Believe it or not, my youngest daughter is no longer counting down the days until Christmas. She's now using our advent calendar to count down to something that in her mind is a bigger event. You see, about four years ago, her best friend moved away -- a long way away. She's seen him about once a year since then. On Dec. 20, he arrives with his family on an airplane, and on Dec. 21, he will be at our house. The best part as far as my youngest is concerned is that he is most likely moving back for good. My youngest is counting the days until her friendship is restored to what she considers its rightful state.
She's more excited about her friend coming back than she is about whatever Santa is going to bring or any other Christmas tradition that we have. And that got me to thinking about some of our Christmas traditions. Many of our favorite Christmas traditions revolve around our friends. It just seems that Christmas is a time when we can take a step back and appreciate those people in our lives who are there to laugh with us when life is good and who are there to pick up the pieces when the world shatters around us.
God created us to be social beings, and the Bible talks a lot about the importance of good friends. Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times," and John 15:13 tells us "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." God gives us a beautiful picture of friendship in Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David and Jesus and his disciples. We are not meant to go through life alone, and Christmas is the perfect time to nurture both our friendships and our children's friendships.
Help your kids to show their friends how much they value them. Small acts of service or a heartfelt gift will make your kids' friends feel loved and special.
- Ask your kids to tell you why they think friendship is important. Share with them the story of Jonathan and David. Talk about how Jonathan was willing to sacrifice for his friend. Talk about the types of sacrifices we can make for our friends -- choosing to let them play with a new toy or letting them go first in a game.
- Help your child to celebrate his friendships by letting him design and make gifts for them. Easy things for kids to make include cards with a piece of candy inside, a simple Christmas ornament, a snow globe made out of a baby food jar or necklaces or bracelets made out of beads. A plate of cookies has never been turned down by any kid I know.
- Make it a point to have friends in your home during the holiday season. Whether it's a cookie party for your kids and their friends or a Christmas open house for friends of the entire family or a quiet dinner with another family, place value on spending time with friends during the holidays.
Celebrate the birth of Jesus with your friends. Have a good time, and be sure to thank God for placing those people in your lives. After all, Matthew 18:20 says "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." So, gather, be merry and celebrate Jesus' birth.