Odds and Ends

We have a collapsed gingerbread house sitting on our kitchen table. This year, I bought a gingerbread kit that included several little houses instead of one big one. The girls decorated them and we sat our gingerbreas village on the table as our centerpiece. Apparently, yesterday my oldest daughter hit one of them by accident -- and it collapsed in a heap. What was once a beautifully decorated gingerbread house is now just a heap of icing and gingerbread.

Looking at it reminds me of how we can build up the "perfect" Christmas in our minds, and then our expectations are shattered by a hurtful word from a family member, a party that didn't go as planned or a gift from a spouse that didn't meet our expectations. I don't know when Christmas -- a season of joy -- became the holiday that has to be perfect -- making it a season of stress.

Jesus wasn't born in a stable to make our lives stressful. He came so His sacrifice on the cross could create a bridge between us and God. No matter how hard we try, we can't be perfect. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," says Romans 3:23. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus said "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." God doesn't want us to spend the Christmas season stressing about the perfect season or the perfect gift. He wants us to celebrate the joy that comes from having a relationship with Him.

So, leave your perfect Christmas dreams behind and find joy in the collapsed gingerbread house, the lopsided angel on the top of the tree, the off-key singing of carols and the strand of lights on your house that has the top bulb burned out. The joy of Christmas is found in Jesus, not in your own perfection.

I've been asked a couple of times to elaborate on what I put in my envelopes that help my kids serve others every day. Here's a few examples:

  • Help a classmate today.
  • Ring the Salvation Army bell.
  • Take cookies to a neighbor.
  • Find a way to help your teacher today.
  • Find a way to help your sister today.
  • Be an encourager today,
  • Do something nice for the lunch ladies today.
  • Find a way to help your mom today.
  • Buy a toy and donate it to toys for tots.
  • Donate some food to the food pantry.

Keep it simple and achievable. Have your kids report back to you at the end of the day how they did. If you miss a day, don't worry about it. Just start again the next day.

I wanted to offer a few ideas on things we do at our cookie party as well. I treat it like I treat a birthday party. Obviously, we decorate cookies, which usually takes 30-45 minutes. After that, we've done a variety of things. Here are some ideas:

  • Take the kids Christmas caroling around the neighborhood.
  • Make aprons.
  • Make Santa hats.
  • Have relay races to decorate a tree or put up all the pieces of a nativity scene on the wall.
  • Take pictures, print them off and let the kids make their own scrapbook page or picture frame.
  • Make gingerbread house crafts.
  • Talk with the kids about whose birthday Christmas is.
  • Make ornaments for them to take home and hang on their tree.

Our party is usually not super elaborate, but the kids have lots of fun. Make your activities suit your kids and their friends.

No matter what activities you choose to do with your kids this Christmas season, remember to keep the focus on Jesus. He is the reason for the season.