Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The other Christmas Book...

Of course THE Christmas Book that is the guide for the whole celebration is the Bible. You really don't need any other book to make Christmas happen. Meditating on God's Word and letting it dwell richly in your heart is the key to the most successful of all Christmas celebrations. And if you'll carry that habit with you into the new year, you'll find yourself not only celebrating Christ's birth, but you'll catch yourself celebrating the joy of knowing Jesus each and every day.

AFTER the Bible, the book that I find most helpful for the holiday season is The Christmas Book. You see, our church's women's ministry hosts a wonderful event early in November each year. It features breakfast, a devotional talk, wonderful music, and workshops designed to help women prepare their hearts and homes for the holiday season that goes from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

At that event one year, I had the blessing of attending a seminar by an amazing woman of God name Debby. She is an interior designer and hostess extraordinaire. Although I learned enough to keep me busy for years to come, the one take-away that I went home and implemented immediately was The Christmas Book. Think of it as Holiday Headquarters.

Here is my Christmas Book. It is a two-inch, three-ring binder. The cover is courtesy of my youngest child.

Inside, The Christmas Book has dividers separating the different sections. The pages in each section are secured in page protectors to keep them safe and clean.

Here are two pages from the Advent section. Under Advent, we keep printouts of the Advent verses we use from year to year.

And here is a print out of Jesse tree symbols used as a kids' craft.

The recipe section holds ALL the recipes for the entire season, from Thanksgiving favorites to our Christmas Eve chili dinner to our Christmas Day Big Family Meal. Christmas cookie recipes, quick and easy meals for the hectic December schedule and actual menu plans are included in the recipe section too. As Debby pointed out in the workshop, if you go ahead and plan your meals from Thanksgiving through Christmas ahead of time, you can take advantage of the sales and shop very economically. Choosing your cookie recipes well in advance allows you to plan for teacher and neighbor presents as well as entertaining.

One of my favorite sections is the gifts section. I keep our master Christmas list in here each year... the list of who got what and our gift-giving budget. I write down teacher gifts and neighbor gifts and the years that we make those gifts, I snap a picture to remember what we did. But my favorite part of the gift section is the kids' Christmas lists that they wrote themselves. Such treasures!

All those Christmas workshops yield a wealth of ideas, so I have a section devoted to notes from that women's ministry event, as well as articles I find in magazines or online that deal with organizing and planning and strategies to keep Christ in the center of Christmas.

We have a section for Christmas cards and letters, where we have placed a copy of each letter we've sent out and each card. We keep printouts of names and addresses of people to whom we send cards. This year, we started a new tradition and put the Christmas letter on our family blog. I'll print it out and put it in the book too.

An entertaining section holds copies of party invitations and plans for gatherings we've hosted and attended. Plus some ideas we'd love to try in the future.

The final official section is for decorating and crafts. It holds pictures and directions that we've found in magazines as well as photos we've taken while out and about during the holiday season. It is our headquarters for future creative plans and our handbook for "how we did that" so we can do it again in years to come.

The Christmas Book allows me to be purposeful during the holidays. When I plan well, I have time to spend in fellowship with my sweet Savior and time to enjoy my family and friends.

I even have secret plans for the plan book. Since The Christmas Book is as much a history book as an organizational tool, I have all our family traditions from devotions to recipes to parties in one place. When my daughter marries, I'll give her a Christmas Book of her very own, complete with copies of the devotionals and recipes we've used over the years. She and her husband will make their own traditions, but she will carry to her new home a legacy from her family. While I'm at it, I think I'll make a couple more for my daughters-in-law too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13-14

Well... that's a pretty bizarre Scripture for a post about taking down Christmas decorations and organizing the attic. Granted, it's not what you'd expect, but hang close for a little bit.

While the season of Christmas continues through Epiphany, life marches on and we are off work or out of school or have help at home on a schedule that is often beyond our control. Some of us had all the decorations down and stored away by the end of the day, December 26th. Some of us will hurry to get trees and garlands down before January 1st so we can start the new year with a clean, organized house. Some of us will take down lights and put away the Nativity sets next weekend. And some of us... well... some of us will still be eating off the Christmas dishes right on into February... or March. Maybe the last of the decorations will be down by the time the bunnies come out. Maybe.

There is really no one set time or way of un-decorating a home that is better than another. God made you exactly the way He intended to make you. Sure, we live in a fallen world and are fallen beings, but the bottom line is that He created some of us to want it DOWN as close to 12:01 AM on December 26th as possible and some of us not to care whether there's a Santa on the side table in July. Where the rubber hits the road is in whether we keep Christmas in our hearts by focusing on Jesus daily like we did during Advent, no matter where the decorations are sitting.

At some point or another most of us are going to pack up the pretties and when we do, here are a couple of ideas to make the season of celebrating Christmas 2009 a little easier.

When you pack up everything, put your Advent calendars and wreath in a separate box from the rest of the decorations.

And as you store everything away in your attic or basement or closet, make sure you put the Advent box ON TOP and if possible IN FRONT of all the other boxes. Then, no matter where you are in your Christmas preparations when December 1st rolls around, you have everything at your fingertips to start the celebration.

A little planning in the present promises big rewards for the future.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Neat ideas we tried this year...

We hope your family had a chance to try a few new things this season that added to your holy-days. We would LOVE to hear from you about the neat ideas you tried this year.

Here are a couple of ours...

One of the things we did in our family is to help mitigate the schedule mania of Christmas programs and parties was to eat off of paper plates on the evenings we had out-of-the-house commitments. It made cleaning the kitchen a breeze and left us cleaned up and quiet in the evening, when we did our Advent devotionals along with our family prayer time.

As the after-Christmas sales ARE in full effect, it provides an opportunity to stock up on the things we can use for next year ... like paper products.

Another neat thing that we discovered this Christmas season has been the "guest wall." We took a large vinyl tablecloth and cut it in half. Then we taped it to a wall using painter's tape and placed a small table with a cup of Sharpie markers on it next to the vinyl banner. Our guests signed the banner and now we have a record of who has been by to celebrate Christmas with us. What a great idea for New Year's and birthdays and anniversaries and bowl game parties too!

What were your new ideas this year? Please take a second to share.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas...

Thanks to friends who are sending neat emails and the ease of finding information on the Internet, I thought it might be fun to take a look at the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Let's face it, if it weren't for the song, most of us in the U.S. wouldn't have a clue about the existence of Christmastide.

Modern tradition has us following the schedule set by retail merchants, instead of old church tradition. Have you noticed that? If left to the secular schedule, everything we do centers around decorating and buying presents from the beginning of October through December 24th. We get the 25th off to spend time at home and rest up for all those after-Christmas sales that keep us hopping and retailers' merchandise liquidating until the beginning of the new year.

Not that there's anything wrong with a good after-Christmas sale, mind you. Taking advantage of the discounted decorations and paper products and seasonal gifts gives us a head start on next year's celebration and also helps us be good stewards of the resources with which the Lord has blessed us.

But let's not jump on the world's little wagon and forget that this is our season to celebrate. The Savior HAS come. He was here on earth in the flesh. He did what the Father said He was going to do. He paid the price in every way for all the things in us that fall short of His perfection. Once and for all.

That's where the "Twelve Days of Christmas" carol serves as a great reminder of the continuing sacred aspects of the season. Here's a quick run-down of what tradition (albeit debatable) holds to be the deeper meaning of each gift given on each day.

On the ____ day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

1st ... a partridge in a pear tree ... Jesus! We celebrate His birthday on Christmas Day.

2nd ... two turtle doves ... the Old and New Testaments which reflect the love of the Father for His people

3rd ... three french hens ... the three virtues of faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13:13)

4th ... four calling birds ... the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John which proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the world

5th ... five gold rings ... the books of the Torah (or Pentateuch) ... Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

6th ... six geese a-laying ... the six days of creation

7th ... seven swans a-swimming ... the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit .. prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy (Romans 12:6-8)

8th ... eight maids a-milking ... the Beatitudes ... Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10)

9th ... nine ladies dancing ... the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

10th ... ten lords a-leaping ... the Ten Commandments ... no other gods before me; do not make idols; do not take the Lord's name in vain; remember the Sabbath to keep it holy; honor you father and mother; do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not covet (Exodus 20:1-17)

11th ... eleven pipers piping ... the eleven faithful apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James (Luke 6:14-16)

12th ... twelve drummers drumming ... the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed (which vary in different versions):

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

And the biggest blessing of all? These gifts come from our True Love!

Here are some additional resources on the Twelve Days of Christmas...

Twelve Days of Christmas devotionals

Twelve Days of Christmas coloring sheets for kids

Twelve Days of Christmas, the song

Saturday, December 27, 2008


We love Christmas lights. Blessedly, around where we live, most people keep their homes lit up until New Year's. If you didn't get a chance to drive around and see the Christmas lights before December 25th, then go ahead and go out now! Remember that the Christ of Christmas is shining in our hearts now and for all eternity... celebrate!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Celebration Continues ... by Shannon

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

Psalm 5:3 (NIV)

In our family, the Christmas season didn't end until the magi arrived. No decoration could be removed until Epiphany … the tree stayed up, all ornaments were left untouched, and the stockings were even returned to the hearth as if Santa never came. Just as the season of Advent was our recognized period of waiting for the Christ child to arrive, the span between Christmas Day and Epiphany was time to wait for the three kings (yep, I know now it wasn't necessarily three and that they were magi not kings, but I didn't know that then!).

I always felt like something was missing when I visited friends' houses in late December and early January and saw the Christmas decorations cleared away so quickly. It made my heart sad to see the twinkling Christmas lights go dark on the 26th. I felt like shouting, "It's not over yet! The season isn't complete! We're supposed to still be waiting!"

And yet how often do I hurry on with my life, living as if Christ didn't come or at least isn't relevant today? I am so hasty to move into the rest of the week once Sunday has passed, or to dive into the next season once Christmas or Easter is over, or to simply rush into my day after a brief morning devotion. I rarely allow myself to sit and wait in expectation before the Lord as the psalmist did. Just as I was sad for my friends to miss out on celebrating Epiphany like my family did, what is God sad that I'm missing today? What blessings would I see if I would only wait?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmastide! ...

Let's go back and take a second look at what Jan Dargatz wrote about Christmastide in her wonderful little book 52 Simple Ways to Make Christmas Special...
The grand celebration of Christmastide, the twelve days beginning with Christmas Day. It is during this time that Christians around the world have traditionally "made merry" with joyous abandon. Christmastide is a time for family and friends, for singing and feasting, for sending greetings and hosting parties. It is a time for rejoicing that heaven has struck a path all the way to the very gates of hell and has invited every human being to walk upon it toward everlasting life.
Today is the first day of Christmastide! Celebrate!!! While we contemplate the darkness of the world before Christ and our need of Him in our own lives during Advent, today we celebrate! He has come!!! God sent a Savior!!!

I hope sometime during the day you've taken the opportunity to celebrate the birth of our Savior with "joyous abandon." What a treasure He is!

We're going to stay together celebrating the Christ of Christmas through Epiphany, January 6th, so please... stay with us for this most festive, joyful part of the season.

Jesus is the Savior ...

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swadding cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those
with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

~Luke 2:1-21

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Awaiting the arrival of the Savior...

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them a light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
. . . . .
For to us a child is born
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2-3, 6

Perfection ... by Shannon

I usually decorate our Christmas tree. My husband, Lee, helps, but he asks me where everything should go. (Although, I must admit that somehow his Santa-with-a-shotgun ornament – yes, he's a good ole Southern boy – always ends up aimed at the deer ornament, and that has never been my doing!) This year was different; this year I had a helper: Jocelyn, who will turn two in January.

Before this year, our Noah's ark set of ornaments were always grouped near each other; this year, Noah is nowhere near his wife, the lion can't see his lioness, and the other pairs are all in places that Jocelyn deemed best (including the penguin who is hanging from the nightlight in her bedroom). In previous years, our plain ball ornaments were placed in the recesses of the tree to make it look fuller (especially this year, since our artificial tree is beginning to show that it was a great deal when we bought it as newlyweds); this year, Jocelyn decided that all the ball ornaments needed prominent positioning, since one of her favorite words is "ball." No ornament is where I would have placed it (except for her, my, and Lee's baby's first Christmas ornaments; those I placed near the top as usual), but it's beautiful. Special. Perfect. In a word, it's us. And I love it.

The biggest difference, though, is in how the ornaments were treated. I have my favorite ornaments, those with special meaning or memories or those that are just prettier. I usually hide some less favored ornaments in less conspicuous places, like the back of the tree or its interior, and reserve special spots for my beloved ornaments. This year, though, every ornament was beloved. Jocelyn carefully examined each, lovingly kissed each, and painstakingly selected the perfect spot for each.

My friend, isn't that the message of Christmas? God so loved the world (each of His "ornaments") that He sent His one and only Son so that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life (a perfectly picked spot on His tree). He doesn't have favorites. He doesn't hide some of us away and show off others. On our tree, the ornaments this year were the same ornaments as last year; their monetary value didn't change. But, in how Jocelyn treated each, their worth did. When Christ came, the value of each person didn't change. But, as He paid the price for each of us, our worth was changed forever. Now that's worth celebrating! Merry Christmas!

Friends' Brunch ... by Melanie

One of my favorite traditions for the last 15 years has been the Friends' Brunch. Having been in a Bible study that had fellowships which encouraged sharing what we had learned and how we had been changed by studying God's Word together, I was struck by the richness of fellowship with women that I didn't even know that well. I thought what a blessing it would be to have that kind of sharing with friends with whom I had a history, but didn't get to see as often during the year. That began the tradition of gathering friends (new and old) for a brunch in the weeks before Christmas to focus on Christ.

At the brunch, everyone has an opportunity to share specifically a lesson the Lord has taught them over the past year. After we eat, there is a spiritual prompt for sharing, such as,

*What has God taught you about Himself this year?
*What atribute of God has been most precious to you this year and why?
*How had He encouraged you through His Word?

Each year, it is an encouragement to hear ones so dear share of God's sovereignty and faithfulness in joys and in sorrows.

In the first years I cooked all of the food, used the fine china and silver... but now many bring a dish to share. The sharing time is more important than the food---but the food is always good! Who doesn't love a brunch?!

Each year I pray for some visual reminder that each woman attending can take home with her -- sometimes it's a verse on a pretty card or bookmark. One year we made attribute ornaments together. One of the first years we each wrote down on a piece of paper what we were giving to Jesus for His birthday that year. Each of us had a small box and we used those scraps of wrapping paper (that never fit anything you wrap, but you still don't' want to throw them away) to wrap our gift to Jesus to put under the tree or in a place that it would be seen to serve as a reminder that we are celebrating Jesus. Each year God is faithful to bring to mind some little goodie that points us all to Jesus to share with each of those who come.

As we focus on Him, we are all encouraged.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beyond the manger ... by Shannon

This year when my mom, who loves Nativity sets, asked what Jocelyn might like for Christmas, I mentioned the Fisher Price Little People set. Since Advent was always a big deal in our home, I shouldn't have been surprised to find the set, along with the coordinating inn and wise men sets, on our doorstep in time for the beginning of the Advent season. We cleared off a side table to allow for the manger, the inn, and the wise men to each occupy a level, and Jocelyn has loved it!

She ignores most of the characters, just playing with the animals, except for baby Jesus. In the pictures above you may have noticed that the main man is missing from the scene. That's because Jocelyn runs around the house with the figure that she calls "baby 'sus." She covers him with kisses and shoves him in the cats' faces, shouting "baby 'sus" the entire time. Occasionally, she gets distracted and leaves the baby somewhere, but she always returns to find him (sometimes after an extensive search). Thus, baby Jesus is rarely in the Nativity set.

As I thought about this, it brought to mind how easy it is for all of us to leave Jesus in the manger. Babies are pretty safe and unintimidating, right? We're often more comfortable with Him in the manger as a babe than we are, for example, as a man clearing the money changers out of the temple. And we're often more comfortable leaving Jesus in His place in the manager … or perhaps at church after Christmas Eve or Easter or just a typical Sunday worship service … than we are taking Him with us in our lives, carrying Him around, giving Him kisses with the way we live our lives, and sharing His message to others (though, unlike Jocelyn's approach with the cats, not shoving Him in their faces!).

I think we'll be beginning a new tradition this year. As I pack up our Nativity set this year, I'll be leaving baby 'sus out as a reminder that He entered His human life in a stable but that He was never meant to stay there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Christmas ...

'Tis that time of year when carolers sing
Of the manger where Jesus lay;
How there was no soft pillow to cradle His head,
Only a mattress of hay.

Then our thoughts dart foward
To a cross on a hill,
And Jesus, by choice, hanging there,
By the world rejected still.

And for just a moment we feel so sad
As we think of the price He paid;
But He gave His life freely; He loved us that much,
And He triumphed over the grave!

It's Christmas, my beloved friends,
And 'midst all the "hullabaloo"
Let's not lose sight of the simple fact
That He did what He came to do!

The Bethlehem manger is empty,
And bare is Calvary's tree;
The Savior of the world now lives... YOU and ME.

Copyright ©2008 Melvin Bennett

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jesus is our Joy...

And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices
in God my Savior..."
Luke 1:46-47

And the angel said to them,
"Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day
in the city of David
a Savior who is
Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:10-11

When they saw the star,
They rejoiced exceedingly
with great joy.
Matthew 2:10

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Traditions ... by Tina

Here are a few things we have done over the years to celebrate Christmas...

On Christmas Eve, our family usually goes out for an early dinner around 4:00pm (there have been times when we just had a special dinner at home). Most years we invite another family to join us to celebrate the evening. After dinner we go to the 6:00 Love Feast service. After the service our family goes home for the kids to open one small gift which is usually pajamas, house shoes or something fun for the kids to do that evening.


Occasionally my extended family will come for Christmas. Last year, my mom and dad were here and they gave each of the kids a new Bible for Christmas. My husband, Steve, did something very special... he asked my dad to pray a special blessing over the kids. He had the kids get on their knees in front of them and my dad laid his hands on them and said a prayer of blessing for each of them. Although it was a little awkward for the kids, it was a very precious moment for me and I pray that our kids will always be grateful and remember their Christian heritage.


One of our annual traditions -- that I routinely vow to start earlier on or not do the following year -- is our family Christmas letter. In the beginning I would do a separate letter for family and friends, church staff, and youth workers. That idea quickly dissolved after a few years -- especially after we moved a few times and our mailing list grew -- and it has become one compiled letter for the masses. My current mailing list is more than 200 recipients... so now that the kids are older we have brought them in to help with the assembly. It has been written using different themes... simple holiday greetings from our house to yours, more elaborate letters including a page of pictures, a year of firsts for our family, special memories of the previous year, a letter written by our kids, and then there was that one year ... when I had a great idea of writing about the "Twelve Months before Christmas," which included pictures. It ended up being five pages long!!! Can you imagine us printing and stapling 1,000 pages, not to mention addressing and stamping all those letters? After that year, we have gone to one page letters and one Christmas card photo. Seriously, the annual letters have really become a highlight for our family (now having to be approved by our three teenagers before sending out) as they record a little family history about each year. We've been told by family and friends that we don't see often that they love keeping up with our family through our Christmas letter.

Photography by Heather for this post...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Eve Book Dinner ... by Ivy

I do not recall what year this family tradition of ours officially started, but since it has we have not missed one year. My parents were both educators and were the entire time I was growing up. My father was a high school teacher teaching several subjects including English, Poetry, American Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Enrichment, and yes the list does go on, believe it or not. If you are wondering... no, never play Trivial Pursuit with the man because you WILL lose. My sister-in-law while she was living with us for a short time challenged him every night for I think a month and still never beat him. Probably the closest anyone HAD come but it still didn't happen.

Anyway, my mother was an elementary teacher teaching 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th. She taught 1st grade the longest and that was truly her favorite age. I say they did teach, as in past tense, because my mom is currently an elementary school principal and my dad is an Instructional Facilitator for the high school.

Okay on with the tradition... since our family was absorbed in education, every year for Christmas my parents would end up buying everyone a book. Somehow (I was too little so I don't remember exactly how) we ended up unwrapping these on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until Christmas morning. I think because we really wanted to open something and my dad usually wanted his book so he could stay up reading it Christmas Eve night waiting for us kids to go to bed so he could put out all our toys! However it happened, my mom would wrap up the books and place them on our plates for our Christmas Eve Dinner. This was a big deal - the good dishes, candlelight, the works! And before dinner we would open our books, ooh and ahh and flip through them, reading the beginning to perk our interest, and then we would have to put them aside while my dad read from THE BOOK: the Bible. My dad would read the Christmas story from one of the gospels (we would mix it up every year) while the rest of us took the Nativity pieces and the first mention of the name of the character we had we would place them in the middle of the table in its right spot! Once books were opened and THE Book was read, then dinner would officially begin! My request was always Cherry Glazed Ham, yum yum!!

Even though both my brother and I are both grown and have families of our own we ALL still do the Christmas Eve Book Dinner!

Photography by Heather for this post...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More collections...

Here are a few more collections from our Friends...



Tatted Christmas crafts ...

Collections as traditions...

My cousin, Barbara, has a Santa collection that would rival anything you've seen in a museum. I"m not talking a mantle full of the jolly ol' elf. I'm talking about house full, with every surface imaginable hosting its own special Santa. She is a collector extraordinaire.

I have to say that I LOVE it when I know people collect a certain type of Christmas-themed objects. It makes gift-giving so much easier.

After hearing from many of you, I realize that those of you who are moms and grandmas and aunts are busy building tree ornament collections for the little ones in the family. We are doing the same. Our tree will be virtually bare once everyone gets married and establishes their own family traditions. On the other hand, their trees will be packed, so they will start their families with traditions in place.

Here is a quick tour of our family's ornament tradition...

Each child in the family has a
Precious Moments First Christmas ornament hanging on our tree.

Our oldest child collects pig Christmas tree ornaments.

Our second child plays football, so each Christmas,
he gets a football ornament.

Our youngest was a Thomas the Tank Engine maniac when he was small. We've decided to keep building that collection in tree ornaments so that he can share it with his children one day.

We write each child's initials and the year on the ornaments to help everyone remember who got what when.

While decorating the tree is distinctly a family affair, the job of taking it down belongs solely to Mom. So when I start untrimming the tree after January 6th, I take the opportunity to pray for my kids as I carefully pack away their ornaments until next Christmas. I pray for them-- for their relationship with the Lord, for their future spouses and children, for their ministries, for anything that the Lord brings to mind during that time. As only the Lord can do, He takes what I would normally see as drudgery and makes it into a beautiful opportunity to spend time worshipping Him and covering my children in prayer. What a blessing!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quick idea...

[There will be a traditions post later tonight, but here's an idea to ponder while you're walking through the stores finishing up your shopping for those difficult-to-buy-for friends and relatives.]

Do you have an old wall frame with a glass front lying around? We had one that once showcased an old movie poster. When our kids outgrew that Disney movie stage, we repurposed the frame for our memory verse center. We painted it black, placed a decorative piece of poster board where the children's print used to be, and hung it on the wall next to our kitchen table.

Now when we eat dinner, we have God's word as a focal point for our conversation. Here is the verse our youngest memorized for school this week:

What a neat way to keep track of your Advent verses too. Write them on the board daily. Or pick just one to focus on for the week. It's another way to remind ourselves Whose season it is!

Or if you're looking for a last minute gift idea for someone, give them a picture frame with a pretty piece of scrapbooking paper where the picture would go. Then type a list of verses that you think would be meaningful to them. Include a dry erase marker and you've given them a special chance to have God's word before them throughout the day.

A couple of things worth noting:

1. The frame needs to have glass in the front, not Plexiglas. Plasticky things will capture your dry erase markings forever. Glass is nonporous and thus, erasable.

2. You can write a verse on the glass before wrapping it, but these are dry erase markers, so it won't likely be as pretty when they open it as it was when you wrote it.

Family Traditions - Part 3 ... by Karen D.

My in-laws host our family every Christmas for lunch. There are certain things that are traditional and make Christmas with them very special. We always have hot apple cider, ambrosia (a recipe passed down from my mother-in-law's mother), electric bells ringing on the front porch when we walk up to the house, and a Christmas pageant starring all the grandchildren. Even though the oldest grandchildren are teenagers and you would expect their enthusiasm to wane, they are eager to participate. They look forward to dressing up, playing their roles, and reading the story of Jesus' birth from Luke.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Family Traditions - Part 2 ... by Karen D.

Another of our family traditions is watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" together. We make it our own by adding homemade hot chocolate and popcorn. Let's not forget pajamas and blankets spread on the floor in front of the TV.


How about luminaries? Our neighborhood does them every year, but according to tradition, only the men in our family set them out and light them. Then as a family, we drive through the neighborhood to "Ooooh" and "Aaaahhh."


We have seven children. Christmas morning is a little chaotic with seven children. Years ago, my husband and I decided that we needed a plan to keep the children from running wildly down the stairs and ruining the surprise before we had a chance to yawn, stretch and rise out of the fog of sleepiness. Here is our plan: the children are instructed the night before that they are not to get out of their beds when they wake up. Instead, they can sit up and begin singing a carol of their choice. As others wake, they join in. When we are awake, we call them to our room and all nine of us sit on the bed and listen to Daddy read Jesus' birthday story. This is followed by agonizing stalling techniques by Dad and Mom. We hav eto brush out teech, find out socks, use the bathroom, fuss with our hair, etc. All the while the hcildren are giggling, moaning, and jumping up and down with anticipation.

What are your family traditions? Which new ones are you going to start this year?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Family Traditions - Part 1 ... by Karen D.

Every year before the Christmas season can truly begin, there is one thing that MUST happen. My mom and I share a box of chocolate-covered cherries. We savor the ooey-gooey-ness of them and recognize this as the official start of the merriment. By the way, they must be the kind with the white cream surrounding the cherry, not just the liquid. If you enjoy chocolate-covered cherries the way I do, you will understand the importance of this seemingly small detail

This is a small family tradition we enjoy. It takes almost no time, energy, or money, but it is very important. That's the way traditions work. Sometimes they just happen over time and you never really realize when they sneak up on you and become a part of who you are. Other times traditions must be deliberate and intentional. Allow yourself and your family to be overtaken by those surprise traditions but also be willing to be deliberate about others.

In order to get the creative juices flowing, here are a few of our family traditions. May they be a jumping off place for you. Please inspire us with yours also. If it's too long to post in a comment or you have a picture to go with it, email it to


~The Vest Tradition~

I was a teenager helping my mom clean out her closet. I held up a black vest and assumed she was ready to trash it. She refused to throw is out; after all, "It will probably come back in style." In my authentic 1980's lingo, I replied, "Gross me out! This has NEVER been in style, Mom!"

I thought I had seen the last of that hideous black vest with the black-and-tan-checked lining. You can imagine my shock when I opened my first Christmas present of the morning and discovered the black vest neatly folded in the tissue paper. AARGH! We all had a hearty laugh and I quietly tucked the vest away.

Every year the black vest makes an appearance under the Christmas tree. We never know who might open it, but we DO know who has had it. Our tradition is to mark it before passing it to the next victim. Sometimes we add a button, sometimes a pin, simetimes an applique, but always the name and date of the last recipient. We now have a rich history on that black vest. That ugly vest is a beautiful tradition.