Category Archives: Christmas

Creating Memories This Christmas

By Teresa Sayles, Children’s Creative Arts Director

Woodland Hills Church

This season is prime making-memories time. No doubt, your family has some Christmas traditions of its own this season, but if you’re looking to add some new ideas this year, here are some fun and creative suggestions that might just become new traditions for your family for years to come!

  • If your kids have a flair for the dramatic, why not have them reenact the Christmas narrative! Costumes and props can easily be made from things found around the house. You could even get your extended family or friends involved and do a whole production in your living room!
  • Draw it out! Grab some large paper to create a mural of the Christmas story together to hang on the wall or create a book by stapling papers together and working as a family to write out the story and draw the pictures.
  • Many families have a tradition of baking cookies and giving them away to family and friends, but what if you handed them out to people serving in our community such as police officers, firefighters, librarians, janitors, and even trash and recycling collectors instead? Encourage your kids to think about people who might be overlooked who play an important role in our lives.
  • Visit a nursing/assisted living home. Encourage your kids to make cards to hand out or have them work on singing some Christmas carols together. It’s probably a good idea to talk with your children beforehand about things they may see that might confuse them or even make them feel a bit uncomfortable, such as a resident who doesn’t respond to their greeting or why so many are in wheelchairs.
  • Reading the Christmas story together as a family is a tradition for many, and one fun version to use is The Jesus Storybook Bible. With beautiful illustrations and kid-friendly wording, you can celebrate the story’s message together and talk about the incredible love of God shown through the birth of Jesus. It’s told in three separate stories (four if you include the story just beforehand) that could be read in the nights leading up to Christmas.
  • Write your own Christmas carols! Work together to compose your own Christmas songs that celebrate the birth of Christ. You could reword a familiar Christmas tune or even create your own original song!
  • If you have upper elementary children, you might want to make watching The Nativity Story (2006) a tradition. Grab some popcorn and cookies and enjoy together this compelling version of the Christmas story that could be a great springboard for conversation. (Note on content: The film is rated PG for violence. For details, check out: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/nativitystory)
  • Be secret agents of love! Christmas is a great opportunity to help your kids notice those in need around them. Encourage them to be on the lookout at school/daycare/home/with friends to see if they can spot someone who could use a little extra love this season. Then, brainstorm with your kids what that person might find helpful as a gift, and go get it or make it! You can choose to give the gift in person or, if you want to be super sneaky, you can leave the gift as an anonymous surprise!

Christmas is a season when memories are made and remembered, when nostalgia fills our senses and recalls us to Christmases past. This year, we encourage you to take time away from the hectic holiday schedule to make some truly amazing and meaningful memories together as a family. Whatever your holiday traditions may be, make the most of them and celebrate together the reason for this season: the incredible love of God come to us through the birth of Jesus!

Dinner and a Movie

We are thrilled to feature another blog post by guest writer, Erica Hunt!  Erica is on staff in our Emerging Generation ministry at Woodland Hills.  She and her husband enjoy spending quality time with their three daughters.

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I don’t remember if it was a moment in a store or a moment at home, but I realized I wanted out. I wanted out of the consumer-driven way to experience the Christmas holiday with my family. They had everything they needed and much more. I found myself daydreaming about the Little House on the Prairie Christmas episode where Laura and crew received an orange in their stocking. They were thrilled! What a novelty…what a luxury! I wondered if I could find an exotic, sweet-tasting fruit I could box up and put under the tree for each of our three girls. Unfortunately, the feasibility of that idea had a shorter shelf life than any fruit on the market.

We have never gone overboard with gifts and have always tried to be thoughtful with our giving. Still, there was an encroaching uneasiness in my spirit as Thanksgiving gave way to Christmas hype every year. We try to live in a way that reflects our values, yet this was an area we felt like could be more aligned and better reflect things we care about.

I had heard countless times from an abundance of sources about the gifts of time and attention meaning more than any toy or trinket. It was one of things that usually went in one ear and out the other. Until the year I decided we needed to try something new. My husband and I decided to test out this axiom and see if it was true.

So, I found empty shoe or cereal boxes and wrapped up a piece of paper entitling the gift-opener to a day-long date with a parent. They had a budget to keep, but otherwise the day was completely, 100% up to them. I was nervous as they opened their gifts, uncertain as to how they would respond. Maybe they were just being polite, but they actually seemed excited. Together, they confirmed at least a dozen times that they were actually in charge of the day.

“You mean we can do ANYTHING?”

“Can we go to movies all day?”

“Can we go sledding and then to the Children’s Museum?”

“Can we go to TWO restaurants in ONE day?!?”

This was about 6 or 7 years ago. Now the girls are 12, 15 and 16 so starting a couple of years ago we gave them the choice whether they wanted to continue to get time with us for their Christmas present or whether they wanted to try going the more traditional route of material gifts. In equal parts surprise and delight on our part, they have unanimously chosen to continue the dates with my husband and me. We alternate every year, so this year I get to spend an entire day with my 15-year old. I can’t wait! I’ve heard rumors of manicures, deep-dish pizza, a movie, the science museum or any combination of the above.

It might not be an orange in her stocking, but it seems to be special for both her and me. I couldn’t be more excited for her to open her present this year!

Following the Light Advent Drama

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We are excited once again to invite you and your family to join us for an evening of drama, music and carol singing, and reflective thoughts and poetry as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Savior through our Following the Light Advent Drama.  This is a free, family-friendly event!  Doors open at 6:40pm this Friday the 9th with a time of fellowship and Christmas treats to follow.  Feel free to bring your favorite Christmas goodies to share during this time.

December Preview Pack

Here’s a look ahead to what we’ll be learning in Heroes Gate this December:

December 4: Toddlers-4th Grade will take a look at the incredible bravery and faith of Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7). Club 56 kids will talk about the question: How Do I Give Thanks in All Circumstances?

December 11: Toddlers-4th Grade will rejoice with the shepherds as they announce the good news of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-20). Club 56 kids will talk about the question: Why and How Should I Spread Thankfulness?

December 18: Toddlers-Kindergarten will worship with the Wise Men as they discover the Savior (Matthew 2:1-12) while Elementary students will celebrate the holiday with Team parties.

December 25: There will be no services this day.  We encourage you to gather as a family and celebrate the birth of our Savior together!

The 5th Sunday of Advent – For Parents That Missed Christmas

We asked guest blogger, Noel Carlson, to share her thoughts with us again.  We think you’ll enjoy them!

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By Noel Carlson

It is the 5th Sunday of Advent, and although I am sure it is not marked on the traditional church calendar, I’m lighting a candle anyway. Somehow I’ve missed it. I feel like I’ve missed Christmas. With my coffee in hand, I pause for reflection. This stillness is welcomed by my soul.

Sundays in Advent are about preparation for the newborn king. Looking back, I seemed to have prepared but find myself still waiting. The cookies were baked, kids’ concerts attended, and stockings were stuffed, but where is the newborn king?

We sing, let every heart prepare him room. Instead so much of the holiday season here is the expending of energy, time, finances, concerns, and other resources. We expend until we ourselves are completely spent, left with an emptiness inside; a hollow ache that doesn’t seem to quite match the festive splendor found on pinterest or our instagram feeds.

Ann Voskamp talks about Mary conceiving the miracle of Jesus in her book, “The Greatest Gift.” In it, she shares that it wasn’t about Mary being fully perfected, all of her checklists accomplished, every spiritual discipline in place, unblemished and completely whole. She wasn’t completely prepared. She was simply a human who made space for the divine. “Mary–she opens her hands and she nods. And the promises come true in the space of her.”

The same space that can be found in our hollow ache.

This morning, I do the same. In my pause, completely spent. I too open my hands and nod.

Voskamp continues, “Somewhere you make space. And you feel the space become a sanctuary. Sanctity stilling the crush. Glory overshadowing everything else.”

Tonight, our family will celebrate the 5th Sunday of Advent. During our weekly Shabbat, we will break the bread and drink the cup; the flesh and blood brought to us by that newborn king. It is our time as a family to come together and pause and reflect. And we will open our hands and nod our heads, yielding over our empty spaces to him. For isn’t that what he’s wanted all Advent long?

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Beyond my lit candle this morning, our nativity scene catches my eye. I see it’s been rearranged, as it often is by my children. All the members of the creche have formed a circle, surrounding the newborn king. My kids in their rearranging got it right. Those at the nativity weren’t there on display, facing the outward world, posed just so; they made a space and welcomed him in.

Emmanuel, God with us, filling the hollow ache.

Happy 5th Sunday of Advent, fellow parents. May you and your children continue to be filled with him now and throughout the year.