How to help parents have less 'crazy' this advent & Christmas season
I was talking to a parent this week and they said “The crazy season is upon us.” When I ask them what they meant they said “It’s like every program and every connection my kid has tries to pack every activity in during December - parties, hockey tournaments, musical performances, gift-swaps, fundraising, cookie sales, craft sales, parades, concerts…plus I’m supposed to be preparing for family & guests and having good food in my own home for the holidays. It’s the crazy season, the insane season.”
Maybe it’s because of the early snow, but the crazy seems to have come upon us extra early this year. Yes?
Parents want less crazy. A season that is about welcoming the Prince of Peace in our world, is not supposed to make us more crazy and overwhelmed.
Parents want to help their kids remember, know and engage in the reason for the season during advent and Christmas. Church - help them! Make this easier for them. Advent starts December 2 this year. What could you do to help parents?
Here are a few ideas you could do to enable parents to have less crazy and more engagement with the Prince of Peace during the advent and Christmas season. Pick just one, two or three from the list to help the parents around you.
1. Advent at home - Equip parents on how they could do an advent wreath at home, by lighting a candle each day or once a week and talking about God’s hope, peace, joy and love come to us in Jesus. You can find lots of guides online for making advent wreaths at home and readings to go with it. Here’s one example.
Alternatively you could give parents the resources to do a Jesse Tree at home. The Jesse Tree uses ornaments to tell highlights of the Biblical story beginning at creation and going to Christmas. Here is one example of a Jesse Tree.
Here are awesome daily devos for advent on video done by our own Perth-Andover Baptist Church. You could watch them together as a family https://www.adventcalendar.ca/
2. Invite families to serve together - Give opportunities for families to serve your community together during advent and Christmas. Invite families to pack & deliver Christmas boxes together, serve a meal at the church together, serve together in taking Christmas cookies to shut-in seniors, be in a mixed-age choir or presentation together etc. Rather than divide families up and separating age groups all the time, find creative ways to make sure your advent & Christmas service opportunities allow families the experience of serving together.
3. Offer great child care - Encourage the church family to help each other out with childcare during this busy season. You could also offer an evening or two of free child-care in at your church to anyone in the community so parents can go shopping kid-free! You’ll be popular and a blessing to your neighbourhood.
4. Discuss Christmas specials - Encourage parents to use the TV and Netflix Christmas specials to talk about Jesus and the reason for the season. Specials like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the “Grinch” can lend themselves to talking about Jesus and the transformation Jesus invites in our lives. Even less obvious Christmas specials can lend themselves to faith discussions when we encourage parents to ask questions like “Why isn’t Christmas all about the presents?”, “What would you like to do this season to show God’s love to others?” or, for older kids “What would it really look like if peace and justice ruled our world?”
5. Kid friendly nativity sets - Encourage parents to involve their kids in setting up a nativity set in their home and using it to retell the gift of Jesus at Christmas. Encourage parents to have or create a kid friendly nativity set so kids can regularly engage in telling the account of God come to us in Jesus.
6. Relieve the pressure - Remind parents they don’t have to do everything or be everything. There is only One who is everything, all we need, our Saviour - Jesus. It’s really going to be “Ok” if their kid doesn’t have the ugliest sweater at the party, misses one of the parties, messes up their line in the play, doesn’t get everything they wanted on their list, has store bought cookies instead of homemade cookies… Their kids will survive…and maybe even learn a little more about what it means to be resilient and know that Jesus is with them always.
7. Create home traditions - Invite families to create their own traditions that remind them of Jesus. Get families to decide together what they want to do as a family to keep Jesus at the centre of this season. It could be picking a time during Christmas week to read or act out the Christmas story together, having a birthday cake for Jesus, doing a reverse advent basket for a local non-profit, giving away gently used toys or clothes as a family or together serving a meal to those in need in your community. Invite families to intentional come up with a plan, an idea, of a tradition that will help remind their family of Jesus.
8. Encourage presence, not presents - Encourage families to seek to be the presence of Jesus to one another. Rather than worrying about money, gifts and crazy schedules, invite families to come up with a short list of the experiences and time they want to have together as a family over this advent and Christmas season. Do they all want to go cut down their own Christmas tree together? Have a games night together? Go to your favourite sledding hill together? Make gingerbread houses together? What 2 or 3 activities do they want to do together as a family this season to focus on being present to one another with the love of Christ. God’s presence entered our world in Jesus. God is with us. Encourage families to be with one another and see Christ in one another.
9. God sightings - Encourage families to help each other be more aware of Christ’s presence and work among them. Once a week (Sunday’s perhaps) invite families in their home to share with one another where they saw evidence of God at work that week - in them, through them or around them. Families could even write each of these on a piece of paper and tuck it into their Christmas tree, so that by Christmas morning they have a tree full of evidence that God is with them and at work in the world.