I strove to really keep this Christmas season focused on Christ. I purposed to step out from the "traffic" of commercialism and refocus my family on what the Season is really about. I re-evaluated my priorities before this Holiday Season began and realized that even those things that seemed really good, spiritual or held at Church, in the past, have taken me away from Him and focus on what really is most important. In the fall, I had done a Bible study on my own called Becoming a Woman of Simplicity by Cynthia Heald. She wrote "My concern is that we live in a world where doing, communicating, and possessing so rule our lives that we have allowed even good things to overtake our time and distract from the best." I was guilty and determined to make this Season different this year for not only me but more importantly, my children. I wanted them to truly take in the reason we celebrate, shift their focus from school and getting "stuff" to Christ.
Luckily, I have never been too hard focused on "stuff" -so my kids are good about that aspect. Though we have certainly been blessed with plenty of it - like most Americans. However, the pull on my children's hearts is there by just being in our society as it's everywhere we looked - television, stores and with people we encounter in our lives on a daily basis. Everything screaming - buy more stuff! Cynthia writes "Noise and words and frenzied, hectic schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to his still, small voice and making us numb to his touch." So we slowed down this year. We said no to lots of "good" things but saved our selves for the "best" thing - time and presence with our Savior.
So how do you "step out from the traffic" of the Christmas season?
How I did this was to begin with a King Jesus Tree. We kicked off December 1st as we refocused why we decorated a tree - we read and discussed who came up with the idea and how does it reflect Christ? (google St. Boniface) We then made a tree that "announced Christ Jesus as King" -to the world that would enter our home and to our hearts for the season. See my full post on this process of making a King Jesus Tree in December 2012 posts.
Next we decided to do begin our Jesse Tree. Here is a good one to use Jesse tree ornaments and instructions. Each day we would read the selected passage and hang our ornament on the "tree". I decided to use a couple of "branches" that we went out and scouted. The reason I used the branches is because of Isaiah 11:1 "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." I used it to illustrate the idea of tracing the branching lineage of a family and to be true to the text on "a branch from his roots will bear fruit". Here was our final Jesse Tree completed.
We also weekly did our Advent wreath. We would read the text, discuss the information presented and then make a craft related to the week's lesson. We hung them on our Jesse branches. :) You can google advent practices and find lots of different ones and ways to celebrate Advent. We chose to do the Names of Jesus and this focused on 4 different names for Jesus related to his coming. I can't for the life of me find it again on the web - however, I do have it if anyone wants it they can e-mail me and I'll forward them the pdf file.
We made a lapbook for the 12 days of Christmas. This lapbook covered the traditional singing element but then it also intertwined the Christian meanings of each of the 12 symbols. It was very fun and we enjoyed it. Here is the link for that. http://www.homeschoolshare.com/twelve_days_of_christmas.php
We borrowed multiple books from the Library one week and spent the week reading a couple a day - things like the Living Nativity (story of St. Francis of Assisi) and others that reflected the true origins of the celebration we call Christmas.
We also did a Christmas Party for the kids focused on the various traditions celebrated in various Countries. This was a really fun event and we did a skit called "Is Jesus Better than Santa?" which punctuated the contrast of the season.
We made lots of homemade ornaments, hand and footprint Christmas crafts which I blogged previously and we made homemade cards. We took homemade ornaments and cards around to our neighbors who were a single Mom and a widow.
Lastly, on Christmas day we started with our Jesse Tree - reading the final text and hanging our final ornament. Next we made homemade french toast with Panettone bread. We did our Advent Wreath after breakfast and made a birthday cake for Jesus to celebrate later with friends. We then opened our limited gifts. We had close friends over and celebrated with dinner and a birthday party for Christ ending our day with singing and eating cake together. It was one of the most joyful Holiday seasons that was truly focused on Christ that I have had and I'm so thankful that I began the Season purposeful to make it a true celebration of Jesus Christ.