Sunday, December 26, 2010

Seeking Christ

"As we seek Christ, as we find Him, as we follow Him we shall have the Christmas spirit, not for one fleeting day each year, but as a companion always."

~Thomas S. Monson


Friday, December 17, 2010

Reindeer Names


When our oldest children were old enough to read gift tags on packages they began to sort and stack packages under the Christmas tree into piles according to the name on the tag. That was annoying to me as they compared piles of presents, who had the biggest package, guessing what was in the package, etc. It was distracting to the focus we wanted to have in our home and seemed to bring out the "gimmies'.

To solve the problem we began randomly assigning each member of the family a different reindeer name each year and they would not find out which reindeer they were until Christmas. The piling, comparing and guessing stopped completely! It is a system we have used successfully for about 25 years on the gifts that are from Mom and Dad.

Another idea for handling presents under the tree that I really like is the tradition of each child receiving 3 gifts, representing the gifts from the wisemen. One gift could be something useful, one could be something fun that is wanted and one a book or something related to a skill or hobby that the child has interest in.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Art Activity: Mural of Christ

We do not advertise or sell things on this site, but when I found this beautiful project for our family to make I knew I had to share it here.

It is a stunning mural of the nativity which is downloaded and printed off in about 35 pages, then pieced together and colored or painted by you. We will be creating our masterpiece as our family travels home to gather for Christmas. A great project we can all work on down to the very youngest. Kind of like doing a  puzzle together, only much more interactive and creative. The download is 5 dollars.

Happy coloring!

Names of Savior Art

Amy at the Idea Room posted a great idea for a Christ centered Christmas gift or decor for your home. She simply wrote some of the names of Christ and framed them. Really Lovely!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Devotional

Last night was the annual Christmas devotional for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can watch the entire broadcast online. It is full of wonderful Christmas messages and beautiful music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A great way to invite the Spirit of Christmas into your home.

Messenger and Advocate has posted some beautiful shots of the Christmas lights at Temple Square.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shepherd's Night


"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night"

Plan to spend an evening with your family as though you were humble shepherds on that wondrous night when an angel of the Lord appeared with glad tidings.

Begin the evening with a hearty dinner of "Shepherd's Pie", or eat on the floor on a blanket a more humble fare as the shepherd's may have had with them such as pita bread and cheese. Spend this evening by candlelight.

Read from the scripture the part they played in the birth of Christ. Sing "As Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night". Have everyone dress as shepherds. Act out their story.

Read the prophecy from Alma 13:26 and discuss how these were not just ordinary shepherds, they were "just and holy" and prepared. How can we make ourselves just and holy? How can we prepare our hearts?

The shepherds went with haste to the Christ child. Do we seek out, are we urgent about finding things that bring us closer to Christ? What brings us closer to Him? I love that phrase "with haste".

When they had seen the babe (Luke 2:17) they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. How do we share our testimony of the Savior? Do we share our love of the Savior with our family? Do we love Him enough to try to be like Him? Do we live our testimony? How can we make "known abroad" our tender feelings about Him this Christmas season?

Make Shepherd Cane cookies. You could already have the dough ready and let each person make their own cane.

Shepherd Cane Cookies

1 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t peppermint extract
1 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 C flour
1 t salt
1/2 t red food coloring

Mix together butter, sugar, egg and extracts thoroughly. Stir in flour and salt. Divide dough in half. Blend red coloring into one half of the dough. Cover the two pieces of dough and refrigerate.

To bake:
preheat oven to 350. for each cookie, roll 1 t of dough from each half back and forth on a lightly floured surface into 4 inch rope. Place 1 red and 1 white rope side by side. Press together lightly at top and twist. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and turn down top to form the crook of the cane.

Bake 9 minutes. Watch closely as they have a tendency to brown quickly. Cool on racks.

Other ideas for Shepherd Night:

For young children (or not so young "children" (I like to sing this song) sing "The Itsy Bitsy Shepherd" with actions, found by clicking on Music on the side bar to the right on this site.

Families with young children could make construction paper sheep with cotton balls glued on.

"Find the Lost Sheep" game could be played where a "sheep" hides somewhere in the house and the shepherds try to find him. The little lost sheep could cry "baa" until found.

A small lamb from a nativity set could be hidden in the room, and the children find him and then take turns hiding him again.

The children could sleep that night as shepherd's slept, on the ground. It is fun to have a night of sleeping near the Christmas tree.

There are so many lessons to be learned from those wonderful shepherds of long ago.

"And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds".

Christmas Bells Are Ringing

Actions to do with the song "Christmas Bells Are Ringing" for young children

Christmas bells are ringing
(do action with hands that looks like you are ringing bells)

Hear what they say to you
(place hands to ears as if trying to hear better)

Jesus is born
(rock arms back and forth as if rocking a baby)

In Bethlehem, in Bethlehem
(raise arm high above head while opening and closing hand to represent a twinkling star)

If you are interested in other songs with actions for children click on music under "Labels" on the side bar.


Friday, December 3, 2010

I Know that My Savior Loves Me

When I think of the babe born in Bethlehem, I can't help but reflect on the love of our Savior and why He came to the earth. This is a beautiful song, which was the theme for the primary children this year and I love the paintings in this slide show and the overall message.

I know that my Savior loves me and ALL of His children. I have felt His love and the power of the atonement through times of sorrow, sin, confusion, and hardships as well as in all the joyous and happy times in my life. He is my friend whom I look to in all circumstances and with Him I know all things are possible, as I strive to keep His commandments and honor the covenants which I have made with Him.

You can download the words and music for this song here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twelve Witnesses of Christ's Birth

This article is helpful in studying the scriptural accounts of the witnesses of Christ's birth.

This could also be a fun FHE with props for family members to dress up and read the scriptural testimonies of each witness. Or you could make a video of "eye witness accounts" and do it as a news show.

Some of these witnesses are often forgotten. Like Anna, after whom I'm named.  But each had an important role in testifying to the world who the Christ child was and would become.
Anna by Rembrant

Monday, November 29, 2010

Missing a Loved One

This Christmas will be our ninth Christmas without our beautiful son Daniel. He was the one in our family who loved holidays most of all. The night before a holiday (ANY holiday) he could barely sleep, rising very early and greeting us with shining eyes. He simply loved his family and any excuse to celebrate.
Dan, Sarah, and Anna -Christmas 1989

Because of him, we feel a greater desire to celebrate Christmas, even though we miss him terribly at Christmas. As we focus on the Savior, we truly feel joy at this time of year. Because of our Redeemer, we find peace and comfort in knowing that we will yet see our Daniel and have many more celebrations with him. Now that is something to be joyful about!

Dan's grave is located in a small cemetery that has a very beautiful tradition at Christmas. Every Christmas Eve families come and place luminaries on the graves of loved ones. It is so sweet to see all the lights flickering in the dark night on the eve of the Savior's birth. Jesus truly is the light shining in the darkness. May we all focus on that light and drink deeply of the meaning of His life and the comfort and hope that He has given us.

Simon Dewey: "For Unto Us a Child is Born" 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Peaceful Christmas


It is so easy to be caught up in the commercial aspect of this time of year even if you try your best to avoid it. Often our intentions are well meaning and we are swept away without intending to overspend. Then we are faced with the nagging pressure or guilt etc., that robs us of the very feelings we were trying to create when we overspent.

One way to help bring peace to the season is by simply starting to keep a small Christmas planning notebook and dedicating a small portion of it to figuring out your budget. Check out the ideas for making a planner on this site. Once you have one, you will wonder how you managed without! Make your lists and check them twice. Spend spare moments thinking and plotting exactly where your money will be spent and the best ways to accomplish the intentional ways you wish to celebrate. Time spent now focusing on a deliberate plan will be a key part in having a more peaceful Christmas.

We have heard many lamenting the fact that due to economic times, this will be a lean Christmas. Maybe there is a blessing hidden here. It does not cost any money to sit around the table and play a game with our children. And taking a walk on a clear winter's night, looking at the stars and talking about the special star that appeared in the heavens long ago does not cost anything either. Many of the ideas on this sight cost little or no money. Small and simple things like these are the stuff that memories are made of and that bring us closer to each other.

Our family is going to try to focus more on these quiet joys this season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"M" and "M" poem

This little poem is a simple reminder of the real meaning of our celebrations this time of year.

The M and M Nativity

As you hold these candies in your hand
and turn them,
you will see
the M becomes a W, an E and a 3.

They tell the Christmas story,
it's one I'm sure you know,
It took place in a stable,
a long, long time ago.

The E is for the East where the star shines so bright.

The M is for the Manger
where baby Jesus slept that night.

The 3 is for the wise men bearing gifts,
with haste they came.

W is for Worship, angels sang praise to His name.

So as you eat these candies
or share them with a friend,
Remember the true spirit of Christmas
and never let it end!

This poem could be attached to a small snack packet of M and M's or a large bag of M and M's to give to a neighbor. We saw this at a craft boutique with the poem and small bag of M and M's packaged in a small clear bag tied with a ribbon. There are several versions of this poem all with the same basic message. Elementary age children really like the symbolism in this poem.


The White Stocking


Some families hang a white stocking that stands out from the other Christmas stockings. It is hung early in December and is a special reminder to do kind acts of service for the Savior. When an act is performed, it is recorded on a slip of paper and placed in the stocking. These can be read out loud on Christmas morning.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Crafts

Sarah posted here about how she loves to display her little artists' renditions of the Nativity scene during the Christmas season. This is such a wonderful idea because children sit and think about the birth of Christ as they are crafting, you benefit from the output of adorable decorations, and your child is reminded in a personal way of Jesus Christ and the reason we celebrate Christmas when they see their art displayed.

Here are some more craft ideas that would be fun to share with your little ones.

Click here for instructions on how to make:
Stick Nativity Scene
Isaiah 7:14 Bible Scroll
Baby Jesus in an Envelope Manger
M&M Christmas poem

String Art is a fun activity for older children. Here is a pattern for a Christmas Star

The Power of Music

The Philadelphia Opera Company staged an event at a huge Macy's dept. store. They were dressed as shoppers and suddenly burst into a beautiful rendition of Handel's Messiah. It is at first humorous to see the reaction of the shoppers as they are astonished by the outburst of their fellow "shoppers". Watch this:

What a contrast between the commercial aspect that Christmas has become and the true meaning found in this beautiful music. The power and majesty of the music says it all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Books to Share

I remember helping mom put out the Christmas decorations and my favorite part was when Dad would heft the large box of Christmas books out of the storage room. These books were special because we only broke them out once a year. We would read this books together at bedtime throughout the season in place of our usual storybooks. This is a tradition I would like to establish as I am starting my own family, but I'm not worried about buying a whole bunch of books at once. You can build a collection with one new book a year.

The following is a list of beautiful Christmas stories you might consider adding to your own collection.

Picture Books:
Dozen Silk Diapers by Melissa Kajpust

Christmas Oranges by Linda Bethers
The Gift of the Magi
A Dress for Ellen by Thomas S. Monson
Christmas Trolls, Wild Christmas Reindeer, Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechoski
The Story of the Three Trees
The Christmas Visitor by Annaliese Lussert
Santa Mouse by Micheal Brown
This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar
Carl's Christmas by Alexandra Day

We also enjoy books about how other cultures celebrate Christmas as well as books with illustrations from various cultures depicting the nativity of Christ.

Chapter Books:
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Does your family have a favorite book to read around Christmas time?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Change in your Pocket

One smart mom thought of a way to help her young children feel the spirit of service in the midst of the season. She enlisted their help doing small jobs around the house, paying them for the jobs completed with the understanding that the money they earned was to be used for a special purpose.

 When she ran errands with her children, they were to place their earned change in their pockets. Then when they came upon a bell ringer for the Salvation Army they got to place the change they had earned in the metal bucket.

 What fun! What a great tradition to carry out through the whole season!

 Maybe we should all keep some change in our pocket!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Door-bell Ditch at Christmas

One of our favorite traditions through the years has been sharing a nativity with another family. Early in the season (now is a good time to look) I purchase a nativity set and wrap each piece individually and tie with a pretty ribbon. Then, beginning either at the first of December or 12 days before Christmas, we leave a piece of the nativity at the doorstep of someone who is new in the neighborhood or someone who may need a little lift. Each night we deliver, ring the doorbell and run! The last piece that is delivered is the baby Jesus. Ruddy cheeked conspirators head home to mugs of hot cocoa and laughter over nearly being caught!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Gift of Service

We were so impressed with the young man in this video and his example of being a true disciple of Christ. He found a way of giving meaningful service.

Serving is a great way to center our Christmas on the Savior. Coming up with ideas can be a challenge. Have you had an experience you would be willing to share? Any ideas you have seen or been the recipient of? Please share by leaving a comment. Thanks!

The Divine Gift of Gratitude

We have been trying to focus on showing gratitude this month using President Monson's talk from conference entitled "The Divine Gift of Gratitude" as our foundation for daily devotionals with our girls. As we have studied his words and read the accounts of our Savior in the scriptures we have reflected how wonderful it is to have a period of thanksgiving to prepare our hearts to draw closer to Him, and how appropriate to ponder our blessings in November in preparation for celebrating His life and birth in December. What better way to lead into the season of celebrating His birth, than to contemplate all that He has done for us?

President Monson shared from the book of Matthew in the Bible the story of the loaves and fishes. "And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude."

President Monson continues "notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had ---and a miracle followed."

I believe a beautiful way to prepare to have a Christ centered celebration during the Christmas season is to express gratitude and contemplate the beautiful meaning, and life and example of Him whose birth we celebrate.

May we take time to give thanks and ponder the matchless gift He has given us. Then watch for the miracles to follow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Living Christ Challenge: Memorize by Christmas


Discover the Scriptures has posted a study plan to help memorize The Living Christ by Christmas. 

The idea is that memorizing this inspired document about our Savior will help our families come closer to Christ and make the season leading up to Christmas more Christ-centered.

Currently she has study aids for the four weeks in October. 

You can download them from her sight HERE.   Look for more to come.
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