…Well, hello there, Mr. Grinch.
There’s a particular line from the classic holiday song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” that catches my ear every time. Since 1951, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, and so many more artists have sung this tune into our homes and hearts. Of course, Alvin and the Chipmunks made it truly unforgettable when they squeaked it out in 1961. (You’re singing it in your head now, aren’t you?)
We can tell when the holidays are here. We spot the displays at the store, see the lights on people’s houses, and hear the songs on the radio. Kids of all ages get the giggles in anticipation of vacation and presents. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” paints the picture so well for us. But, if you listen closely, there’s one line that sticks out like a sore thumb…
“And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again.”
I wonder what was going on with Meredith Willson when he wrote it. Right in the middle of describing holiday joys, he tosses in a dose of reality. It catches me off guard every time I hear it and I can’t help but chuckle: Hey Mr. Willson, did the Grinch get your tongue?
Can We Just Cancel Christmas?
My wife and I are the proud parents of two teenage sons. We love them with all our hearts. We do our best to be fully engaged with them at home (and school and church and sports) as much as possible all year long. AND…when cabin fever sets in during the summer or over Christmas break, we can hardly wait for our routines to get back to normal. If we’re not careful, Mr. Grinch can creep into any home during the holidays.
I’m not saying we should go through with it, but the idea of canceling Christmas has crossed our minds more than once. I used to think we were the only ones struggling with this tension. It turns out we’re not. I mean, when every car ride to the mall, parties, family gatherings, and church ends up in a fight, the idea of avoiding Christmas is quite appealing.
The holidays are wonderful, and stressful, in so many ways. The amount of running around that families do during the Christmas season is exhausting. It’s hard on schedules, pocketbooks, relationships, and hearts. What starts out as the famed “most wonderful time of the year” quickly turns into a heap of used recipes and old receipts. Many Christmas dinners come with extra large sides of family drama and disappointment. Given all the holiday hassles, many moms and dad start to wonder, “Is all that comes with the season really worth it?”
Encourage Your Families to Fully Engage
We all know how the grumpy old Grinch handled Christmas in Dr. Seuss’s fictional Whoville. But, that’s not what’s best for human hearts (or the Grinch’s, as he soon found out!). The families in your ministry have an important choice to make this Christmas season. It’s Tuesday, so the big day is only five sleeps away! Rather than let the Grinch get their hearts, encourage your families to fully engage with God, one another, and your church community over the holidays. Here are some ways to help them be more intentional, especially if and when the Grinch starts to sneak in.
Ask Each Other Great Questions
Family members sometimes forget to stay curious about each other. The holidays are a fantastic time to find out what’s taking up space in their minds and hearts.
- Why are you excited about Christmas this year?
- What’s the best gift you ever gave someone else and why?
- What is a holiday tradition you wish our family did more often?
- Why is the birth of Jesus important to you?
- What does our church do at Christmas that you can’t wait to be part of each year?
- How has our family grown closer in the past 12 months?
- If you could change one thing about our home, what would it be and why?
- What are you looking forward to when we all go back to school and work?
Build a 1000 Piece Puzzle
Head to the store as a family and pick out a puzzle with A LOT of pieces so it lasts longer over the holidays. Choose a picture that means something to everyone, not just the first one you find. This activity can give families time to be together, talk, and grow in patience. Another way to make it more meaningful is to go online and get a custom puzzle made. Choose your favorite family photo – a serious or silly one will do! Let putting a puzzle together get your conversation and memories flowing.
Unplug Almost Everything
A lot of memories are made when the power goes out. So, why wait for a winter storm? Decide on a time when everyone will turn off all the phones, tablets, TVs, laptops, gadgets and appliances in the house (be sure to leave your refrigerator plugged in). Pass out some cookies and hot cocoa for everyone. Then play some fun games by candlelight or read the Christmas story together. You could always keep working on that 1000 piece puzzle too! If you’re really up for a challenge, unplug as a family for 24-hours or more. This may drive you crazy for a bit, but eventually you’ll appreciate the silence.
Stock Up on Nerf Guns
Having a huge supply of foam darts on hand can be a wonderful stress reliever. Get everyone in your family a Nerf gun (or something similar). Commit to playing along with impromptu battles, sneak attacks, and planned missions. When tensions start to rise this holiday season, encourage your family to play together instead of being tempted to throw a punch. Cabin fever just happens, so make the most of it.
Honor Everyone Individually
God gifts families with every person in it for a reason. Take time to appreciate each person for who they are and how God made them. Read Psalm 139 as a family. Share how much God loves each person He created. Then reread it, but replace every pronoun with the first name of one person in your home. (For example, Psalm 139:1: “You have searched [INSERT NAME], O Lord, and you know [INSERT NAME].” Do the same for each verse in the chapter.) There are many ways to draw appropriate attention to each family member in honoring ways. The goal isn’t to puff them up or esteem them as better than anyone else. You just want families to recognize the unique value of everyone God made and placed in their home.
Dust of Your Board Games
This idea is pretty obvious and super simple. Many families have a stack of board games in a closet somewhere. These used to get played a lot, but video games and Netflix have all but replaced Trouble, Apples to Apples, Candyland, Jenga, Scrabble, and Yahtzee. Which board games do your family members enjoy? Turn off anything with a screen and gather around the coffee table together. Children’s ministry leaders…consider hosting a family meet-up at your church for a board game extravaganza.
Carol in Your Neighborhood
It’s a big risk, especially if it’s just your little clan, but caroling is definitely a holiday tradition every family should try out…at least once. Having the ability to sing beautifully is irrelevant. Buddy the Elf hit the nail on the head with this one: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Pick a few songs and visit your neighbors. Maybe they’ll feel sorry for you as you stand in the cold singing loudly and invite you in for milk and cookies.
Bring Your Friends to Church
According to Barna Research, the percentage was much higher 20 years ago but 47% of people today are still likely to go to church if a friend invites them. That means you’ve got about a 50/50 chance this season. Don’t give up on your family and friends. Take the risk and see if they’re open to God’s Spirit nudging them to come with you. It’s quite encouraging to sit side-by-side in church at Christmas with someone you care about. Challenge families in your ministry to step out of “business as usual” this year. Remind them to prayerfully bring people in their relational spheres to church.
Celebrate 2016 Milestones
Families often get so overwhelmed with activity that they forget to reflect on God’s faithfulness. Urge families to look back on 2016. How did Christ change the heart of your home? What accomplishments did each person experience? What family goals came to fruition? In your church relationships, how did your family connect at a deeper level? Was there a project at school, an initiative at work, an experience at church that was particularly meaningful? Baptisms, anniversaries, job promotions, birthdays, and more are all worth revisiting. Print some memorable pictures and put out a display that celebrates individual and family milestones.
Go Play for a Day (or More!)
Don’t let your vacation days roll over AGAIN into the New Year. Take time off to be with your family. Go to a museum, head to the biggest city nearby, drive to visit relatives, check out a new restaurant, or play in the park (or the snow if you have some). Spread the word! There’s still time for families in your ministry clear their calendars before and after Christmas.
Bonus: Discuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Before tackling the ideas above, it might be better to start by reading or watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss as a family. Find out what each person thinks about the story. Talk about which character each of you likes most, and which one you’re most like. Lifelong relational discipleship implications are woven all throughout this classic fable.
Proverbs 4:23 applies to families as much as it does to individuals: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Just like individuals, families need a regular rhythm of rest and recreation. Remind moms and dads to be intentional. Encourage them to make the choice to fully engage as a family. They can reap the benefits of stepping away from the hustle and bustle BEFORE the Grinch gets their heart – and the heart of their home – this holiday season.
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