#FamilyFavoriteFriday: Conversations, Experiments, and Christmas Lights

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Welcome back to LECFamily's #FamilyFavoriteFriday! Here's what we found to share with you around the web this week ...

For Parents ...

What is your go-to question for your kids at Christmas? "What do you want for Christmas?" It's what even parents of adult children ask! But this writer proposes that we change that question so we can help our kids become more like Jesus during this Advent and Christmas season. 

With all the family time coming up, this is a great resource for all family members to have more significant and meaningful conversations during the holiday season. Moving Beyond the Monosyllabic is something we can all learn from!

For Ministry Leaders ...

Do you have a hard time thinking outside the box? Have you tried things but given up after just once or twice? Here's a story from a church where an outside-the-box idea turned into a majorly impactful church program! 

A lot of churches have moved away from utilizing traditional liturgical elements, especially with kids and families. Why?  Those are the most meaning-filled and impactful parts of what it means to worship in a community! Most often, the challenge is that we don't teach them ... so why not try teaching the "why" behind each of our traditions? This church did, and the response was huge!

For Fun ...

Is one of your family traditions to drive around and look at Christmas lights? Want it to be? The Christmas Light Finder helps you find light displays in your area! Check it out!

For thought ...

  • What holiday traditions are most meaningful for your family? Why?

  • What "experiments" have you tried in your home or church that have worked? That haven't?

  • What do Christmas lights represent for your home and family? Are they a part of your tradition?

[Guest Post] Advent vs. Christmas

By Rev. Olivia Bryan Updegrove

At some point I realized that Advent and Christmas really are not the same. Just like a person cannot celebrate Easter fully without participating in Lent, Christmas loses its real meaning without Advent and just becomes a season of unrealistic and overhyped expectations.

Advent is not about keeping “Christ” in Christmas, but trying to figure out how to get to new life through the darkness. Christ is not here yet, and we are on a dirty long road to a stable to find him.

When we are most frustrated, annoyed, and bummed out – then we are experiencing Advent. When our families start fighting, the toy we sought is sold out, the recipe for the cookies went wrong, and the Christmas lights falter, then and only then can we begin our journey to Bethlehem.  

I, like many others, have years when I have struggled through the holiday season. My attempts to “be merry and bright” have been filled with loneliness and grief. In these years, Christmas finally arrives and goes by so quickly that I barely have time to register that we finally made it before I’m in the dreary middle of January. I’ve missed out on Christmas entirely.

This year, however, I find myself asking new questions about what it means to observe the season. What happens when we prepare for Christmas without the struggle? When December feels like we are “living the dream?” This holiday season I keep waiting for the bottom to drop out. I have not felt too much stress. My family has check marked off all the “fun holiday traditions,” and I even had time to get my carpets cleaned!

Did I miss Advent? My family is lighting the candles each night, marking off the calendars around our house, talking about the parts of the Christmas story.Did I miss it? Is it coming later?

… hmmm …

No. Just as we should not set “perfect” expectations for Christmas, there is also no “right” way to experience the Advent journey. We don’t live in a Hallmark movie where everything goes wrong right up until Christmas Eve and then comes together in a perfect ending. There is not even a “right” time to experience our Advent journey. We live in the real world, where sometimes things are good and sometimes they are not, and our joys and sorrows may not follow the church calendar.

Seasons of preparing, like Advent and Lent, are to remind us that other faithful people have had times of struggle. Our struggles may come in July and not March. Our tough journeys may come in November and not December. In the same way, our joys may come in early December and not wait until the 25th.

If we are truly waiting for a baby, we should know by now that babies don’t usually show up on their due dates. By limiting myself to fit the church calendar of emotions, I have limited my joy. Joy comes so rarely. Yes, I am still in Advent, but there can be joy in the journey, and I may dance on the road to Bethlehem singing a Christmas song a little early.

This post was originally published at http://www.docfamiliesandchildren.org/#!Advent-vs-Christmas/ct9r/567035c70cf274f69813306b.

___________

Rev. Olivia Bryan Updegrove serves as Minister of Family & Children's Ministries for Disciples Home Missions. Her latest project is a new book for children, Who is Jesus? which is a companion to What is God? Learn more at http://revoliviabryan.wix.com/whatisgodstories. You can also read her full bio on the Disciples Home Missions staff page.

 

#FamilyFavoriteFriday: Teens and Older Adults, Prayer Nets, and Junk Mail

Welcome back to LECFamily's #FamilyFavoriteFriday! Here's what we found to share with you around the web this week ...

For Parents ...

How do you help your teens engage with other generations in your community? This is a GREAT program that helps teens build relationships with older adults while giving the older adults new skills to communicate with family, friends and the world! Cyber Seniors even has a documentary available on Amazon

How are you modeling faith for your family? Did you know that you influence your kids more than anyone else, especially in the area of faith formation? This article gives a great reminder of how to be a model of faith for your kids and why it's so, so important. 

For Ministry Leaders ...

How do you encourage prayer at your church? How do you create prayer practices for all ages? A Prayer Net is a great visual that all ages can participate in and that will be a concrete embodiment of the prayers of the people in your congregation and community. Do you have something like this in your church or community? Post a photo!

Are you fighting the fight of having children in worship? Here's a short and impactful reminder that it's important - and if it doesn't work in your church, maybe you need to change some things.

For Fun ...

This mailman found out that a kid on his route was taking people's junk mail just so he had something to read ... and then something really incredible happened.

For thought ...

  • Do you intentionally encourage your children and teens to build relationships with other adults and older adults in your community? How?

  • What are the most significant "ah-ha" moments you've had as you've watched children participate in worship?

  • How can you seek out the needs of children in your community and provide the opportunities they need to succeed?