During Christmas time, we often focus on giving. We teach our children that it’s better to give than to receive. You may have helped them create a Christmas gift budget. Or you may have encouraged them to give by serving others. We must remember that we as children of God are able to give in love because we were first loved. In this season of giving, let each gift shine with the love of God.
Christmastime can be overwhelming not just for adults but for children too. “You want this! You need this!” scream the ads on TV, on the radio, at the mall, in the mail—and it’s all designed to incite greed and the desire for more. Sure, we love to see those happy smiles when our kids get something precious they’ve longed to own, but Christmas is primarily about the blessing of giving. By teaching your kids how to develop their own Christmas gift budgets, you’re reinforcing that focus on giving and encouraging financial responsibility at the same time.
Making a List
Sit down with your kids and create a Christmas list together, not of things they want to receive, but of people they love—close family members, other relatives, neighbors, teammates, and friends. For some of the people on the Christmas list, each child will want to make or purchase a separate, special gift. For others, the gift could be a joint one from your whole family. You could have your kids color code those who will receive individual gifts and those who will get a joint gift.
Setting a Total Amount for the Gift Budgets
Whether your children are planning on buying the Christmas gifts or making them, they’ll need a budget. Explain that even a handmade gift costs something in time, effort, and supplies. Since your kids may be new to this concept, suggest a total budget amount for each child. This amount could be money they earn or money that you give them to spend.
Dividing Up the Funds
Here’s where the math comes in! Ask each child to divide the total amount of his or her budget by the number of people on the Christmas list. The result is the per-person Christmas budget. You could also suggest that your kids spend a little more on the people closest to them and a little less on others. Younger kids need help with this part, but the older children can figure out the math on their own.
Making the Purchases
As your children are shopping for gifts or supplies, they’ll probably be tempted to overspend or to buy something for themselves. Encourage them to stay focused, stick to their per-person amount, and look for items of decent quality. It’s all about planning ahead and resisting the impulse buy, yet still finding or creating something that shows love.
Are you ready to refocus your children on giving rather than getting? You’ve got two months before Christmas—plenty of time to help them work on a budget, make some gifts, shop strategically, and enjoy the sweet spirit that comes with thinking more about others and less about self. After all, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
• • • • •
Rebecca is a work-at-home freelance writer, novelist, wife, and the mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her own mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.
As a homeschool dad, I love seeing my girls put aside their rivalries to put on a Christmas pageant. Last Christmas, our first grader organized a Christmas Eve pageant that she and her sisters put on for us and their grandparents. Of course, one of the cutest parts was when three little “wise” girls presented gifts to their baby doll.
We often meditate on the symbolic nature the wise men’s gifts but may not realize that their presentation of gifts to the King plays a significant role in the unfolding story of creation, fall, and redemption. Their acts of worship before the Christ child are a pattern for what Christian parents are trying to accomplish in homeschooling. Let’s meditate together on the wise men, their role in “the old redemption story,” and how we can use it to inspire our homeschooling all year round.
The Past Worship of the Wise Men
The wise men are mentioned in the Bible only in Matthew 2:1–12. Since they’re called wise men or magi (from the Greek magos), it is clear that they had wisdom in their work that was respected by their community. It was probably because of this wisdom that they had prospered enough to be able to afford gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
In some way, they also had a heart toward God. As scholars, they were familiar with the Scriptures and apparently knew the messianic prophecy of Numbers 24:17. Since they were watching the heavens for a sign of God’s Messiah, they saw the star when it appeared and immediately set out to find the child. When they arrived in Bethlehem, their hearts rejoiced—not that they had found a new source of earthly treasure but that they had found the child.
The wise men went in and humbly bowed down in worship. They opened their treasures and presented their gifts to the King.
Their Part in God’s Story
In the unfolding of God’s redemptive story, the wise men’s worship of Jesus was a sign that He was the King of the Jews. Jesus was the Christ, the Chosen One, who was coming to break the power of the fall and redeem people and the creation.
Part of that redemption involves how men and women use God’s blessing of dominion over creation (Genesis 1:26–28). Fallen people pursue wealth through dominion to be independent of God. Redeemed people use the prosperity produced by their wise dominion to accomplish God’s purposes and give Him glory.
This is exactly what the wise men did. They had grown in wisdom by observing God’s creation in the fear of the Lord. Their exercise of that wisdom in dominion over creation led to prosperity. And they took that prosperity and offered it to their God in worship.
The Future Worship of the Wise Men
The wise men of that first Christmas were prototypes of future wise men. At the end of story of Scripture, the Father and Son rule from the new Jerusalem. There “the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into [the new Jerusalem]” (Revelation 22:24). These kings of the saved nations are exercising dominion in the restored earth and bringing their treasures to the King in worship. Notice how the unique treasures of the kings are called “their glory.”
In the eternal state, redeemed men and women will still use math, science, social studies, and language arts. And the end of their labor will be God’s glory.
Homeschooling Wise Men (and Women!) Today
So what does this have to do with homeschooling? Everything! It demonstrates the redeemed purpose for learning history, math, science, and language arts. Here are three steps our children can take to follow the example of the wise men in the past and in the future.
Grow in Wisdom
The wise men didn’t become wise by being lazy in their study of God’s creation. Remember, when we study how God’s world works, we’re learning His wisdom.
Prosper in God’s Calling
Exercising God’s wisdom in His calling led to prosperity for the wise men. It can for your children as well. If they’re faithful in their mastery of science and math and God calls them to engineering, they should prosper as engineers.
Offer the Glory of the Calling
Prosperity is piece of glory that we receive for acting wisely in the fear of the Lord. We should take that glory and offer it to God. When we use our skills in service to our neighbor or in the household of God, we are worshiping. When we take a portion of our treasure and give it to God, we are worshiping Him in the exact same manner as the wise men of old. We are literally giving glory to God.
This Christmas, as my homeschooled girls perform their Christmas pageant, I want them to know that they can follow in the footsteps of the wise men. They can daily study to become wise women so they can offer their treasures to King Jesus.
My husband and I have tried to teach our children since they were very young that Christmas is not all about them. First and foremost, it is about Christ. But this season does give us and our children a prime opportunity to practice loving our neighbors. We can show our love to family members, music teachers, Sunday school workers, and people in our neighborhood by giving them gifts for Christmas. My children have no difficulty coming up with a list of gift ideas for everyone, but they do have one problem—they lack money.
So, in order to participate in gift-giving, they have to be creative and make the gifts themselves. Here are some of our favorite do-it-yourself gift ideas. Most of these projects don’t involve any expensive materials and need little-to-no supervision.
1. Decorated Mugs
We tried making our own mugs for the first time this year, using the tutorial from 5mintesformom, and they came out great! I could hardly believe how easy and inexpensive they were to make. I bought the mugs for less than a dollar apiece at Walmart. The oil-based Sharpies are a little pricey, but they’re worth the investment because the water-based Sharpie ink washes off quickly.
2. Dish Towels
My three-year-old loved making dish towels for her grandparents this year. We loosely followed the instructions from icanteachmychild.com but skipped the part about using contact paper. My daughter enjoyed using a pencil eraser to make polka dots and a foam stamp to add butterflies. The flour-sack towels necessary for this project are available at Walmart for under a dollar each, so this also ends up being a very inexpensive gift.
Any child who can sew on a button can make these adorable ribbon bookmarks featured on DYI Joy. They make perfect gifts for booklovers and can be completed very quickly with just a few supplies.
A couple years ago, my children made coasters similar to the ones found on thefrugalgirls.com. We used tissue paper to make ours, but I love the idea of using photos.
Almost every year, my children and I make some special treats to give to our neighbors. We’ve made truffles like the ones on Snack Works using mint Oreos and dark chocolate for the coating. We’ve also made white chocolate pretzels like the ones on geniuskitchen.com.
Mason jars filled with homemade chai tea mix (see the recipe on thekitchenismyplayground.com) or hot chocolate mix (see livingasunshinelife.com) are also great gift ideas. My kids like to help mix everything together and decorate the jars for the lucky recipients.
Does your family have any do-it-yourself gift ideas that you love to make and share? We would love to hear about your children’s creative adventures! Share a link or a photo in the comments below or tag us on Facebook or Pinterest.
Every Christmas, we celebrate the single most precious gift ever given—the gift of Christ coming as a man to walk among us and to take our sins upon Himself and to die for them. There is no way we could even partially return His gift, but we should actively be doing whatever we can to follow the second-most important commandment—to love our neighbors. And serving others is one of the easiest ways of showing love.
Here are some ways you and your children can serve others this Christmas and give back the love of Christ.
Erica from Confessions of a Homeschooler and her children hand out bags of useful goodies to those in need. Even younger children can help in putting bags together and handing them out. Customize your bags for Christmas by including a small wrapped surprise gift along with the other items.
Pack shoeboxes full of fun gifts for children all around the world. Your child could choose to pack a box for a boy or girl of the same age. By having a child put it together, you know that it’s a box a child will enjoy. But the deadline for turning boxes in is in mid-November to allow time for the gifts to be shipped abroad. Be sure to make a note of it for next year!
Adopt a Family
Invite a family that has lost someone or an older couple that has no family to join your holiday meals. Your children can welcome them by encouraging them to take part in your family traditions. When I was a young teen, the families that “adopted” my dad, my brothers, and me for the holidays were the biggest blessings I could have asked for.
Make service coupons for your children to endorse and hand out to elderly, sick, or struggling neighbors or church friends as Christmas gifts. The receivers can turn these coupons in for services whenever they need something done, such as taking care of the lawn, cleaning the house, or babysitting. You can make your own or use these printable coupons.
Many hospitals with neonatal intensive care units allow volunteers to come in and hold or spend time with the babies whose parents aren’t always able to be there. Some hospitals even have training programs that teach the volunteers how to handle cuddle sessions. Volunteer baby cuddlers can let the nurses stay on task and encourage parents that there is always someone giving their struggling babies the love they need. Contact a local hospital to ask about volunteer baby cuddling.
Your older teens might enjoy helping out at an animal shelter during their Christmas break. Many shelters have seasonal events that they need extra volunteers for or down periods when the regular volunteers are on vacation. And volunteers don’t just spend all their time petting cats and dogs. They often get to work alongside the shelter workers and help potential adopters.
While it’s certainly important to share God’s love during the Christmas season, there’s no reason you have to stop on December 26. Many of these ideas for serving others are applicable all-year-round. So encourage your children to reach out and be blessings during this season and next year too!