Redeeming the Holidays
About the Guest
Christmas is a special time of year. Barbara Rainey, designer and founder of Ever Thine Home, joins her husband, Dennis, to talk about the Advent season and what you can do to make the holidays more meaningful.
Christmas is a special time of year. Barbara Rainey joins her husband, Dennis, to talk about the Advent season and what you can do to make the holidays more meaningful.
Redeeming the Holidays
Bob: Do your children think Christmas is about Jesus or about gifts? Barbara Rainey says there’s a way to take the focus on gifts and turn it to a focus on Jesus.
Barbara: When we give gifts to one another, we are demonstrating that we love one another. The whole reason we give gifts in the first place is because we’re imitating what God did for us. Helping your children see that the gift of Jesus is why we give gifts to one another—that adds meaning and depth to the experience of a holiday, in and of itself; but teaching them His names takes it even farther.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 27th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How can we, as parents, make sure that during this Christmas season we, as parents, continue to point our children to what is the main thing?
How can we keep our own hearts there? We’re going to talk more about that today with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we’ve talked many times about life messages. You would identify—I don’t know, a half a dozen; maybe more—messages that, over the course of your life, have just been ones you’ve come back to. The importance of the fifth commandment is one of those life messages for you; understanding the fear of God has been a life message for you; the whole issue of isolation in marriage versus oneness in marriage—that’s a life message that’s been carried through the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway for years.
Dennis: Keeping the covenant and your most sacred promise you make to another human being—
Dennis: —the marriage promise.
Bob: Your wife has a couple of life messages in her too; doesn’t she?
Dennis: She does, and she’s really made me listen to them several times over the past 46 years. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, sit back; because you’re going to get to hear them again today!
Dennis: I’m kidding! [Laughter] I’m kidding, Barbara—I mean that.
Barbara: I know you are.
Dennis: I love all your messages.
Barbara: I know you are.
Dennis: Welcome back to the broadcast, Sweetheart.
Barbara: Thanks. [Laughter]
Bob: The whole idea of redeeming holidays really has been a life message for you—for how long; do you think?
Barbara: You know, that’s a great way to put it. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it in those terms—in the terms of a life message—but it really is; because I just began to see, when we were raising our kids—and maybe it was when we just had three or four, or maybe it was when we had all six of them—but I just noticed, in my kids/in our children, that when holidays rolled around, it’s like their little antenna perked up and their hearing perked up—and they went:
“Uh-oh, something’s different. Mom’s put up a Christmas tree,” or “Something’s different. She’s cooking different food for Thanksgiving,” or “Something’s different. She has these decorations out.” I mean, you know, they just pick up on that kind of stuff.
I thought: “Oh, that’s interesting. They’re noticing that I’m doing different things to make this time of year unique and special.” When that kind of made sense to me, I thought: “Okay; this is a teaching opportunity too. This isn’t just, ‘Okay; let’s make different food because it’s Thanksgiving.’ Maybe they’re more receptive if their little antennas are up. Maybe I can teach them some things about being thankful.”
I started researching and doing some study to figure out: “What can I teach them? How can I teach my kids to be grateful when their little antennae were up and going, ‘Okay; this is a special time of year’?”—the same with Christmas, and the same with Easter, and the same even with some other opportunities throughout the year.
I think that seed started germinating when I saw my kids’ receptivity to anything that I had to say go up around holidays. I realized that all children are like that, and even adults, for that matter. We celebrate these holidays because there’s something important about them—something meaningful happened / something that we should pay attention. So how do we, as moms and dads, teach our kids what that is?—what that meaningful event was?—and “Why do we celebrate this?”
Bob: Typically, the first Sunday after Thanksgiving is the start of the Advent season in local churches.
Bob: Now, that’s not the case this year, because we had an early Thanksgiving; so it’s actually this coming Sunday when we will begin the Advent celebration. This is, traditionally, the time when we’re supposed to be re-focusing and getting ready for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Is this something that you gave a lot of focus and attention to you as you were raising your kids?
Barbara: Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s something that I tried to give attention to; but it was something that I have—
—now, as I look back on it—I feel like I was an absolute failure. I didn’t grow up doing an Advent wreath or any kind of Advent thing, so I was trying to do something that was outside of my experience. But I saw other people in the church doing it, and I saw some churches that we attended do the Advent wreath at the front of the church—
Dennis: Could I make a statement there?
Dennis: It just dawned on me, as I was listening to you: “Advent is not a candle.”
Barbara: No; of course, it’s not a candle. [Laughter]
Dennis: It’s not lighting a candle; no. I just think a lot of people don’t pause and think about: “What does the word, “advent,”—
Barbara: Well, they don’t even know what it means.
Dennis: —what does it mean?
Barbara: I didn’t know what it meant!
Bob: Well, a candle—you bring up a candle—I’m not thinking, “Candle”; I’m thinking, “Calendar,” because, at our house, we had the Advent calendar. [Laughter] Every day, you’d pop open something—
Barbara: And we had an Advent calendar too.
Bob: —and there was chocolate underneath, or a little toy, or something underneath; so—
Barbara: And that—we were successful with—
Bob: Okay; so you pulled that one off.
Barbara: —we had that out. The reason was because the kids wanted—they fought over whose turn it was to do that.
Bob: —to open that.
Barbara: Right—to do that every day.
Dennis: And we had somebody who gave us a calendar that was a felt calendar that had—
Barbara: Yes; my mother made that.
Barbara: You don’t remember that; do you? [Laughter]
Dennis: Hey, Grandma, could I apologize for that? [Laughter]
Bob: You better!
Dennis: Poor memory. She’s celebrating her 92nd year in life.
Bob: Wow; wow.
Dennis: What a great gift, though; because it gave the kids something to touch and feel and be a part of at Christmas.
Barbara: Right—for the whole month of December.
Bob: Well, the reality is—the songs on the radio, or the commercials that are on TV, or what is in your social media feed now—all of this is talking about “Christmas is coming.” It’s all pointing you toward, “Don’t you want…” and “Shouldn’t you buy…” and it’s all consumer-oriented.
Dennis: Yes; right.
Bob: So our antennas are up—not just our kids, but our antennas are up. What you’re trying to say is: “Our antennas are up, but let’s tune away from the consumerism. Let’s tune into what this holiday’s supposed to be all about in the first place.”
Barbara: Right; exactly. Advent is something that has been practiced in the church for centuries. It was a way to help people in the church focus on, as you just said, the birth of Christ as we march our way through the month of December.
I remember trying to do this—do you remember me trying to do this, Dennis?
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Barbara: And were we successful?
Dennis: If we burned two out of the four candles, we were successful. [Laughter]
Barbara: Yes; well, I don’t know that we ever burned two. [Laughter] We may have burned one—I don’t know—but I just felt like a failure; and it never, never worked.
Bob: You just wrote a blog post about this; didn’t you?
Barbara: I did, a couple of weeks ago. I titled it: “I Was an Advent Failure,” because I expected more of myself than I should have. [Laughter] You know, I expected the kids to sit around the table, or the tree, or wherever and to put their hands in their laps and politely listen as Dad read the devotion—whatever it was; I don’t remember—and I lit the candles; and we had cookies afterwards; and we were all happy! [Laughter]
But nobody was happy—nobody wanted to do it—they rolled their eyes. It was like they were practically tapping their toes and saying, “When is this going to be over?”
Bob: If you had a do-over, how would you do it differently?
Barbara: Well, I have an idea that probably I wouldn’t have been a hundred percent successful with it had I had this at the time; but I think it would have a higher probability of success, because it involved the kids getting into it, just like our Advent calendar. It was successful because our kids were motivated to do it.
Bob: Because there’s some mystery involved.
Barbara: And when kids are motivated, they’re going to help you do it. They’re going to get up in the morning and they’re going to say: “Mom, is it Sunday? Can I open the next present?” because they want to be able to do it. If you can provide a way for your kids to be excited about it, that helps you be a success, as a parent.
Dennis: So, I want to answer the question for some of our listeners, who don’t understand what Advent is. Think of it this way: “It is the ultimate reveal in the history of the universe—
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: —“the ultimate reveal.” In fact, the first century church used to greet one another with a term that—there’s debate about exactly what the word meant, but the word was Maranatha. “Maranatha!”—they’d greet one another. Maranatha has been said to mean: “His first coming,” / “He came.”
It also represents the promise of His second coming; but a third application of that word, Maranatha, means that He could come today—so: “What kind of life are you living today? Are you anticipating the coming of the Christ as you celebrate the fact that He did come?” He stepped out of heaven onto earth and lived on this planet to declare who God was to a blind, darkened world. He became the Light of the world; He became the Messenger—
—and other names that Barbara has tapped into to represent who Christ was in the first Advent.
Bob: So, are you suggesting that parents need to have an Advent present?—instead of Christmas, we need to start doling them out in the weeks leading up to Christmas?
Barbara: I say: “Whatever works; whatever works.” [Laughter]
Barbara: What I’m suggesting is—one of the sets of ornaments that we created, two years ago, is called “His Advent Names.” It’s focusing on the names of Christ that mean He came to earth—that talk about the expression of John 3:16. Everyone knows
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave”—the first Christmas gift—“His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s the verse that sums up what Christ did—it sums up His advent.
I created a set of four globe-shaped ornaments—and I don’t just mean round—I mean, they look like a globe; so they have the continents on them—and then, on top of the continents, is the name.
There are four names. One is “…the Messenger”—Jesus come to bring us the message of salvation. Another one is “…the Word,” which comes from John 1, where Jesus is the Word. The third one is “Jesus is the Light,”—the Light of the world; and then the fourth one is: He came as “…the Son.” He is the Son of God, but He came as a baby; He’s male—He was a son to Mary and Joseph. Those four names are a reflection of Jesus’s first advent: when He came in the flesh, and was born in a manger, and grew up in a family, and lived and gave His life for us.
The idea is to get four lunch sacks—I took four lunch sacks. I got out some glitter and some glue; and I put the numbers “1”, “2”, “3”, and “4” on the outside of [each] lunch sack. You could use crayons—you can do whatever you want to do—but decorate four lunch sacks. Make sure there’s a number on each of the four lunch sacks.
And then, put each one of the four globe ornaments in the four sacks, with some kind of nesting material on the bottom. Then, you open one ornament on each Sunday of Advent; and then, it’s fun for the kids to get to open the ornament.
Bob: By the way, these are not sound effects our engineers have added—this is Dennis doing this in the studio.
Barbara: He’s actually—yes; he’s opening bag number 1.
Dennis: It’s a black and white globe with Jesus’s name: “He is the Light of the world” in gold.
Barbara: Yes; and if you make these little bags—and you put some kind of shredded paper, or raffia, or some kind of something—it sort of, symbolically, represents Jesus in the manger. We think of Jesus in a manger full of hay—well, this isn’t really hay—but it’s His name: “…the Light” of the world. Jesus was the Light of the world; and here He is, laying on this bed of hay, and we take Him out, as a family, and we say, “What is His name?” The child reads, “Jesus is the Light of the world.”
On the backside of the ornament, it has that verse. You have your child read that verse, and another child could read the story; so you keep more than one engaged if you have one that can read. It just gives you, as a family, an opportunity—as we’ve been saying—to focus on who Jesus is and why He came at Christmas.
Bob: You know, I’m thinking back to my Christmases as a kid. If you were to ask me: “What was Christmas all about?” the answer was: “What I got!”
Barbara: Oh, a hundred percent—that would have been my answer.
Bob: It was about my new bike—“I got a bike on Christmas!”
Barbara: It was about the presents.
Bob: I’m sure there was some mild awareness of the fact that it was about Jesus, but the heart of the holiday was how you score. Now, you’re not suggesting: “Eliminate presents,” and “Take away the giving out of Christmas”; but at the end of the day, you want the kids to go: “I know why we gave presents to one another.” It wasn’t just so that we could have a haul and “It could be all about me and what I got.”
Barbara: Right; and that’s why this particular set of ornaments is so meaningful at Christmas, because it’s based on the verse that we just quoted a minute ago—
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He”—did what?
Dennis: He gave.
Barbara: He gave—God demonstrated to us that His love was evidenced in His gift. When we give gifts to one another, we are demonstrating that we love one another. The whole reason we give gifts in the first place is because we’re imitating what God did for us. Helping your children see that the gift of Jesus is why we give gifts to one another—that adds meaning and depth to the experience of a holiday, in and of itself; but teaching them His names takes it even farther.
Dennis: And because Barbara has emphasized the names of Christ, I’m now kind of acutely aware of these names.
The concept of Him being light took on fresh meaning when I read a little piece written by Tim Keller, from a book he has called Hidden Christmas. By the way, I’d recommend this to our listeners—it’s a great book. Listen to what he says about Jesus being the Light—he said, “When Jesus died on the cross, darkness fell on the land
Barbara: Yes; in the middle of the day.
Dennis: In the middle of the day. “When the Light died, it was dark.” He goes on: “The Light of the world descended into darkness in order to bring us into God’s beautiful light (1 Peter 2:9). The promises of Christmas cannot be discerned unless you first admit you can’t save yourself, or even know yourself, without the light of His unmerited grace in your life.
“This is the foundational truth from which we can proceed to learn the hidden meanings of Christmas.”
Now, if Barbara hadn’t created this, I don’t know that it would have hit me about Jesus being the Light and that the Light came and manifested Himself at Christmas—but the Light went out on Crucifixion Day—but it came back on when He defeated death and offers us eternal life. Honestly, these globes/these ornaments are a great way to share the gospel—how a child can know God and that he needs a Savior. In fact, you and I have the mutual friend, Jim, who was going through these ornaments. Do you remember what happened?
Barbara: They were reading one of the stories, and his son asked a question about why Jesus had to die or something about His name—I can’t remember exactly what it was.
It was an opportunity for this dad to explain the gospel to his son, who was only about five at the time, or maybe six. His son said, “I want to receive Christ.” The lights came on in his life that Christmas as a result of reading about this particular name of the Jesus that they were talking about, as a family.
Bob: The Apostle John does not give us a story-based account of the birth of Jesus—Matthew and Luke do that.
Barbara: Yes that’s right.
Bob: But John gives us more of a theological understanding of the birth of Jesus. He’s the one who says, “The true light which gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” So, here, we’re saying, “In a dark world,”—and let’s face it—
Barbara: —it’s a dark world.
Dennis: It is.
Bob: —we look around at the world we’re in today, and we feel the oppressiveness of the darkness of the world around us. The solution to the darkness is light, and Jesus is the true Light that is coming into the world.
The solution to the darkness we’re experiencing in our world today is for light to come and to bring redemption, and to bring hope, and to bring transformation so that our sin is dealt with, and done away, and so that what blooms in us is light—“He is the light that enlightens every man,” the Bible says.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: Again, that’s just one of the four names of Jesus that’s in this Advent series; but I think even kids can understand: “You’re afraid of the dark. You don’t like it when the lights go out—you feel scared; you feel anxious. Jesus is the Light that comes in and takes that away from you.”
Barbara: And I think it’s important to understand that Jesus is the Light for our families, too; because a lot of us feel pockets of darkness in our relationship with our families. We, typically, think of Christmas as when everybody’s happy; and everybody gets along; and it’s wonderful. Well, it’s not wonderful—
—I mean, most of the time, we still have arguing; we still have sibling rivalry. We have kids that are disappointed that they didn’t get what they wanted; parents get in a fight over something. I mean, it’s not just the world that’s dark—our families are dark, and our hearts are dark.
Helping your children understand that they need redemption / they need forgiveness; Mommy and Daddy need redemption / we need forgiveness—we need to practice this in our home, because the darkness has invaded all of us. The only solution is the light of Christ.
Bob: I read, a number of years ago, about experimentation that was done, where humans, who signed up for this experiment, were put in rooms of—
Barbara: —total darkness.
Bob: —pitch darkness; right. The question was: “How long—
Barbara: —“could they stay?”
Bob: —“could they stay in that room without it starting to have some psychological impact?”
Bob: Now, you stop and imagine—if you were in a room of total darkness—
—you know, in the bedroom, your eyes eventually get—but this is a room, where that never happens. After a period of time, you’d become disoriented—
Barbara: I wouldn’t like it—I can tell you that! [Laughter]
Bob: Well, they found that some people could go maybe two days before it started to have—
Barbara: Really?—two days?
Bob: Yes; I mean, these were people who were geared up for it. They were kind of prepared, and they’d put their game face on. But two days of total darkness, and it’s starting to have an impact on your soul.
Well, we’re in a world of darkness—people are lost in the darkness of their own sin. Jesus is the Light of the world, who comes into the world at Christmas. These are the kinds of thoughts you want families to be meditating on as we head toward Christmas.
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: And Bob, the holidays give us a natural platform / a natural point of discussion to be able to have these conversations about a person’s relationship with God—
—who He is and what He came to do.
I think it’d be good—I really think it’d be good if we started greeting one another: “Maranatha!” “He came!”
Barbara: “And He is coming again.”
Dennis: “And He’s coming again!”
Barbara: I can’t wait.
Dennis: I can’t either.
Bob: We have a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com if our listeners would like to see the ornaments you’ve created—not just “His Advent Names”—but the new ones for this year, “His Family Names,” and past collections of ornaments from the Ever Thine Home® collection. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the Ever Thine Home link. You can order these ornaments today.
In fact, if you want to order any of the ornaments on the Ever Thine Home website, between now and midnight Friday, you’ll get 20 percent off if you enter the code, “FLT20.” You’ll save 20 percent when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click the Ever Thine Home link, and then be sure to enter the “FLT20” code to save 20 percent off the regular cost of these Ever Thine Home ornaments.
Have them sent to you, so they’re ready to be on your tree this year for Christmas. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how strategic it is for us to get to know Jesus better as we prepare to celebrate His birthday. Barbara Rainey will be back with us again tomorrow. I hope you can be here too.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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