Imagine traveling across desert landscapes from village to village. Imagine you (or your wife) is nine months pregnant and traveling on the back of a donkey. You need to find a place to rest. Labor is beginning but the only place available is a humble stable.
Imagine what life might have been like at the time of Jesus’ birth. Certainly, there would be a vast difference from our modern life of conveniences. Reading through the Gospels might still leave too much out for us to fully imagine the daily life and struggles that Mary and Joseph had to endure. I wanted a way to help my children connect with the people of Jesus’ day and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for their way of life.
About ten years ago our family was introduced to, and had, our first Bethlehem dinner on Christmas Eve. We laid out beach blankets, lit candles, read from the Gospels, and ate foods that were common at that time.
Flat breads, humus, olives, pomegranates, figs, grape juice, and meat pies have been some of our favorite choices.
A few years later we added watching The Nativity Story ** afterwards. I particularly loved this addition as it not only gave a visualization to the account, but also helped make Mary and Joseph more ‘real’.
I’ve also come across a few great resources for activities you can do all month long leading up to your Bethlehem Dinner.
The first is called Ancient Israelites and their Neighbors An Activity Guide by Marian Broida.**
This has information on the culture as well as activities such as clothing, food, models of terraces and cities, and many other crafts you can make. I think my children’s favorite one was the stomping of grapes. We did NOT drink that juice! 🙂 Most of these activities use items you probably already have in your home which made it a thrifty choice.
The second resource is called The Time Of Jesus by Lois Rock.**
This is probably my favorite Biblical craft resource book. Sadly, it can be near impossible to find a copy. These links are for the Teacher’s Guide which might be even more informative than the version I have. Directions for 20 projects are included. We’ve made the scroll, writing tablet, fishing net, children’s games, meals, and clay lamps. Most will require some materials you may not have on hand but which are mostly inexpensive.
Last but not least is a wonderful activity from Keyboards For Christ. It is David’s Harp made from a wooden hanger and a few other goodies including the ability to drill holes through the hanger. If you are able to do it, it is so worth the effort! Your children can sing psalms with their own “harp” as you enjoy your Bethlehem Dinner.
For a few more ideas, visit my Bethlehem Dinner Pinterest page.
Egg Nog. If there is a beverage that makes me think of Christmastime festivities, it is egg nog. It is spiced, creamy, heavenly, goodness. To smell it is to think of a snowy night in front of the fire.
Serve it cold or warmed with whipped cream on top. A side of Christmas cookies completes the snack.
A few years ago, I was very sick for Christmas. I couldn’t decorate much or even cook Christmas dinner. (Thankfully my oldest is very skilled in the kitchen.) I’m all about setting the atmosphere. I am definitely a Martha type person needing to be more like Mary. I just wanted to do something, anything, to be a part of making the day more festive. I didn’t have much in me but thankfully all it took was a simple footed bowl, construction paper, and sticky tack. If you don’t know what sticky tack is, let me tell you….it was the creation of pure divine inspiration. Blue putty that doesn’t dry out and causes things to stick together. But I digress…….
Out of desperation I created my silly little snowman egg nog bowl. But that little bowl ended up being a favorite item. It reminds me that it’s the simple things that make a difference. Spending a few hundred dollars may make a beautiful display, but bringing smiles and creating memories doesn’t cost anything but your time. Money can never buy happiness.
Cuddling under the blanket reading a story or walking through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights are simple ways to draw closer to our loved ones and create memories. What simple ways can you add to this season to create memories your family will cherish?
And to help you with your egg nog endeavors, here is a link to my Pinterest egg nog recipe board. Enjoy!
I’ve never been for or against the Elf on a shelf. The creative side of me loves the idea of finding new and crazy ways of displaying him around the house during the Christmas season. I imagine him sitting on the sofa with the remote in his hands watching the Elf movie. Or maybe he would hang from the light fixture over the dinning room table as we sit down for dinner. Then on Christmas morning, an elaborate display of tinkertoys would form a scaffold for him as he climbs the tree. Yes, I could really get into it. I always just assumed he was a prankster of sorts that hung around to build up Christmas cheer. So imagine my surprise when I learned earlier today that his purpose was to keep watch over the family to see who behaved well enough to earn presents at Christmas. In an article I read, a mother seemed horrified that she had traumatized her child with the elf. And when I think about it, I guess I can see where some find him a little creepy. Still, I’m not convinced that there is no place for him in a Christian home.
Having said that, I think there are a couple of things about the Elf that might be a really good idea to give up. I also think there are things about him we can embrace and utilize without the potentially traumatizing effects of his intended purpose.
First, I don’t think it is a good idea to have a supernatural being that watches over you so he can punish you when you fail. I think it trains a child to look at God that way. I also find that it’s basis is of creating good behavior for a reward instead of out of loving obedience to God. It is the difference between training a child to do right things and heart training/discipling a child. This undertone of behaving because you are watched can have far reaching consequences into the character and integrity of a growing child.
What about repentance and forgiveness? With the elf, your behavior is reported and that’s the end of the story. You are either good or bad. There is no room for becoming Christ-like. This too, in my opinion, reflects negatively on God.
Is the focus on Jesus or is it on behaving to get gifts? It is difficult enough to fight against the tide of all the consumerism and keep the true message of Christmas the priority. So what is the alternative?
Why do we have to use this toy exactly as intended? He could be nothing more than a doll that is used to spread Christmas joy. We don’t need to read the book. We don’t even need to use the Elf! Maybe you have a snowman or other wintery themed figure that you could use. Maybe he could be a prankster with fun lighthearted silliness as we often find suggestions for. Maybe he can hold messages of encouragement and affirmation. Maybe he can hold Scripture, memory verses, or act as a reminder to read the Word. Maybe he can hold a special project for the day. Whatever you decide, he should be something that strengthens your family and does not distort God or the real reason for the season.
Why do we have to use this toy exactly as intended? He could be nothing more than a doll that is used to spread Christmas joy.
We don’t need to read the book. We don’t even need to use the Elf!
As a final thought, some children (and adults) just find the Elf creepy. For example, it has taken me years to not hate clowns. There will still never be a clown in my home. If you were to bring anyone in my family a clown themed anything I would assume you hate me. With this in mind, let us respect that some people will not be comfortable with him no matter how he is utilized. Just look for a different way to fill your home with Christmas joy!
Big Major Side Note: Just as I was finishing up this post I found out about a great post at Give Peas A Chance. The Wandering Wise Men and the Christmas Angel are both great alternative ideas!
Advent is the time of year we prepare for the second coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ while reflecting on what His first coming has offered us. Celebrating Advent was thought to have begun in the 4th century as a 40 day fast in preparation for Christmas. Others attribute a more contemporary celebration of Advent to the 1800’s.
While the modern use is in the form of a wreath, I decided a few years ago that I wanted to give the advent candles a more prominent place in our home as well as visually having a reminder of the meanings of each candle. Normally the wreath consists of 5 candles. 3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white. Each of these candles have a significant meaning.
On the first Sunday of Advent a purple candle is lit called the Prophecy Candle or Hope Candle. It brings to remembrance all those who foretold of Christ’s birth.
On the second Sunday another purple candle is lit called the Bethlehem Candle, Faith Candle, or Love Candle. Depending on the source it represents the manger, the prophecies surrounding Christ’s humble beginnings, or the Bible.
On the third Sunday a pink candle is lit called the Shepherd’s Candle or Joy Candle. It represents the joy of knowing His coming is near. In some churches there is a tradition that it is the time of “stirring”.
On the fourth Sunday a purple candle is lit called the Angel’s Candle or Peace Candle. It represents the announcement of Christ’s birth.
On Christmas Eve or on Christmas day, the final candle, a white candle is lit called the Christ Candle. It represents the sinless, spotless Lamb that washes away all our sins.
Each week we read Scriptures that tie into our Advent focus. You might choose just one to use all week, or a different one each day.
Knowing I wanted the candles to remain lit often and knowing that I didn’t want to buy stock in a candle factory, I purchased 5 LED white candles. One candle is taller than the others, this would be the Christ Candle. I created labels using a sheet of 10 clear labels. I made one for each candle, naming it for the appropriate week and coloring the text according to each week’s advent tradition. Once printed, all I needed to do was place a label on each of the candles. When the candles are lit, we can read what each candle represents. Placing it on the mantle next to our Christmas tree, my family is able to see and remember the real reason for the season.
If you would like a PDF copy of the labels I made, you can download it here: Advent Candle Labels.
It is my hope this simple decorating project is one small help in keeping Christ the focus of your Christmas season.
I found this great recipe online and wanted to share it with you today. It is from MyRecipes.com. I absolutely love the smoky flavor of chipotle and the sweetness of maple, so when I saw this pork recipe, I just couldn’t resist.
As usual, I didn’t have everything I needed for all the recommended side dishes, so I improvised. Actually, I rarely make a recipe the way it says to. My creative side takes over often. 🙂 I made the pork just as described with one exception. I used pork chops and added more sauce 10 minutes before it was done. Just remember to alter your cooking times. I didn’t have applesauce and I didn’t have smoked gouda. I used mozzarella and made the apple onion mixture into a relish. To keep down on sugar content, you can make your own barbecue sauce. I also love my greens. I sautéed some French cut green beans in butter, lightly salted with sea salt, added cracked pepper, and when warm, tossed with parmesan cheese.
Here is the result:
The Chipotle Maple Pork came out tender and delicious. Just a tiny kick. When the bite is combined with the relish…..yummy!
I hope your family enjoys the meal as much as we did.
Do you have some idea on variations of these dishes? Post in the comment section.