Bob: Are we getting Christmas right? Barbara Rainey says, “Maybe not.”
Barbara: So many people, even if they don’t know Christ, they do know that something is not right with the way we celebrate Christmas; they do know that the commercialism and the focus on all the stuff is wrong; they know it’s too much; and they don’t know why, and they don’t know what it is. So I think that it would be very easy to approach a neighbor and say, “We’re really trying, in our family, to make the focus of Christmas about what it’s all about.”
I think people will get it even if they don’t totally understand it; because I think we all know that it’s—the whole system is not quite right.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God. What if your Christmas tree did the same thing? We’ll talk about that today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. I almost didn’t expect to see you here today. I thought your wife, Barbara, would be here again, as she is; but I thought maybe you’d still be home unpacking boxes.
Dennis: Pulling boxes out of the attic, all the ornaments, all the Christmas trappings.
Bob: ‘Tis the week to decorate the house.
Dennis: Yes, it is.
Barbara: Yes, except that he doesn’t unpack the boxes; he merely carries them into the house.
Bob: And then goes and turns on the game.
Dennis: No, no, that’s not true. (Laughter) We used to have—we used to have some kids to help her; but now, it’s just us. We have—
Bob: Now, it’s the old mule. (Laughter) Get the old mule out.
Dennis: As my mom used to say, “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be.” (Laughter) But it is a fun time of the year, and all these trappings of Christmas all carry meaning with them; and that’s really what we wanted to talk with listeners about today—is the meaning of Christmas and helping you truly celebrate the reason for the season.
Bob: One of the reasons that Barbara is here with us is because of some work she’s been doing over the last several months on developing resources for families to use at Christmas. I’m wondering, looking at some of these resources—our listeners know that Thanksgiving has always been your favorite holiday. I’m just wondering if Christmas is starting to edge in on the competition here.
Barbara: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s edging in on the competition as far as the experience. I still love Thanksgiving because our family is usually around; but I love Christmas because—all of us love Christmas. I loved Christmas as a child and couldn’t wait for Christmas, as a child growing up.
I remember—the interesting memory that I have, or one of the interesting memories that I have as a child, is I remember watching friends of mine who were Catholic who would go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; and I used to think, “What do they do? What are they learning? What are they hearing? What am I missing out on?”—because there was something that said to me, “That was meaningful,” and I wanted something meaningful in our Christmas celebration.
We didn’t do a lot as a family, and we didn’t talk about it a lot. I remember as a kid longing for that. I knew there was more to the Christmas celebration that we had in my house growing up as a child than there was. I mean I kept looking at these other people thinking, “What am I missing? What else should there be?”
Bob: It’s interesting as you mention that. I’m thinking back to Christmas as a child where the focus of Christmas on Jesus really only came through in carols we sang or heard on the stereo—
Dennis: Yes, right.
Bob: —or what might get talked about in church.
Bob: Other than that, it was mostly presents—that was what I was locked in on—
Barbara: Yes, me too.
Bob: —or decorations or activities or parties—whatever was going on. I don’t remember a whole lot of spiritual focus in our house growing up. Was there much in yours?
Dennis: Not a lot. In fact, one of the highlights of our Christmas was—and some of our listeners will find this kind of odd—but we used to wrap joke packages.
My mom and I would go upstairs to kind of Santa’s workshop. And on Christmas Eve, my mom and I would get so tickled, we would have tears streaming down our faces at these really dumb gifts that we were wrapping for various members of the family that we would put under the tree. We would not put a “To: Gary,” my brother, “From: Dennis”. It wouldn’t have any from. It would say, “From: Santa.”
It was just having fun, but I longed—just like Barbara was talking about—I really longed for those more spiritual moments that you would see sometimes in the movies that surrounded Christmas that did have the carols, the Christmas carols that were being sung about Christ.
I know when we became parents, one of the things that we talked a great deal about was how could we as a mom and dad with our six children make Christmas focused upon the birthday celebration of the King of kings and Lord of lords, how God became flesh and dwelt among us. I’d have to say, Bob, I would give Barbara and me probably a C-minus, maybe a D-plus. We just didn’t find a lot of good ways to do that.
One of the things we had was a nativity set made of olive wood that I had gotten as a single man when I went to Israel back in 1971. Now, we had that, and the kids would get the baby Jesus out and put Him in the manager on Christmas Eve; but we didn’t really have a great way of celebrating the true meaning of Christmas with our kids—and really as a result, didn’t do a good job of leading them spiritually around the real meaning of Christmas.
Bob: Barbara, in volleyball terms, holidays are kind of a set to the spike. It’s like the calendar gives you an opportunity—
Barbara: It does.
Bob: —as a parent to do something more comfortably than you might otherwise do it—to talk about the birth of Jesus, to talk about His death, burial, and resurrection around Easter. And Deuteronomy 6 is a clear call to parents to take those naturally-occurring moments in our lives and in our days to engage with our kids around spiritual issues.
Barbara: Exactly, and I think that this passage in Deuteronomy is a good reminder to all of us as parents, or as grandparents for that matter, that we’ve all been commanded to teach. All of us as believers, men and women, we’ve all been commanded to teach. It says in there, Moses commanded the people— “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
So, the first place that the truth of Scripture needs to reside is in our hearts. It starts with us as individuals. So, moms and dads need to know what they believe, and they need to embrace that faith and that truth of Scripture; but then, he says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.” So, it starts with us. We’re the first place where the truth has to reside. Then, we take that truth, and we teach it to our children.
The problem is most of us as parents don’t know how to do that. We don’t know how to take what we believe and what we know and transfer it to our children; but that’s the instruction we’ve been given. We are to diligently teach our children.
Then it goes on to say, “And you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” So, in other words, constantly—in and out of the house, as you go, as you are up awake, and as you’re lying down to go to sleep. It’s supposed to be a part of the fiber of your life as a family.
For most of us, one of the opportunities that we have to do that is holidays because holidays are a fiber, an important thread, through all of our lives year after year after year.
Let me finish really quickly the other portion of this verse that I think is really helpful. It says, in verse 8, “You shall bind them as a sign in your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” Then, in verse 9, it says, “You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.”
So, if you think about these verses, there is a progression from my heart as a mom, my husband’s heart as a dad—it starts with us. Then, we teach it to our children, and we talk about it in our houses. Then, we put it on our doorposts. The doorpost is the doorframe around the front door or the back door of your house. Then, you put it on your gate.
So, there is a progression from me to my kids in my house—the doorpost around my house and the gate that surrounds my house. So God wants us to take the truth that we own and we possess and we believe and teach it, but also to proclaim it. We talk a lot at FamilyLife about knowing the truth and experiencing it and applying it, but also proclaiming it.
One of the things that I have a real passion to do is help moms and dads not only teach the truth to their children, but give them ways that they can practically proclaim that truth to their neighbors and their friends and people who come and go in and out of that front door, or in and out of that gate—there will be messages of faith to those who come into your house and go out of your house.
Bob: We’ve already talked this week about a new resource that you’ve developed for Christmas, a new set of Christmas tree ornaments. We call them Adorenaments® that take seven Christmas names of Jesus, and they are stamped in metal to be hung and displayed on a Christmas tree.
As you’re talking about the frontlets of your house and the door-gate, I guess you could hang some of these out there if you wanted to as well; but you could also use these ornaments as gifts to give to neighbors, to teachers, to folks.
Bob: I mean, at Christmastime, we’re always looking for some way to meaningfully bless people around us. These ornaments could be a great way to do that.
Barbara: Exactly. It’s one of the reasons we’ve packaged them individually as well as in a set of seven because all of us have people that we want to give something to at Christmas; and most of us who are believers want to give something meaningful. So, we have individually packaged names of Christ that you can give to a teacher, that you can give to the postman, that you can give to a neighbor.
Let’s face it: Most people are more open to hearing the truth about Jesus at Christmas than any other time of the year. I mean think about it. We walk into stores that are playing Christmas carols. The names are on—some of the truths about Jesus are on holiday cards, greeting cards. So, I think there’s a greater receptivity around Christmas to hearing the truth about who Jesus is.
So in these Adorenaments, we’re hoping that, not only will families buy them and display them on their own trees or put them on a wreath on your front door or all kinds of other ways you can use them; but that families will also buy some of the individual ones and have an opportunity to share your faith with your neighbor or with someone else by giving them one of the names of Christ.
Dennis: It occurred to me as Barbara was creating these, Bob—because she has really, for all practical purposes been working on this project for nearly two years. These are high-quality metal, stamped names with glitter and really a special lacquer and coating on these Adorenaments—
I thought, “You’re literally going to make it possible, Sweetheart, for someone to take the names of Christ next door to a neighbor and share Him with a neighbor”—perhaps, that you’ve been trying to think of a way, “How can I talk to my neighbor?” Taking a plate of cookies by itself is nice and it’s certainly sweet; but if you took a plate of cookies and on top of the plate of cookies—
Dennis: —you had one of these names, “Savior”, “Mighty God”, “Prince of Peace”, “Wonderful Counselor”, “Emmanuel”. “Jesus” is one of the names—one of the Christmas names.
I just think it’s going to be a fun way for a lot of people to truly share Christ this Christmas. Then, double back, maybe before Christmas, maybe after Christmas, it might be a couple of weeks later; you might just double back and say, “What did you think of the ornament I gave you? That’s really the reason why we just celebrated Christmas.”
Our desire is to help families reach out to other family members, friends, associates at work, and make Jesus Christ relevant where they live.
Bob: Well, even in sharing the ornament with a neighbor, I could see you saying, “You know at our house I’ve just had a conviction that we need to be more focused on what Christmas is really all about. That’s why I’ve gotten these for myself, and I thought I’d share them with you.” That’s not threatening. That’s not—you’re not—
Bob: —pressing anything with anybody but you have the opportunity to plant a seed; and who knows how God would use that?
Barbara: Well, and I think what you just said, Bob, is really true. I think that so many people, even if they don’t know Christ, they do know that something is not right with the way we celebrate Christmas. They do know that the commercialism and the focus on all the parties and all the stuff is wrong. They know it’s too much. They don’t know why, and they don’t know what it is.
So, I think that it would be very easy to approach a neighbor and say, “You know we’re really trying to, in our family, make the focus of Christmas about what it’s all about.” I think people will get it even if they don’t totally understand it, because I think we all know that it’s—the whole system is not quite right.
Bob: It’s not that you can’t have a party or have fun at Christmastime.
Barbara: Exactly. Exactly.
Bob: It’s the balance issue, and right now, we’re so out of balance in one direction—
Bob: —when we ought to be out of balance in the other direction. If anything ought to be highlighted at Christmas, it’s not the cookies, right?
Barbara: Exactly, I totally agree. That’s right.
Dennis: Well, think about it for a moment. I was going through an airport here a couple of years ago—and I think I just about had all I could take of everybody saying it’s “holidays”—“Happy holidays.” It’s not “Merry Christmas”—you know? So, I was going through the TSA line; and wherever I would go, I would say, “Merry Christmas.”
Bob: Kind of loud like that?
Dennis: Kind of loud like that. (Laughter)
Bob: They probably pulled you aside for screening—extra screening.
Dennis: No. No, they didn’t. In fact, they got it. In fact, many of the TSA agents that I went through would smile. They kind of—it would take them a second to kind of get it. They would say, “Well, Merry Christmas to you too, Sir.” I think people really—I think for the most part, Bob, I think they get really weary of how the culture is trying to take the message out of one of the holiest holidays we as followers of Christ celebrate.
What we need to be doing is we need to be finding practical, simple, non-threatening ways—not sounding like we’re pious or religious or shoving something down somebody’s throat, but simply honor someone and say, “Here’s the reason why we celebrate Christmas. Enjoy this. It’s my gift to you.”
Bob: Barbara, the ornaments that you’ve created—and folks need to see them. They need to go to FamilyLifeToday.com if they want to see what they look like, if you want to order them. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com to get a look at all seven of these ornaments--stamped, metal names of Christ: Jesus, Emmanuel, Savior, Christ the Lord, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Mighty God.
They are available in a set of seven, or you can buy them as individual ornaments. Again, you can find out more about them at FamilyLifeToday.com. And these ornaments are—this is just one project you’ve been working on. You’ve had the holidays in mind: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, the Lenten season before Easter. You’re starting to think about other holidays; but what are some of the other resources you’ve been working on?
Barbara: Well, currently, we have a couple of things available. One is a wreath, and it’s a gratitude-focused wreath; but it’s not orange. So, it’s not Thanksgiving or fall themed. It’s actually white. It’s made out of vintage paper with Psalms and hymns of praise stamped onto each leaf with just a little tiny bit of glitter; but it’s really beautiful. It’s soft, and again, it’s one of those “put it on your front door”—it’s a statement of your faith. It’s a reminder to be grateful.
It isn’t really a seasonal item, even though we designed it with Thanksgiving and fall and our natural inclination to think about gratitude in the month of November; nonetheless, it’s not so themed to that holiday that you couldn’t use it all year. So, we have that wreath available.
Then, we also have a nativity. I know a lot of people who collect nativities, and this is a nativity that’s unlike any others I’ve seen; but it too is not Christmas themed. In other words, it’s not red and green. It doesn’t have a lot of glitter on it; and it’s an item that can be kept out all year—again, as a reminder of the birth of Christ and the centrality of that event in our lives as believers.
Bob: Now, some people are hearing you talk about leaving a nativity scene out all year, and they just go, “Really? You’d—where in your house would you put a nativity set that you’d leave out all year?”
Barbara: Well, I think there are a number of places I could put this one. This one is made out of metal. It’s just the silhouette of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. There’s a donkey and a lamb. The lamb is really sweet. So, it’s just those five pieces.
And because it’s metal, I could put it on a table on my screen porch. I might leave it up on the fireplace mantle. I might put it on a table or on a bookshelf. Because it’s just the silhouette, you can just glance at it and see in an instant what it’s all about. We all know what the nativity looks like.
Bob: Alright, there are pictures of this on our website, too, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Barbara: Exactly, yes.
Bob: And I suppose there’s a picture of the wreath—
Bob: —if folks wanted to see what that looks like as well. And you’re working on stuff that we’re going to be talking about for Lent and for Easter, too?
Barbara: Correct. We’re creating a resource for families to use at Lent. It’s a six- session—kind of a family devotion for lack of a better word, where a family can get together once in the evening or at breakfast or whenever works for your family. And there are six sort of lessons, one for each week of the six weeks leading up to Easter. So, that’s the Lent product. And there are a lot more elements on it that we’ll get into some other time.
Then, we’re doing something for Easter, too. For Holy Week, a very, very short activity to do every day for the—starting on Palm Sunday and every day leading up until Easter Sunday to help celebrate and prepare for the Resurrection of Christ.
Bob: Are you getting any time? Are you seeing your wife at all these days?
Dennis: You know I wish I could put in a complaint. She works in your area, Bob. I think I may have a talk with you.
Bob: Talk to her boss. (Laughter)
Dennis: I would have to say this, though. My wife has never been more motivated than when she was a mom. I mean when she went after being a mom, she did it all out. She was going to be the very finest mom in the world; and I have not seen this kind of drive and desire to really help other families in our 40 years of marriage. She is determined to help create tools that will help moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, be successful in passing truth about God on to the next generation.
It’s such a central part of why God designed the family. Shouldn’t we use the holidays and this holiday in specific, Christmas, to be able to pass the reality and the truth of Jesus Christ on to the next generation?
Bob: Well, and listeners, as I’ve said, can get a chance to look at all that Barbara has been working on when they go to FamilyLifeToday.com. First of all, you can see the Adorenaments there; and we’ve got all seven of them laid out, so you can look at what they look like. You can also get information on the other resources she is working to develop.
If you’d like to order either a set of Adorenaments or if you’d like to order individual ornaments, they’re available when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call toll-free 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Really, I should mention that these are not available generally in Christian bookstores or anywhere else online. You need to come to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, I should also mention that for many years we have made available a child-friendly nativity set called What God Wants for Christmas® that is designed to be interactive to help kids get into the act of placing Mary and Joseph and the angel and the shepherd and the wise men and the Baby Jesus in the Christmas scene. And it helps them understand the story.
There is an accompanying poem that can be read aloud; or there is a CD that you can play, so that the kids can hear the story of Jesus’ birth as they interact with this nativity scene.
[Audio from What God Wants for Christmas]
Bob: Well, that’s a sample of what’s on the CD and a sample of the poem that’s included with What God Wants for Christmas; and there is a mysterious box that we call “Box Number Seven” that’s in the package and in that box is what God wants for Christmas. So as you put the nativity scene together, you keep asking the question, “What is it that God wants for Christmas?” Ultimately, the child gets to discover the real reason why Jesus was born, why He died, and why He was raised again.
If you’d like more information about What God Wants for Christmas, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
We celebrated Thanksgiving last week, but we should not be done with thanksgiving just because the holiday is past. Gratitude is something that ought to be characteristic of all of us.
And recently we had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who has written a book called Choosing Gratitude. We explored that subject with her, and we have two audio CDs that feature almost two hours of conversation with Nancy on this subject. We’re making those CDs available this month for those of you are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. We are grateful for your support.
When you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says, “I CARE,” and make an online donation; or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone. We really appreciate your partnership with us, and that’s why we want to say thank you by making available these audio CDs.
You can request them online or ask for them when you make a donation by phone; and just know that we are grateful to you for your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow. Barbara Rainey is going to be interacting with a group of young moms about how you mold and shape the next generation. We’ll get a chance to listen in tomorrow. I hope you can be back for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.