I am so excited about this year’s light the world campaign and the opportunity to combine it with our annual tradition of having a Christ-centered advent calendar. My kids call them circle activities because we use muffin tins to create our calendar so they take a circle off each day to find out what our activity is. I have been doing them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the past couple of years (hoping to add Valentine’s day this year!) in order to keep our celebration meaningful, deliberate, and focused on the Savior.
I’m by no means anti-Santa, I love Santa, we do Santa. But, I have had to DO nothing in order for my 4 year old and 2 year old to learn about Santa. He’s everywhere- in fact he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…
However, I do have to be deliberate and intentional in making sure they learn the true meaning of this time of year. It’s not all strictly “religious” but I make sure that we find ways to tie the “just for fun” things back to the Savior.
As I mentioned I love the #LightTheWorld campaign for this year especially. This time it’s broken down by week:
1- Light the World (global focus)
2- Light your Community
3- Light your Family
4- Light your Faith
As I sat down to start brainstorming our calendar I struggled a little to figure out how we could make sure the kids were actually involved in and understanding global service. I reached out to friends for help and got some great ideas to incorporate into our calendar. A really cool idea that didn’t make it on the calendar is the Light the World vending machine. There is one in Gilbert by the water tower (also one at Temple Square in Salt Lake, Manhattan, London, and Manila- and if you can’t get to any of those there is a way to donate online at that hyper link). This is a vending machine for charities- you choose to donate a pair of glasses, or a chicken, or clean water, etc!
Additionally- we’ll be kicking off our celebration before the calendar actually starts, I could just add it but it would throw off the perfect 24 spaces on the calendar and that might make my slightly obsessive brain explode. But, we’ll be attending a local Live Nativity on November 30th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. It runs the 30th-1st. There is also the Walk through Bethlehem in Chandler that sounds amazing but as I looked at our crazy calendar for the month I realized I needed to pair down a little and the time and distance on that was going to be a little too much for us this year. That one runs the 14th-16th.
I’ve had a lot of fun thinking through how to incorporate these ideas for my little ones, and I really hope this helps others find ways to serve and make this season meaningful no matter the ages of your children or if we belong to different faiths- together we can Light the World!
1- Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad!”- We’ll be attending a Christmas party- this is an example of how I incorporate a “just for fun” event and still make it meaningful. This day has also been set aside as a Day of Service. We will be bringing food and toy donations to the party as our service for the day.
Week 1- World
2- Jesus speaks to the world through His prophet- watch the Christmas Devotional
3- Missionaries are sent around the world to share the gospel- color pictures to mail to a missionary in a foreign country
4- Refugees have had to leave their homes in other parts of the world and come here to be safe. Take a meal or other donations for refugee families. If you’re in AZ then Gathering Humanity is an amazing organization!
5- Jesus created the world- Decorate the Christmas tree and talk about the days of the Creation
6- Jesus is the Light of the World- go to a light display (probably Glendale Glitters for us)
7- We believe in a God of miracles for the whole world. Tell the Hanukkah story. I’ve purchased this children’s book which tells the story and has beautiful illustrations. I include Hanukkah each year for my kids because one of my best friends is Jewish and while we won’t be able to celebrate together this year, I have cherished memories of lighting the menorah with her growing up. Also, I want my children to know and understand that God loves ALL of His children and provides them with miracles even if they believe differently than we do. This also fits in so well with the global focus, no coincidence that Hanukkah lined up with week 1 this year, amIright??!
8- Asylum seekers come from different parts of the world and arrive here with nothing hoping to find safety. Make and donate a backpack asylee kit. We will have the kids pick the backpack and stuff it with the necessary items (my 2 year old LOVES backpacks right now so this will be a good way to get her involved). We will be partnering with Gathering Humanity again for this one. And special thanks to my cousin for guiding me to this idea!
Week 2- Community
9- Donate to the Humanitarian/ Fast offering fund. We typically just do this online, but in order to get the kids involved we are going to go old school and use the paper slip and envelope and actual cash then have the kids hand it to the Bishop.
10- Angel craft
11- Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Make little ornaments and take them to our neighbors
12- Nativity Craft- I bought a cute little foam kit at Hobby Lobby. They have a few different ones depending on your kids skill level (and your capability for handling messes!)
14- Jesus was born in a stable- go to a petting zoo to see the types of animals that might have been there. We will be heading over to Superstition Farm. This might seem silly, but we have done this a few years in a row now and the kids LOVE it. Two years ago my son ran around the petting zoo yelling, “Jesus, where are you!” Apparently when I told him we would see animals like the ones that were there when Jesus was born, he figured we would also see baby Jesus. Last year we went after we saw The Star and they started calling all of the animals the names from the movie.
15- Jesus healed the sick- take treats to the NICU. Our daughter was a NICU baby so we make sure and take treats to current NICU parents this time of year. Be aware if you decide on a NICU for service it is best to call ahead and you really will just drop off the treats with the desk. Small children will most likely not be allowed into the NICU. We walk to the door together as a family and then my husband takes the kids to a nursery viewing window while I take the treats in to the actual NICU.
Week 3- Family
16- Jesus said, “Ye shall meet together oft.” Church! It might seem like cheating because we do this every week anyway, but I call it being creative with my resources. Also, I think it’s good to periodically talk about WHY we go to church.
17- Light your family- Make little gifts for Grandparents
18- Cards for cousins
19- Jesus asked us to pray together as families- have family prayer and review how to pray
20- Gingerbread Stables
21- Family Movie Night- The Nativity (8 minutes- live action) Christmas Story videos (more very short videos telling the story) Joy to the World (about 45 min total), and we’ll probably do a VeggieTales or The Star
22- Make memories with Family- activity with extended family and open presents with them
Week 4- Light Your Faith
23- Sing Choirs of Angels- sing Christmas songs at church and with our opera singing relatives coming into town! My husband’s brother is engaged and we will finally get to meet his fiancee this day! Their common interest in opera brought them together!
24- Bethlehem dinner- I make lamb and other foods similar to what they would have eaten at that time in Bethlehem. I’m hoping this year to eat it by light of a candle from that era as well. Then we’ll read the story from Luke 2 and hopefully have the kids act it out!
Merry Christmas!!! I hope this has given you some good ideas to incorporate in your own family’s celebration!