Ready or not, the Christmas season is upon us.A week ago, we were celebrating Thanksgiving and now we’re into December, carols are playing everywhere. The stores have tons of items begging us to buy that perfect gift for Christmas, providing that you are even able to go to the store right now. Where I live, stores are still open, but on a limited basis. Of course there are always the super stores that have groceries and everything, one stop shopping for sure. Yet things are different this year. Many are wondering about getting together with families and buying online has reached new heights.Some people are suggesting we skip Christmas this year. Skipping Christmas? How can you skip celebrating Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior? Whatever your holiday is looking like this year, before getting wrapped up in all the preparations and all the concerns, let’s pause to give thanks.
I’m giving thanks that I am healthy and well and my family is well. Yes, we do have some challenges as most families do, but we are very thankful to be a family and to be able to be there for each other. I am also thankful for God and as I alluded to earlier, I am thankful that Jesus came to earth. He is alive, He is with us and He loves us.
I’m thankful for creation and for seasons. Right now the trees are bare. No snow in my neck of the woods, but it is definitely feeling like winter, crisp cool mornings and evenings, frost on the ground. This too is a beautiful season even if not much is growing. I feel like the barren season of winter is God’s way of giving us rest if we dare to embrace it. I know what you’re saying right now, “Rest? What do you mean rest? My kids are on Zoom with school, I’m trying to work from home and I still have Christmas preparations to think about.” But try to embrace the longer nights and shorter days. Go ahead and go to bed early some night providing you can get your kids in bed early. Sit quietly and read or enjoy looking at the lights on your Christmas tree. Pray! Give yourself permission to rest.
I’m thankful that God loves people. We are important to Him. Why? I can’t begin to comprehend, except that He sees us as His children and He loves us. He thinks of us all the time – more thoughts than we can count. He knows what concerns us, what we need, what we are thinking about, what is best for us and what we dream about. He cares for us everyday.
I’m thankful for music. I love music. I love Christmas carols, classical music, rock, jazz. I even like some rap once in awhile. But what I really like is that music gives us an opportunity to praise and worship God and it can be done by all ages. Babies connect with music and love to hear someone playing an instrument or singing too. It soothes and delights them. It’s fun to hear young children singing or trying to at least. Right now, singing in church is discouraged because of the pandemic, yet we can sing in our hearts and our homes and all of us can listen to music. So turn up that music and be thankful.
While this year is certainly different from past years, maybe that’s a good thing. It’s giving us all a chance to consider what is really important. Perhaps it’s not all the beautiful decorations, lights and preparations that are important. It’s not that perfect present, the parties and the creative gift wrapping – although I enjoy all of that. Rather Christmas is a birthday. It’s a time to remember and celebrate Jesus, the one who came to be with us. Feeling frazzled, frenzied or just blue this Christmas? Pause, think of the stable, definitely not a perfect setting for the birth of a baby, let alone the birth of the King go Kings. Yet He came. He came because He loved us. Oh and about that perfect present, what is it? It’s love.
God, above all else, show us how to love this Christmas. Amen
God, As I look forward to celebrating the birth of your Son, Jesus, slow me down. Help me make moments to pause and reflect on the wonderment of what you have done for me in giving Jesus. I don’t want to lose sight of your amazing love. Remind me to pause and give thanks, embracing this season, this year as best I can. I know you are the God of the impossible. I look to you with awe and wonderment. Children get this, Lord! They get the wonder of Christmas and they believe. Help me to nurture this in my children and help me to once again catch that wonderment in a very unusual year, that wonderment of your presence with us. Amen
WELCOMING JESUS THIS CHRISTMAS
How can you welcome Jesus into your family’s holiday festivities? Consider these ideas to get you started.
* Make room in your schedule for family and faith. It’s so easy to get wrapped up (sometimes literally!) in all the preparations – the gift buying, getting your house ready, etc. and lose sight of what is really important. Scale back. Schedule some fun family times – maybe a family game night or looking at lights. Also include time to reflect on why we celebrate Christmas. Attend a Christmas Eve service with your family – you can do this safely by attending a drive-up service or a drive through live nativity.
* Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and sing, “Happy Birthday!”
* Include giving – There are many ways to give and many worthy causes. Give online. Round up your purchase at the grocery store. Help an elderly neighbor by bringing them groceries.
* Connect with friends and family. This year is different. Many are not going to be able to get together with family due to health concerns, social distancing, etc. That doesn’t mean you can’t connect virtually. Have the grandkids read or act out the Christmas story for grandma and grandpa via Zoom, face time or other virtual sights.
* Turn up the Christmas music and sing along with gusto! It doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune or not.
* Invest in a Christmas devotional for yourself and read a little bit each day. Savor the time you spend reading and thinking about Jesus. I recommend – “The Christmas Story” by G.A. Myers and
“Resting Merry” by Duane S. Montague
* Don’t forget to make time for surprises – Receive and give with wonderment. A simple surprise might be to write a note of encouragement for someone.
* Give the gift of empathy. Slow down, focus on the people around you. Extend grace. You will gain by slowing down too.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS THIS WEEK
SHARE A STORY: Thank God – Psalm 8 – Simplified for Preschoolers
Let’s talk about another Psalm from God’s very special book, the Bible. This Psalm says that even babies can praise God! Even though you are still little, God loves to hear you praise and thank Him. You are not too little to love God and be who He made you to be.
Here’s what Psalms 8 says:
1 God’s name is the most wonderful in all the earth!
2 From the mouths of children and babies come songs of praise to God. – (Sing, “La, La, La!” or “God is amazing!”)
3 I look at the heavens you made with your hands… the moon and the stars you created. – (Reach for the stars.)
4 I wonder, “Why people are so important to you?“ – It’s amazing to think that with all God made and did, we are important to Him. He is always thinking about us. – (Say, “Thank you God, that I am important to you!”)
6 But we are. He made us to take care of everything on earth. – We can care for the animals, birds and fish and best of all, we can love and care for each other. (Birds – Flap arms. Fish – Put hands together and wiggle them. Love – Place hands on heart.)
9 Lord, your name is the most wonderful name in all the earth! -Remember, love God and love others. We can tell our friends about our wonderful, amazing God. We can thank God for making us just the way He wanted us to be. You are important to God and He loves to hear you praise Him!
I know that I’m important to you. You made me in a special way to care for your world and to care for others. Even though I’m little, I can love and thank you. Amen
Celebrate God – Psalm 8 -paraphrased for Preschoolers
KNOW: God made me to thank Him.
TALK ABOUT: God cares for me. I am important to Him.
MEMORIZE: Psalms 150:6 – (Hold hands as though holding a book.)
Let everything – (Spread hands out to the side.)
That has breath – (Take a deep breath.)
Praise the Lord – (Wave arms above head.)
ASK: Who made you? God made me.
AND DO… Praise & thank God.
FUN IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK
* Make and frost cupcakes and thank God for who He is Thank Him for all He created. Thank Him that He made you, you belong to Him and He cares for you.
* Tell a friend, “God made you. God loves you and you are important to Him.