Monday, December 17, 2007

Article - Involving Children in the Reason for the Season

Involving Children in the Reason for the Season

by Rev. John-Brian Paprock (for Capital Newspapers)

published in the Holiday Worship Supplement ~ Sunday, December 16, 2007

One of the delights of the Christmas season is gift-giving, especially to children. Watching them open gifts with excitement, with big genuine smiles even giggles, is truly a joy to parents, grandparents and adults everywhere. Finding the right toy or proper gift can be part of the fun, giving even grown-ups with empty nests a reason to go into a toy store. As important as this tradition is in America to our collective culture and economy, Christmas has always been about so much more.

Gift giving is the emulation of those three king-sages that traveled to see the infant king, Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. It is also a tribute to St. Nicholas, that generous saint of Asia Minor.

But there were angels singing and shepherds adoring. And there is the baby Jesus, God incarnate, according to most of Christian denominations. He is the Son of God, the Prince of Peace who came and served creation with altruistic sacrifice. Through his recorded life, he fed the hungry, healed and gave comfort to the sick, the poor, the destitute. He forgave sinners and gave dignity to those that were separated from society. So, there are more than the kings to emulate at this time of year.

Other than just giving children gifts from Santa Claus, how can children be included in understanding the deeper meaning of what Christmas is about?

A word of caution before reading further – following these may deepen adult faith in God and humanity. In fact, you probably do not need a child to do any of these suggestions.

Emulating Angels with singing and bringing hope:

- Have children create the holiday cards you send out, rather than using store-bought ones. What messages should be included? If it’s too late this year, file this idea away for next year OR come up with next year’s card this year.

- Take children with you to go caroling at a retirement home or hospital. If you haven’t caroled before (or haven’t in a long time) - join a group of carolers or start one at your church. Caroling is sharing the joy of seasonal music with others.

- Join Handel’s Messiah sing-a-long as a family.

Teaching altruism - giving to those in need

- Take your kids shopping to pick out gifts for a needy family. Find out where you could actually bring the gifts so they could be distributed – several local agencies and churches have families you can "adopt" for Christmas

- Go through toys and clothes and helping decide what can be donated to charity before Santa Claus comes.

Teaching altruism - giving of self

- There ARE plenty of volunteer opportunities that are appropriate to do with children or as a family. Children can help ring bells for the Salvation Army. They help collect non-perishable foods for pantries. Check with United Way or your local non-profit for opportunities and how your children can be involved.

- Letting children give "gifts" of time by helping others (shoveling the sidewalk for the single mom next door or vacuuming grandpa's house)

- Be an example to children, even if there is not much they can do. Allowing them to watch you demonstrate the reason for the season can be as important, especially for the younger children.

Teaching peace – reaching out to make the world better

- Attend events that work for peace with different cultures or beliefs.

- Research national charities as a family and choose one to donate to, such as Christian Children's Fund or Heifer Inc. Children can give a portion of their allowance that month so they're really participating. If the family "adopts" an overseas child, they can draw pictures to send to the child overseas.

- Sit in a mall and wave to people; wish those good tidings and peace

- Smile and be courteous

Adoring God

- Revive an old family or church tradition. Explore your cultural heritage. What did your ancestors do to adore God?

- Reading the Nativity Gospels as a family. Have the children tell the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in their own words at a family dinner, or have siblings put on a Christmas play at home.

- Make church attendance as a family a central part of the holiday celebration. There are over 500 churches of over 50 denominations in the area to choose from if you don’t have a church home.

At the darkest time of the year, children can be agents of light. They can be included in the work of the greater good in society. Anything we can do to bring the gifts of light, love, peace, charity and hope into fruition in this world is the reason for the season – the fulfillment of the birth of Jesus Christ, the consummate gift for the world, for those that believe.

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