12/20/11

Feed Your 5 Senses & Spirit at Christmas

What do you remember at Christmas growing up? What memories have you created since those Christmases?

As I think back to the collage of my Christmas memories, I remember the scent of pine trees and cinnamon cookies; the sounds of carolers, the Salvation Army kettle bell, and a crackling fire; the taste of mulled cider and Christmas ham; and the sight of Christmas cards, colorful ornaments, and fresh-fallen snow. I remember the warm hugs from loved ones and friends at Christmas events and concerts.

All of our senses seem to come alive at Christmas, don't they?

Christmas is an important time of year to be sure your friends and family experience all five senses ~ ways of perceiving the joys of the season ~ sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.

Think of some of the ways you can heighten each of the senses in your Christmas celebration. Your choices will be as individual as you are, because you have a unique "take" on the world.

Here are some ideas that you might adapt with some creativity of your own (and some of the suggestions overlap into several senses):

The Sense of Sight ~
  • Decorate your home with an eye to color or a special theme. Encourage children and teens to help with special projects (and don't get critical of their efforts... let them enjoy the process, too!).
  • Let children create unique ornaments for the tree, and show them off to relatives.
  • Make a Gingerbread house... or a birthday cake for Jesus (have a birthday party for Him).
  • Create a natural wreath. Use things you find on a trip to the woods to decorate it.
  • Hang Christmas lights... not just on the tree. Consider a string of lights over the window in a child's room.
  • Paint windows or a sliding door (with washable paint or a "paint" made from powdered laundry detergent and water, and colored with powdered poster paint). Let kids paint their own design.
  • Put up a nativity... or two or more. Help a child make a simple "Nativity" out of items around the house.
  • Act out the Christmas story with your children, or neighborhood children.
  • Plan times to watch Christmas programs together on television. (Tape ahead of time to watch when you're all ready.)
  • Drive to a local neighborhood where people decorate big time (Candy Cane Lane, etc.). Take family members and vote on a favorite decorated house. "Award" the winning house with a plate of cookies.
The Sense of Smell ~
  • Enjoy the scents of holiday baking ~ especially spicy Christmas cookies!
  • Put a pot of cider on the stove to "mull."
  • Linger a while at a tree farm (if you buy a real tree). Smell the different kinds of trees.
  • Bring home some pine branches, even if you don't have a live tree... maybe in an arrangement for the table.
  • Spray Christmas sprays and light scented Christmas candles (if you won't have people with allergies around).
The Sense of Hearing ~
  • The holidays can get stressful. Speak words of love and encouragement to family and friends.
  • Go for a sleigh ride and enjoy the clip-clop of horse hooves and sleigh bells.
  • Participate in caroling with friends, family, or church "family."
  • Read the Christmas story (from the Bible) and other Christmas books (to yourself, and to children).
  • Attend a Christmas concert or pageant.
  • Play Christmas music in your home (consider getting a new CD or borrow one from the library). Listen to music on the radio in the car as you're out shopping, if you have a local station that plays carols and Christmas hymns. Sing out loud in the car!
  • Play instruments, if you know how ~ learn a new Christmas song to share.
  • Enjoy other sounds of the season ~ Christmas music boxes, strips of jingle bells on your door, etc.
  • Write out Mary's song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 in a Bible version you like, and read it at an appropriate time ... or frame it for your wall.
The Sense of Taste ~
  • Make foods/desserts with your family's ethnic background in mind.
  • Sample Christmas foods at Costco.
  • Bake cookies with your family (yes, even small children), and sample some before you store them away. [Our annual cookie treat is Springerle, a family favorite.]
  • I could list all the various "tastes" we enjoy at Christmas, but try some new ones this year ~ maybe some specialties from other ethnic groups, or a sampler of cookies from friends.
The Sense of Touch ~
  • Touch the ornaments on your tree and remember when you got them or what they represent.
  • Drive to a snowy area and play in the snow. Make a snowman... or snow bear... or snow-something! Go ice skating or skiing ~ get some exercise! Or make snow angels!
  • You may have a formal nativity set, but be sure to have at least one nativity that children can play with. They will learn the story as they interact with the characters.
  • Get your hands into some dough and back Christmas bread!
  • Shake a neighbor's hand as you offer a Christmas treat.
  • Act out some of the traditional expressions of the holidays. (How did your ancestors celebrate Christmas Eve? Christmas Day?)
  • Walk through your house and touch the various things you have. Realize that they are all gifts from God ~ thank Him for them!
  • Soak your shopping-tired feet in a warm foot-bath.
  • Hug family members when you greet them (and say, "I love you!).
  • Reach out with an understanding touch on the arm when a person is stressed or discouraged in this busy season.
  • Share, with compassion, to meet a stranger's needs. Give to an organization you trust. Teach your children how to give.
The goal of all of this focus on the senses is to help friends and family experience more than the frenzied gift giving/receiving of Christmas. More important than the gifts we hold in our hands are the gifts we sense in our hearts ... time spent with loved ones, and the understanding that we are loved.

But for believers, there's another way we perceive the joys of Christmas ~ in our spirit.

When I first saw a depiction of Santa Clause kneeling at the manger in worship, I smiled. That's what the goal of our celebrations should be, I thought. We need to do everything we can to point to focus our attention on Jesus Christ. It's more than sporting a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" or "Keep Christ in Christmas" button. Christmas should encourage us to worship God in many ways and not just on one special day.

I read about a family that makes a simple manger, and family members bring their "gifts" to Jesus all December long (written on slips of holiday paper) ... things they want to change in their lives, things they are grateful for, etc. When Christmas is over, the mother places these "gifts" in a scrapbook, along with photos. The spirit of Christmas is more than things.

We need down-time during Christmas to remember what it's all about ~ why we celebrate in the first place. In spite of cultural elements that want to destroy (or at least, downplay) the biblical significance of Christmas, we still have plenty of opportunities in America to focus on the Lord. If we fail to do that, we have played into the hands of those who want to do away with Christmas.

Yes, I know that the "when" of Christ's coming is often debated; but believers know that He did come. That's a fact. The Christmas season gives us the opportunity to re-focus our mind and heart on Jesus, and to encourage others to do the same. It's the perfect time to share the Gospel ~ the story of why Jesus came. We have to be deliberate. We have to plan how we will point people to Christ.

Perhaps we need to re-create our celebration of Christmas. There might be something more we need to do to focus on the person of Christ. On the other hand, there might be something we need to remove, to give us the time and energy to experience what God wants us to enjoy in Christmas.
Every sense should come into play at this wonderful time of year as we create Christmas memories; but more than anything, let us come to God with childlike faith, expressing our joy in His great redeeming love.

We can say with Mary: "...My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47).

So ... how will you feed your senses and spirit this Christmas? And how will you encourage a God-ward focus in your friends and family?

"Oh, come, let us adore Him ~ Christ, the Lord."

O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord

For You alone are worthy.
For You alone are worthy.
For You alone are worthy,
Christ the Lord

We'll give You all the glory.
We'll give You all the glory.
We'll give You all the glory,
Christ the Lord.


Note: "O Come Let Us Adore Him" was originally the chorus of the song "Adeste Fideles" ("O Come All Ye Faithful"), but in recent years, people have sung just the chorus as the first verse of a song in itself. It is a wonderful song of worship.




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