|St. Nicholas (aka Santa)|
1. Our gift to Jesus. I found a ceramic box at a thrift store one time and it was perfect for this idea. Prior to finding the box, I had actually wrapped up a box with Christmas paper and a ribbon, but made sure we could open and close it without messing the paper up. Inside the box, i would have the kids write down, or draw a picture of some "GIFT" they would like to give to Jesus for his birthday and we would put the paper inside the box. Nearly ever year, I would have to remind the kids that Jesus doesn't need or want a bike for his birthday. He doesn't want new toys or anything like that. (Although we could give him toys, and he could give them to other kids who don't have any.) What I always emphasize is that Jesus wants things like obedience and kindness for his birthday. He wants us to love others in HIS name. That is what I imagine Jesus wants for HIS birthday.
2. Wise Men Moving. Another interesting custom I heard about is a great visualization for kids to understand the patience required for Advent. The idea of the Wise Men traveling from far away place. Where ever you set up your Nativity set you could put the three wise men WAY over on the other side of the room. Then each week they could move to a spot a little closer to the stable. It was a fun way for my kids to understand how far people came to see the birth of baby Jesus, and how special he really is to all of us.
3. We are the hands and feet of Santa: We love getting shoe boxes and filling them with small toys and items for kids in third world countries as a part of the Operation Shoe Box project. A few times my kids have wondered why Santa doesn't make it there himself. In a rare moment of BRILLIANCE, (there aren't many here people, so when it happens I need to brag.) I shared with my kids that Saint Nicholas was a real man who really did live on earth a long time ago. When he was ALIVE he loved to help make children happy and to spread the LOVE of JESUS to everyone he'd meet. Now he lives in heaven, or what some people call the "NORTH POLE" and he needs our help to deliver gifts to girls and boys all over the world. The little kids buy into the idea easily. The older kids take a minute as they ponder what this means about the truth of Santa. Well, if they are smart enough to figure it out, then they are ready for the truth.
I am sure there are TONS of ways you make the REAL miracle of Christmas come alive in your homes.
But really, no matter how many parties I attend, how many cookies I bake, or how many gifts I buy for others, I have to remind myself constantly that it all started in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. It all started with Jesus being shut out. That's how he entered the world. The King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. The creator of the entire universe chose to sink to our level to save us from ourselves. He gave us the most amazing gift; himself. And we told his parents, "Sorry, No room for you here, go find somewhere else."
Let's not do that again this year.
Amen, Merry Christmas. Open your hearts to Jesus!!!