Category Archives: Christmas

How the Christmas Story DIDN’T Happen, aka “What’s Wrong with this (Christmas) Picture?”

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We’re so used to the Christmas story that we forget how startlingly unusual it is. The Son of God, born of a woman? The King of Kings, arriving from heaven in a stable? No room at the inn for the newborn Son of God? You can help children think about this remarkable story by telling it the way it might have happened, if Jesus had been given the princely treatment He deserved at His birth.

I love telling the Christmas story this way with a completely straight face with no warning or prelude, waiting for the children to discover, one by one, that this is no ordinary retelling of the Christmas story.

Click here for the downloadable 1-page pdf, complete with references that correct the errors in this fascinating lesson, Sharing Time or family night lesson, “What’s Wrong with this (Christmas) Picture?” Senior Primary children might each read a scripture reference and correct the errors. (Hint: one of these facts below actually IS true, just slightly disguised.)

“Boys and girls, I know you’ve heard it before, but I love telling the Christmas story. I’ve written it down here so I don’t forget any of the details.

“It starts with Mary who was about to have her first baby, who was Jesus. Because He was the Son of God, King of the Jews, King of Kings, everyone in the entire country of Israel knew He was about to be born. His mother Mary and his stepfather Joseph were well known throughout the land. Joseph was a wise and good governor of Judea.

“Jesus was born in the royal palace, wrapped in the finest linen and laid in a cradle of the most prized Lebanese cedar wood overlaid with pure gold, fitting for the Son of God.

“The first to hear of Jesus’ birth were the governors of all the provinces. Angels appeared to all the provincial governors to announce that their King was born. Everyone knew the way to the palace where Jesus was born. The provincial governors scheduled a visit to baby Jesus when Mary had a little time to recover from giving birth. The governors were very pleased to meet their King.

“In fact, three kings from the East came to bring Jesus gifts: which were gold and two different kinds of tree resin, which is like tree sap only a thicker.

“That’s the way the Christmas story happened, right?”

Click here for the downloadable 1-page pdf, complete with references that correct the errors

 

 

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Sharing Time ideas for December: “Jesus Christ Is the Son of God”

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While we think and talk about Jesus often, it’s particularly sacred to think of Him in December, when we join with the rest of the Christian world and celebrate Jesus’ birth. Here are some special Sharing Time or family night ideas to celebrate Jesus:

Enjoy this sacred season! Merry Christmas to you from all of us at Primary in Zion!

-Marci

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Service with Kids in 0, yes Zero, Minutes

You read that right. Zero minutes. Yes, service with kids.

Service rightly takes center stage in December, thinking of others at this joyous time of celebrating the Savior’s birth. I love the church’s “25 ways over 25 days” — an advent calendar of 30-second videos and service project ideas until Dec. 25. But busy, overwhelmed parents and Primary leaders may feel like they’re doing well to get through another day! How can we add more thing to a busy season, added on top of a busy life?

Michelle puts it this way: “I would just like to remind all of us to recognize and give ourselves credit for ALL the amazing things we are already doing for our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. We are raising children, serving in our church congregations, teaching our children morals, visiting our neighbors, volunteering at school, smiling at our fellowman, offering words of encouragement, supporting our spouses, helping our extended families and so so much more! These acts of service do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

“During your lunch break, or if you’re doing dishes today or sit down to fold laundry here’s a little workshop video all about service and how to ‘Create a Culture of Service’ in our families without killing ourselves: Video Workshop: Kids and Service.” Check out the resource sheet and service grids on that same page with ideas for service projects that can be completed in 0 minutes, 5 minutes, a few hours, or 1/2 day.

Service in zero minutes? It boils down to doing something you’re already doing, but focusing it on service. You can have books in your home about being a good friend and neighbor, post a picture of someone your family knows who is serving a mission, or genuinely say “You really tried hard on that” or “I love you.” And never underestimate the power of children and families simply praying for someone in need — a refugee, a family member, a ward member, or a stranger. God hears and answers those prayers offered to Him as genuine acts of service — calling down the powers of heaven on behalf of someone in need.

Also see:

Make it a merry Christmas — through service in as little as zero minutes!

God bless,

Marci

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December: The Scriptures Teach Me about the Savior’s Birth and Second Coming

"The Second Coming," by Harry Anderson. Gospel Art Kit 238

“The Second Coming,” by Harry Anderson. Gospel Art Kit 238

Teaching children about Jesus’ birth (First Coming) AND Second Coming accomplishes several good things:

  • It puts the Savior’s birth in the context of Jesus’ eternal lifespan, helping to keep Christmas focused on Jesus.
  • It removes the confusion about what that baby Messiah was supposed to do. As one of my Jewish co-workers said, “Look around – if that was the Messiah, we need a better one!” Of course she did not believe what we understand –that he would come twice: once to show us the way and atone for our sins, and a second time to conquer and establish his kingdom, subdue evil, and establish peace on earth.

Very few lessons teach the Second Coming in a way that is understandable to children. Most rely on analogies about virgins and lamps that are useful, but often leave children without an understanding of what exactly Jesus’ Second Coming means. Here is a lesson to fill that gap and prepare children to meet Him, whether in this life or the next: Jesus’ First and Second Coming.

-Marci

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A Celebration of Epiphany / Three Kings Day: Family Night Lesson or Sharing Time Supplement

Our guest author Daniel offers a Family-Night-style lesson celebrating an ancient Christian holiday that might have escaped our notice.  Daniel is a teacher and father who loves bird-watching and studying religion.

Download a PDF of this lesson by clicking here.

Star of Bethlehem, Edward Burne-Jones (1890)

Every year on January 6th, millions of Christians around the world celebrate a holiday called Epiphany.  In Spain and Latin America, they call it El Día de los Reyes (“Three Kings Day”), in Sweden it is Trettondedag Jul (“Thirteenth Day Yule”), and in Ethiopia they call it Timkat (though their different calendar puts it on January 19th).  Disneyland even hosts a 5-day celebration!  It is officially “The 12th Day of Christmas,” and is the day on which people of many cultures exchange their Christmas gifts.

The reason for this holiday is contained in the word Epiphany, from the Greek, which means “to make manifest,” “to reveal,” or “to appear.”  First celebrated in the 4th century AD, it traditionally commemorates three New Testament events during which Jesus Christ was “revealed” to the world:

  1. the visit of the wise men (usually called The Magi) shortly after his birth, when baby Jesus was heralded as a king for all people;
  2. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, when the Spirit of God descended and a voice spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son;”
  3. and the wedding at Cana, at which Jesus’ first public miracle took place when he revealed his divine powers by changing the water into wine.

Each culture has developed rich traditions as a part of their celebration of Epiphany, ranging from the leaving of children’s shoes outside their doors in hopes that the Three Kings will fill them with gifts during the nighttime, to the baking and eating of a “King Cake,” to putting on massive and glorious parades that culminate in ritual re-enactments of the baptism of Jesus.  Christians the world over have developed an impressive variety of religious feasts, blessings, sacred processions, fasts, and musical celebrations in honor of Epiphany.  It is the climax of the ancient “Twelve Days of Christmas.”  It is the merry-making “Twelfth Night.”  It is a world-wide communal celebration of the revelation of Jesus Christ to all mankind.

 

Study and Discussion (choose anything that interests you)

 Read and discuss the scriptures associated with the three traditional “Epiphany” events.  What does each “reveal” about Jesus?

  • The visit of the Magi (Matthew 2)
  • The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3: 13-17 plus JST; Mark 1: 9-11; Luke 3: 21-22; John 1: 32-34)
  • The Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2: 1-11)

Brainstorm, Talk, and Write:

  1. If we were to celebrate three latter-day events for a new kind of Epiphany, which would you choose?  Which events in the history of our church “revealed” Jesus to us in essential ways?
  2. What about you and your personal experience with JesusCan you recall some of the events in your life in which Christ was “revealed” to you in any particular way?
    • Share your memories and experiences with the members of your group if you feel like it.
    • Write them in a journal or elsewhere and revisit these memories each January 6th with a prayer of gratitude and celebration for those events in which Christ “revealed” himself to you.

Expand Your Knowledge:

  1. Search your library of books, the internet, or “The LDS Scripture Citation Index” (scriptures.byu.edu) for more information and insights about the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding feast at Cana.  Work together and make it fun for your group!  Share what you have learned with the others in your group (this can be as structured or as informal and free-wheeling as you’d like).  If you keep a scripture study journal, this might be a good time to write down any new insights.

Activities: Baking, Service, Art, and Video (choose any that interest you)

  1. Bake and eat a King Cake!  Search the internet for ideas and recipes that look good to you.  There are several yummy varieties out there – be sure to look up recipes for La Galette des Rois (a French pastry cake), Rosca de Reyes (the Spanish or Latin American variety), Dreikönigskuchen (a Swiss recipe), and Gâteau des Rois (another French variety).  Before you eat it, say a prayer in which you all take turns thanking God for events in your life in which Jesus Christ was “made manifest” to you in some way.  Watch out for the toy hidden inside!
  2. Take three gifts to a family in need.  Do it in grateful remembrance of the gifts of the Magi to baby Jesus and his humble little family.
  3. Search the vast “art museum” that is the internet for artwork depicting the three Epiphany events from the life of Jesus (for the visit of the wise men, the precise terms “Adoration of the Magi” and “Journey of the Magi” will be useful).  Try to find images from a variety of cultures and eras and using a variety of mediums (Christianity has a rich artistic heritage in painting, stained glass, tile murals, and stone carving to name a few).  Look closely at and ponder your favorite images and discuss the message or feeling each image conveys to you about Jesus.  Which images speak the most directly to your heart?  Which most closely reflect your personal experience of Jesus Christ?  Which inspire your devotion?
  4. Try your hand at religious art or musical expression, whether you’re a professional artist or a complete beginner.  Choose an “Epiphany” theme and depict it in an artistic way: draw a picture, make a play-doh sculpture, write a song, paint with watercolors, use markers on aluminum foil, make Epiphany-themed pancakes – use your imagination!  Try to pour your heart into the project, regardless of your skill level, offering your devotion to Christ through artistic expression.
  5. Explore the internet for videos of people from a variety of religious cultures celebrating Epiphany and Three Kings Day (and don’t forget “Timkat” or “Timket”).  What do people do?  Why do they do it?  As a group, think up some ways you might want to incorporate any of these religious traditions into your own celebration of Epiphany with your family and friends.  Now, let’s celebrate!

~Daniel

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Preparing for Christmas through Scripture: A fun family activity!

Where do you find Santa in the original story of Jesus’ birth?  No, I don’t have anything against Santa.  But I do like to try and balance out my kids’ excitement over Santa and the presents with the understanding of our Savior and His birth and the real reason we celebrate this Christmas season.  Here’s one fun and simple way to include more scriptures in your family routine as you zip through the month of December:

The 12 Day’s of Christmas through Scripture–in this blog post archive I’ll walk you through a fun DIY where you can create your own 12 Day’s of Christmas with cute downloadables and scriptures for each day tucked into fun little pockets for your kids’ little fingers to pull out in anticipation!  Begin your countdown on December 13th! Enjoy!

12 Days of Christmas File Folder

~Michelle

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“When We Serve Others, We Serve God”

Marci’s CTR 4 class from 2006

Thinking of those less fortunate is a wonderful lesson for children. Any time is an ideal time to coordinate with your Ward Council to find out what the other auxiliaries are planning for service and how Primary children can contribute. For example, perhaps the Relief Society or Young Men/Young Women are planning to mail care packages to missionaries or military personnel. Or maybe the ward is doing a “Sub for Santa” project of collecting holiday gifts for needy families or children in homeless shelters. Primary children can contribute to the cause by:

  • Helping collect non-perishable food items. Senior Primary classes might visit Relief Society or priesthood classes to ask for donations. For extra fun, ask each family to bring one red and one green non-perishable item (green Jello and red dried cranberries, a can of green beans and a can of beets, or a can of pasta sauce and spinach flavored pasta).
  • Making cards to accompany donations. Creating cards with paper, envelopes, stickers and crayons while the pianist plays Primary songs could be a terrific Sharing Time lesson or Activity Day.
  • Making homemade wrapping paper by decorating a roll of newsprint or butcher paper, or decorating plain gift bags. Some restaurants have plain brown paper bags for takeout food that they might be willing to donate. Then gifts for the needy can be wrapped in an extra bit of love from the Primary children. For security, the gift bags can be stapled shut for transport after they’re filled.

For more service project ideas that children can do, see Transform year-round holiday craziness into holiday service, my one-and-only published Ensign contribution here,  and Jackie’s “Pint Sized Service Projects” here.

-Marci

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Transform year-round holiday craziness into holiday service

Did you see the article “Can We Bring the Holidays Down a Notch?” Some folks think that St. Patrick’s Day must involve a leprechaun hunt for gold coins. Valentine’s Day exchanges must be entire goodie bags, not just homemade cards decorated with crooked red hearts. Pie must be served on Pi Day (March 14 — you know, 3.1415. . . ). And Christmas, well, forget it. The author of the article suggests bringing the holiday craziness down a notch.

Marci's Primary class from 2006.

Marci’s Primary class from 2006.

I’ve got a different idea. First, give yourself credit for getting through each day. It seems impossible sometimes even on ordinary days, with everything there is to do, before you add holiday expectations. Then, go ahead and wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, tint your breakfast milk green, even scramble up some green eggs and ham. Whatever makes you happy. Then, if you still have energy, instead of ever more elaborate holiday celebration ideas, how about making each holiday a service opportunity? Those hungry folks in homeless shelters and soup kitchens that you help out at Christmastime — they’re hungry on St. Patrick’s Day and Easter too. And firemen and policemen work around the clock 365 days a year. Somebody is working on every single holiday. Maybe you’d like to bring them a warm cinnamon roll after your own family’s holiday breakfast.

Maybe children would like to collect all green nonperishable food for the local food pantry on St. Pat’s day (let’s see. . .  canned green beans, lime jello, spinach pasta. . . ) or red food for Valentine’s Day (hmm . . . pasta sauce, beets, canned tomatoes. . . ). Bring a pie to your local police station or fire station for Pi Day to thank them for their service to the community. Make and deliver Easter cards to shut-ins. Invite another family (member or nonmember) to join you in your holiday service caper. You can serve as a family or as a Primary or as a school classroom.

Marci's 4-5s Class 004

More service ideas at my one-and-only published Ensign contribution here.

And check out Jackie’s “Pint Sized Service Projects” here.

Then make each holiday a little bit of a holy day, seeking to make others happy too, serving as Christ served.

-Marci

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A Christmas Eve Program

I have four children of various ages and have struggled over the years to try to make Jesus more important during Christmas than Santa Claus.  And what works for my family is to separate the divine from the gifts.

So on Christmas Eve we focus exclusively on Christ.  I’ve tried reenacting the Christmas story, among other things. But what I love and have done for the last several years is to use the Christmas program in the church’s Family Home Evening Manual.  We usually invite another family over for dinner. I strongly encourage my children to perform some musical numbers but the highlight of the evening is when we all sit down, open our scriptures and read the Christmas story interspersed with hymns and Christmas songs.

The best thing for me is that it is already prepared.  It’s a beautiful message and welcomes the spirit into your home.

You can give the entire lesson (“Come Let Us Adore Him”) or break it up into two lessons.  I love to give the Celebration part of the lesson on Christmas Eve.

~Marjorie

Christmas Eve Celebration PDF

Words for the Songs in the Christmas Celebration PDF


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12 Days of Christmas–preparing for Christmas through scripture

I love everything about Christmas!  The traditions, the music, the parties, the food, the symbolism, gift giving, Santa, decorations–you name it!  I think these traditions can create wonderful family memories!  Every year each member in our family gets to choose a new Christmas tree ornament.  My husband’s family started this when he was just a boy. When he and I got married, his mom gave him a box of all his Christmas ornaments from years past–even now he loves to reminisce when he pulls out his ornaments each year.

Amidst all these Christmas traditions we try and set aside a few moments each day to specifically focus on Christ’s birth and the true meaning of Christmas.  I have been wanting to create some sort of Christmas countdown to help me accomplish this goal.  This year I finally came up with a cute idea.  Of course, I only consider myself a creative person inasmuch as I can find great ideas from other people online and then morph them into the idea in my head.  Well, this is exactly what I did this year.

First, I found some adorable 12 days of Christmas tags on Today’s Mama blog.  You could use these tags for a million different gift-giving ideas, but I didn’t want to give tangible gifts, I wanted to do a scripture or a spiritual thought so I continued my search.  My next stop was lds.org where I found a perfect article from The New Era that had a scripture and little activity for each of the 12 days of Christmas, with just the right theme I had in mind: “You can prepare for Christmas now by remembering how others prepared for Him then.”  Once I found these two resources online my creativity kicked in and I got to work and created a file folder full of tags and scriptures for each of the 12 Days of Christmas!  This is a fun, cute way to spend a few minutes each night preparing for Christmas, and would also be a great gift idea!  So many variations possible!

“Many prophets in the Bible and Book of Mormon foretold Jesus Christ’s birth and ministry hundreds of years before the actual event. For the 12 days before Christmas, this advent calendar will serve as a reference to scriptures about the birth and life of the Savior and activities you can do to be more Christlike.” The New Era, December 2008

12 Days of Christmas File Folder

Here’s what I did:

1. Find a file folder (there are tons of cute decorative ones but a plain manila one works just as well).

2. Find some coin envelopes; size #3 (2 1/2 x 4 1/4) fits these tags just perfectly. I found some at Office Max.  I used glue dots to adhere the envelopes to my file folder and also chose to cut off the top flap.

3. Download and color print the 12 Days of Christmas tags from Today’s Mama blog, laminate and cut out.

4. Print the daily scriptures (the link here is a print friendly document, but this comes straight from lds.org). Fold and tape them to the back of each tag.  These then slide into each coin envelope. (The 2 intro paragraphs of this document are what I glued in between the rows of envelopes)

5. Embellish with scraps of ribbon (I stapled red grosgrain ribbon onto each tag to create a little handle), number stickers, decorative paper etc.  Oh, and at the bottom of the page of tags it says 12 Days of Christmas gift tags…well I just cut out the “12 Days of Christmas” part and used that for my file folder label!

6.  Start your countdown on December 13th!

May this activity help lead you and your family to Christ this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

~Michelle

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