Preparing for Christmas – Helpful Resources

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My thoughts have already been skipping ahead to the warming scents of Christmas foods and the music that begins playing in our home just after Thanksgiving.  It’s already time to be thinking ahead to the Christmas season!  It’s just around the corner and it’ll be here before we know it.  It might seem early to be writing about it, but I have some exciting resources to share with you that might help in your holiday planning.

A Meaningful Time

Christmas is usually a time of struggle for me.  First of all, I did not grow up celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Sure, we went to church on Christmas Eve, but the holiday was all about gift-giving.  I can recount several years of tears and sadness as my family totally missed the point.  It still grieves me.

Now, I also hate how it’s become such a commercialized holiday as I feel the tug to be greedy as Christmas lists are still asked of us.  Am I the only one that struggles with this? I don’t want our children to know Christmas as a time to rack up great gifts.  I want them to understand that it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and for them to understand why we can have such joy in the celebration.

We haven’t banned gift-giving, for we think it would rob particularly the grandparents of great joy.  It’s fun to give gifts, because truly “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Our children are still small so we haven’t yet incorporated our long-term plan/tradition of giving a large gift that the children will enjoy together.

Our Traditions

We are still a young family, so we are still developing traditions.  However, we have established a few and it only aides in the anticipation of the holiday!

We do an advent calendar throughout the month of December, read Christmas books throughout the month, listen to classical Christmas music (Best Carols 100 is on my husband’s Christmas list this year!), read the Christmas story on Christmas Day and celebrate with the yummy sweets in our house.  I had planned to make a birthday cake last year, but really, with all of the other sugary stuff, I didn’t think we needed any more!

I made my own ornaments a few years ago with the different names of Jesus on them.  Even though I came to our marriage with a huge box of Christmas ornaments my mom collected for me as I grew up, I have had the hardest time putting them on our tree. Again, I have felt like it takes away from the true meaning of the holiday.  There is something about seeing “Star of David”, “Lamb of God”, “Messiah,”  and others every single day that helps meditate on the wonderful gift of the life of Jesus!

I’ll share my Christmas menu (and recipes!) next month, but for now, here are a few links to recipes that we’ve incorporated:

Incredibly Yummy Eggnog – I double this recipe.   Need I say more???

Nourishing FudgeThis recipe can also be found in Nourishing Traditions, which is where I first came across it.

Butternut Squash Lasagna – come back tomorrow for the recipe!

The Best Chili Ever – as declared by my loving husband, who asked that this be our traditional Christmas dinner.

Helpful Resources

There are several resources that have helped me think more creatively in how to make this season a time of purpose and meaning in our home:

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper

I’ve really appreciated not only the practical ideas in the book, but the personal anecdotes Mrs. Piper describes!

room for a little oneRoom for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

I would love to add a new Christmas book to our repetoire each year that is age appropriate.  This is perfect for very small children as it captures simply the concept of welcoming Jesus.  The illustrations are my favorite part!  I’ve not yet decided on a book for this year…any suggestions?

12 week holiday plannerThe Graham Family 12-Week Holiday Planner

This is new to me this year, and I’ve really enjoyed it!  Not only are there many practical ideas for planning, but with her many years of experience, Sheri Graham has wisely planned each week with ideas of what to accomplish so as not to end up with an overwhelming list of things to do at the last minute.  I started it a little late this year, but with a little bit of catch-up, it’s been so helpful! Sheri has graciously offered one of my readers a free copy of this ebook!  To enter, simply leave a comment below.  Entry for the giveaway will be open until 11:59 pm on Saturday, November 6th. Update: Giveaway has ended!

willow tree nativity

Willow Tree Nativity Set

This was a wedding gift to us (great idea!) and I’ve enjoyed putting this on display each year.  Now that we have kids, the lambs are missing legs and I find them in all sorts of fun places throughout the house.  Time to look into a kid-friendly one?

Two resources I’m sad that I can’t recommend for purchasing due to their unavailability this year, but that I wanted to share for future reference (I feel kinda cruel!) include:

The Noel Advent Calendar from Desiring God. This was a gift to us before we had children and it is probably my favorite tool for the holiday.  It is simple and extremely kid-friendly (good, since it’s for kids!) with burlap as the calendar background and velcro to affix the animals, people, and symbols.  A little laminated booklet (so obvious it was created by a mom!) comes with it that has a little story (a sentence) for what each animal, person, or symbol’s role is on that day.  I can’t wait to pull it out and am so sorry it’s not available this year!! And I’m sorry that my box is still in the attic so you can’t see what it looks like!

ann voskamp's bookThe Glorious Coming: A Jesse Tree Advent Celebration by Ann Voskamp

I was so sad lamenting recently when I learned that this too, is not being sold this year.  I knew I should have bought it last year!

Ann, like my new blogging friend Sara, have what I believe to be a gift from the Lord with their writing.

This year, I hope and am planning to incorporate a Jesse Tree into our advent celebration.  I first read about it over here on Lindsay’s blog.  What a fun way to get little hands involved and to plant seeds!  I would love to make the decorations together and as they are ready, to add them to the tree.  We’ll see how it goes.  :)

Ten Questions to Ask at a Christmas Gathering by Donald Whitney.  Because we entertain family members that we don’t see often and that don’t espouse to the same beliefs we do, these serve as great conversation starters and should the Holy Spirit allow it, provide opportunities to share more about our faith in Christ.

As our children grow, I want to continue to deepen our celebration of Christ’s birth.  For those of you with children three and older (Tara’s age), what do you do to make it meaningful?

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7 Responses to Preparing for Christmas – Helpful Resources

  1. Amy K. says:

    We take the month of December to re-memorize Luke 2:1-16. Then on Christmas morning before we even come downstairs we gather together in the hall and the children recite for us. This gives us a time to focus on Jesus before we start our gift exchange. If we have extended family or friends over for dinner the children will recite the Christmas story again before we pray and serve dinner.
    We also only give three gifts to the children. This again helps the family to refocus on Jesus. Next year we too will have a large family gift with two other smaller gifts to complete the trio. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the gift and lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. We try to be very deliberate about each thing that we do to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

  2. Tami says:

    I love the idea about putting the names of God on the ornaments! I too am looking for good ways to bring our children back to the real “reason for the season” – pardon the cliche- and am truly saddened by what society has done to the most important birthday of all. We have thought about for the future (our kids are two and under still) gathering things or buying things we know we would like or someone else might really enjoy and then giving them away instead of giving them to each other.
    We still have some planning time though…

  3. I too am going to try to incorporate the Jesse Tree in our countdown during December. I love the names of Jesus on ornaments idea:) Lovely! and that Christian Christmas planner sounds delightful. My girls are only 4 and 2 but they already realize its not just about presents, etc….one thing we do is we bake a cake for Baby Jesus on Christmas morning!

  4. Sara says:

    We create our own advent paper-chain. Each day we have a preparatory activity — preparing for Jesus birth. It’s anything from baking cookies for friends …to making ornaments for grandparents’ stockings. Somehow we try to tie each one to preparing our hearts for Jesus.

  5. Melissa says:

    We have done the Jesse Tree since my almost 6 year old was a baby. And we usually have about 6 or 7 Nativity scenes set out around the house–all without baby Jesus–it’s a conversation starter throughout the season. First thing on Christmas morning, the kids place baby Jesus in all the scenes…

    I found you through the Homemaking Link-up…I’d love to win the giveaway….Thanks for the opportunity!

  6. Sara says:

    We’ve gleaned a lot from Noel Piper’s book that you mentioned in your post. Last year, we started using the “shepherd’s pouches” in addition to our usual Christmas Eve/Christmas morning routine. I hope this tradition will become more meaningful with time as our kids get older and it becomes more familiar to all of us. This year, we started something new: our family chose to pack five shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, but I wanted to do something that would help us think about and pray for this ministry throughout the holiday season (something we unfortunately forget sometimes since the boxes are dropped off mid-November!). So…I borrowed a small (maybe 2 ft?) Christmas tree from my mom and the girls (4 1/2 and almost 3) and I cut pictures out of Samaritan’s Purse magazines and newsletters of OCC ministry, decorated them with glitter, sequins, etc…, and hung them from our “Operation Christmas Child” tree. I also tried to write the name of the country on the back of each ornament if we could figure it out from the context of the pictures. This is something new for us, but I hope it helps our family remember the children around the world who will be ministered to in the name of Jesus this Christmas!

    Another quick note: we always cherish the celebration of advent in our family. This year, I found a child-friendly advent wreath and candles at to use with the kids. The wreath and candles are made of felt (candles are stuffed with polyfill or cotton) and have velcro tabs on the bottom that anchor them to the wreath. Looking forward to having an advent wreath that not only allows the kids to be more involved, but the girls can even use to “play Christmas” with their dolls as well, which they do so love to do!!! :)

  7. Kate says:

    I realize that this particular post is from last year, but I’ve been googling Noel Piper’s advent calendar trying to find more info about it. Since DG no longer makes it, I am trying to make my own. I have all the materials for the calendar itself, but I can’t find anywhere online the actual written material that goes with the calendar to read each day. Do you happen to have the capability of posting that or scanning it? I would so love to introduce the Christmas story to our toddler this way this year – I know I can make up my own readings with Scripture but I’d really like to know what hers was. Thanks!