grim, don’t quite overpower us like they did the day before.

A few years ago I heard another quote that has literally changed my life.  The quote read, “Life can be hard and good at the same time.”  At the time I heard those words, I had been working under a belief system that when things were hard, THEY WERE JUST HARD.  Somehow the difficulty I was experiencing in my life stepped on to the stage and everything else had to sit down and wait for the difficulty to remove itself, and then the good things could stand up and be forefront in my life again. Silly!!  Where did I get that?  So when I heard that BOTH could take front and center it changed me.  I began to focus on being thankful for the good things that were always going on (truly, I can always find at least 10 things to be thankful for, and rarely if ever can I find 10 things to be struggling with).

The pilgrims, who left their lives of familiarity in England, and crossed treacherous seas in unfathomable travel conditions to make a new life for themselves in a new land filled with hope and promise, experienced difficulties beyond compare once they reached what we now know as America.  Death of children, spouses, hunger, cold, attacked by those defending their land, were just a few of the trials they overcame.  Yet, they persevered, and the very circumstances they were in made them MORE grateful for what they had.  Hence, the Thanksgiving Feast they celebrated.  They gave thanks for what they had–hope, shelter, native friends who helped them learn to successfully grow food, freedom to practice their faith, and for God, who had brought them this far.  They knew life could be both hard and good at the same time.

This Thanksgiving week, try this experiment.  Starting today, right now in fact, list 10 things you are thankful for.  I’m sure that won’t even scratch the surface.

Then tomorrow, write 10 more, and the next day 10 more.  They can be the same things, or new.  Try to do this through the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  Let’s not just say were thankful, let’s know it in our hearts.

“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he endures forever.” Psalm 118:28-29

 

 

Easter Is Not A Time…

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Easter is not a time for groping through dusty, musty tomes or tombs to disprove spontaneous generation or even to prove  life eternal.  It is a day to fan the ashes of dead hope, a day to banish doubts and seek the slopes where the sun is rising, to revel in the faith which transports us out of ourselves and the dead past into the vast and inviting unknown.  ~Author unknown, as quoted in the Lewiston Tribune

 

But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
My God shall raise me up, I trust.  ~Walter Raleigh

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On Easter Day the veil between time and eternity thins to gossamer.  ~Douglas Horton

The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world.  Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice.  But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.  ~Henry Knox Sherrill

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The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.  ~Robert Flatt

Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.  ~Clarence W. Hall

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