Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Christmas Blessing Tree

Earlier this month, I had a conversation with Jonah, aged 4 and 3/4, about the true meaning of Christmas. (For my own views on this subject, you should see my earlier post.) Our conversation went something like this.

"Hey, Jonah. You know Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birthday, right?"


"What happens when you have a birthday?" I asked, trying to get to the issue of gifts.

"A bounce house. Can we have a bounce house for Christmas?"

Hmm. Interesting thought. Honestly, I can see no reason why not. Our weather is fairly mild. But, this is a digression. I want to have a meaningful conversation about gift giving. This is when I realize that I might be the kind of mother who can suck all of the child-like joy out of anything.

After we work through bounce houses, parties, cakes, and pinatas, he finally gets around to remembering that you get gifts on your birthday. I find this frustrating (as I have an agenda) and odd, because he is the first one to "help" his siblings open, play with, and break their birthday gifts.

So, I finally get to say, as I have rehearsed, "Jesus is in heaven with God. What could we possible give him that is better than that?"

"Nothing," he says. And, he means it too. He has a very keen sense of heaven.

"Well, I have an idea," I continue. Again, as rehearsed. "When Jesus was here on earth he gave two commandments. 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Silence. I had expected this. Finally. The kid is on script.

"So, the best thing we can give Jesus is to show God we love him. And to give to others. We can show God we love him by praising him and thanking him for all He has done for us. And we can give to others by praying for them and doing nice things for them."

"Uh-huh." I can tell I'm losing him. Maybe he is just not old enough to understand. But, I won't know unless I try.

So, I proceed to tell him about the Christmas Blessing Tree. We are going to make new ornaments and tie ribbons on our old ornaments, each inscribed with the name of someone we have blessed with a prayer, or with a blessing God has given to us. This will be a great way to give birthday gifts to Jesus. AND, Little J can earn extra little ornaments every time he does a good deed.

He listened. Asked a few questions. And then when I was finished, he burst into tears.

"No," he wailed. "I want normal Santa ornaments. I want lights and gold balls. Like a real tree!"

Big sigh. (Mine) I was not trying to ruin the kids Christmas, just alter his focus a little.

Well, we made ornaments, prayed for friends and loved ones, thanked God for our many blessings, inscribed ribbons to tie to our old ornaments, and decorated the Christmas Blessing Tree. Jonah was a good sport, though I got the distinct impression he was just indulging me at first.

The tree is lovely in that primitive, decorated-by-a-small-child sort of way. But, more importantly, my son may have learned something. I know I have. I am just not sure yet what.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go call a man about a bounce house.


  1. When my older three were little we started a tradition: at the beginning of Advent we set up the manger scene without baby Jesus in it and made a little carboard manger. I cut several pieces of wool, and whenever the children did something extra kind or helpful they could put a piece of wool in the manger, that way, by Christmas Baby Jesus' bed would be nice and soft and welcoming. We carry on with this for my youngest, who is eight. Your idea for the ornaments reminded me of this and then I thought of all the moms and dads out there having similar private teachable moments with their little ones. It gave me a good feeling for the world. Religious holidays that straddle the secular world are sometimes challenging for parents, but if we persevere with joy and simplicity our efforts will pay off eventually (without turning the kids off). All the best!

  2. This is a beautiful idea! It is so nice that you are including the true spirit of the season in Jonah. It is so hard to do this when they are bombarded from so many directions with the commercial aspect of the "holiday". I'm sure this Christmas tradition will stay with him always.