Simplicity of Christmas for children

posted Dec 6, 2012, 7:11 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated Dec 6, 2012, 7:11 AM by in apropos ]
On Saturday, Margaret and I gathered together with 21 members of Grace Church for an Advent Quiet Day.  Half-way through the day I went to the door to watch the snow outside, and realized that in the towns and malls just a few miles away people would be shopping 'til they dropped, not gathered in a small chapel reading, praying and meditating.  And I was so glad to be where I was.  What we were doing was moving, not outward, rushing to do all the things we feel we ought to do in Advent in preparation for Christmas, but inward, preparing ourselves spiritually.  This would give us strength to resist all the demands of the "real world", such as buying gifts, or a new "holiday" outfit, or one more inflatable Santa for the lawn, eating and drinking to excess, or working too hard to make everyone happy and ending up spending Christmas Day sick in bed!
One of the joys of parenthood is that the things that make children happy are very simple.  I will never forget the Christmas the year my son was one year old.  We bought him a huge red ball, and he just sat there admiring it for ages before he even started to play with it.  And we've all seen our children have more fun with the box and the wrapping paper than the gift inside.  Now that they are older, I ask my children each year for three or four ways to celebrate Christmas that really matter to them.  It's very easy to assume that you have to do everything, from carol singing to cookie making to party-going, but I find that sometimes I am surprised at the simplicity of their requests.  For example, one year we walked around Somerville looking at the houses' decorations, and another time we made hot chocolate with marshmallows, and turned the lights off so that we could enjoy the lights of the Christmas Tree.
But the most important gift we can give our children at Christmas is the understanding that the central events of the season happen in church.  Learning about Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Kings in Church School; singing carols; participating in the pageant; being at church on Christmas Eve, placing the creche figures in the creche, and waiting for the moment of Jesus' birth.  These wonderful traditions give us a context from which to resist the pull of all the commercial pressures of "The Holidays", and to find our own inner peace in celebrating the birth of the Christ Child.