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Keeping Christ in Christmas

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Simple family traditions to keep Christ in Christmas
By Julianne Nornberg

Winter is finally upon us, and yet as the cold winds blow and the clouds carry with them impending snow, we scurry about with the fervor and busyness this season demands. There are Christmas gifts to buy, decorations to put up, holiday gatherings to plan and attend, cookies to bake, charities to donate to, people to visit. The list is never-ending.
At St. John School, too, there is heightened excitement, with Advent Angels and preparations for the annual Christmas concert and classroom celebrations.
Yet, somehow in the midst of all of this, we need to pause. Take a breath. Pray. Offer up to God each project, each gift we give this season, focusing on preparing our hearts for His coming.
And we need to teach our children to do the same.
How? Here are a few simple suggestions for starting family traditions in your home:
1) Set up Jesus’ empty manger in your Nativity set and have your children place a piece of hay in it each time they do something nice for someone else. The idea is to fill it with hay to make the manger a soft bed for Jesus when He arrives on Christmas day. In the same way, our hearts are softened and more open to Jesus when we practice kindness and generosity and putting others before ourselves.
2) Set up an Advent wreath in your home, light it each night at supper or bedtime and sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
3) Put a special gift box for Jesus on your mantel. All through Advent, have your children write down and put into the box things they’ve done for Jesus, small sacrifices they’ve made for others (donating to a charity, visiting the elderly at the nursing home, etc.) On Christmas day, open the box and share with each other all the ways the family has prepared their hearts for Jesus.
4) Make a birthday cake for Jesus and share on Christmas day as a reminder of the real reason we are celebrating.
In the frenetic pace of this season, it is easy to lose focus, to get caught up in society’s consumerism, to forget that Advent is supposed to be truly a time of waiting and prayerful preparation.
But as Catholic families at St. John School striving to pass on our faith to our children, with a few simple family traditions, we can teach them to pause and pray and remember that the true excitement of the season stems from Jesus, the greatest gift God ever gave us.
Let’s make sure that they – and we — don’t forget.

Julianne and Mark Nornberg have four children attending St. John School.

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