Homeschool Mom Christmas Stress

With the Christmas season upon us, the “have-to’s” of traditions can become consuming. Then we find ourselves stressed out rather than enjoying the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Personally, we have several goals for our family through our Christmas activities. In an effort to keep the season pleasant and worshipful, we try to keep our traditions simple, fitted to our spiritual goals.


After Steve and I were saved, the Lord directed us to some changes in what we did at Christmas. We first eliminated Santa Claus from our home. For a while we continued hanging up stockings for the children and telling them that Dad and Mom filled them during the night. The children’s Christmas stockings were too cute to throw away and too much a part of our family tradition. After a few years, though, we felt that we were compromising as the Israelites sometimes did. We decided to stop any vestige of Santa Claus.

We no longer put up a Christmas tree. The first year without this traditional Christmas trimming was because we didn’t want the frustration of trying to keep a toddler safely away from the tree. However, before the next year rolled around, we read Jeremiah 10:3-5 and realized how much the cut tree in the passage sounded like a Christmas tree. Because we wanted to make sure there was no possibility of the tree taking an out-of-proportion role in our Christmas, we chose no longer to have a Christmas tree.

When we made that change, we also decided to make all of our Christmas decorating distinctively Christ focused. That meant quite a purging of the Christmas decorations.

Simple Yet Meaningful Christmas Traditions

Without purposing to do so, we have created some family Christmas traditions that have become very meaningful to us, kept us Christ focused, and built family memories. We have found that it is important to keep these traditions simple and easy to carry on each year. There have been years when we added Christmas traditions that were a burden rather than a joy. It doesn’t take very many of these “good” ideas to make Christmas a dreaded time rather than one to expect with excitement.

We want our children to learn the importance of giving to those who have need. We participate in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach. On an evening in November, we will take the children to Wal-Mart where they all excitedly give suggestions on what to purchase for the boxes. On another night the children open the items that are to go in the boxes and fill each box up.

This year, one item for the girl’s box was a cute little doll. Our six-year-old, Mary, carried that doll throughout Wal-Mart with her. When we came home, she stood by the kitchen counter, where the boxes were temporarily set, holding the doll. We were so pleased, though, that she never once asked to keep the doll. She understood its purpose.

One goal for our family’s Christmas is that our children learn, “. . . It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The tradition in our home that reinforces this goal revolves around the children planning and buying gifts for family members. This has become very special to each of them. We will frequently hear them discussing how much they love to choose, buy, and give gifts to their parents, brothers, and sisters. Often they will make great financial sacrifices to do this.

We take the month of December to focus our family Bible time on Christ’s birth. We will spend some time in the Old Testament looking at the prophecies of Christ’s birth. Then we go to the New Testament and read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. We learn about, discuss, and ponder the miracle of Jesus Christ and His birth.

Another desire of our hearts is that our children would learn to serve and minister with no expectations. On an evening near Christmas, we go caroling to the nursing home and also to our neighbors. Last year the highlight was a dear old man confined to his bed in the nursing home and appearing to be almost unconscious. His eyes were closed and his blanket pulled up under his chin. When we started singing “Silent Night,” he couldn’t open his eyes, but almost immediately he began an agitated moving of one of his hands. As we continued singing, he struggled with his arm and the blanket. Finally, he pulled his hand out, eyes still closed, and lifted his arm in praise to the Lord. I don’t think there was a dry adult eye as we left that room.

We want our children to be drawn into worshipful thoughts of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve, we look forward to a family ride in the van to look at Christmas lights. While we drive, we listen to the Twelve Voices of Christmas, a dramatic presentation of the key players in the Christmas story. It is moving and awe inspiring, raising all of our hearts in praise for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us.

Christmas evening is set aside for reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. Many years ago, Grandma made up a program for this that we have used ever since. Each person who can read is given, on a slip of paper, a reference for a prophetic or Gospel verse relating to the birth of Christ. Grandad is the narrator, with people reading their particular verses at the designated time. We also have appropriate Christmas carols interspersed. This simple Christmas program is available for anyone whom it might bless.

To increase the excitement and interest level for the children, Grandma has an empty Nativity sitting out on a shelf. All the figures that go into the Nativity have been wrapped in tissue paper and are waiting in a bag by her side. Throughout our Christmas program, one by one, the children will come and take a figure from the bag and set it in the Nativity scene.

Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ is high on our list of priorities. Christmas affords us an excellent witnessing outreach time for Jesus. Each year, Steve, Nathan, and Christopher choose Christmas cards that are overtly Christian and glorify Jesus Christ to send to their clients. We have the opportunity of giving homemade goodies, which include notes with truths from God’s Word, to our neighbors.

We want what we do on Christmas and the days before it to have purpose and meaning. It is a special day and season—one of joy for the Maxwell house. We pray that as your family evaluates its Christmas traditions and activities, you, too, will make it as free of stress as possible with a continual focus on Jesus Christ.

Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 2

Last month we looked at the first part of what a dad wrote, and this month we will continue. To recap, we saw what God calls fathers to do in discipling their children. Now we begin evaluating whether/how children should be exposed to the world. This topic was going to be two parts, but it is such a critical subject, it will take longer.

The dad continues: What I am seeking is good, practical advice on how and at what age to expose my children to the world. And how to keep from losing them to the world. (I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter, four-year-old daughter, two-year-old son, and one on the way.) This isn’t the first time that I have heard people speak of sheltered kids getting out and “going nuts.” It seems to me that it would be best to expose them to the results of sin (chapel for recovering addicts, jail, etc.), as compared to them seeing “all of the pleasures and none of the guilt,” such as is seen at the mall, etc. Maybe even working this into some kind of a family ministry (although my children may be too young now, that is part of my question). This recent comment about the backsliding grandson has got me seriously considering self-employment and some kind of family businesses.

This is a problem as old as sin itself. We are to be in the world but not of it (John 17:11-16). We are to live around sin, but not be pulled into it. I believe that one of the most critical aspects of protecting ourselves and our children from the world is for them (and us) to see the dangers of it and how powerful it is. The poor person who feels he is stronger than the pull of sin is a likely victim.

The types of sinful temptations will vary between young men and young women. I couldn’t cover each one, but I think by using one as an illustration you will get the idea in general. So for the sake of example, let’s use men and the lust of the flesh as the basis for discussion.

With that introduction, what do Solomon, a pastor in his fifties, and a young man of twenty have in common? First, they all are men with male hormones. Second, they are all prone to falling prey to the lust of the flesh. Solomon, the wisest man in the world and given that wisdom by God, could not contain his lust. He disobeyed God when he sought wives of different nationalities. His lust brought him down below the level of a twenty-year-old, hormone-driven young man. Of all people, Solomon knew better and should have been faithful to his God, yet he failed miserably.

“But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:1-5).

Solomon was a man who heard God speak to him. He was the wisest man on the earth, but Solomon loved many strange women in spite of God telling him not to “go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Yet parents will say, “Your son is an adult now that he is eighteen, and you need to let him go his own way.” Ughhhhh. That may be true if you don’t love him, but if you do, there must be MUCH more that goes into the decision than just how old he is.

You may say, “My son is very spiritually mature, and I have full confidence in him being able to resist moral temptations.” My question for you is, “Do you think your son is more spiritually mature than King David, a man after God’s own heart?” David saw that “. . . the woman was very beautiful to look upon” (2 Samuel 11:2), and in essence, David lusted after her beauty. Oh what danger “we” are in when it is readily accepted among Christians to “appreciate” the beauty of other women. Had David realized the trouble he was in right then and taken action—the sin, the separation, the consequences—most likely, none of these would have happened. “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The level of sin we will accept has great bearing on what will be acceptable to our children.

David, the author of most of Psalms, was not spiritually above temptation or failure. So it would appear that just because a man loves the Lord with all his heart and has a heart after God’s, that isn’t enough to keep him from lust, adultery, and murder.

Have you ever heard of a pastor or man in spiritual leadership running away with a young woman and leaving a wife of many years behind? Most everyone has. Could it be that the pastor wasn’t aware of the consequences for such actions? Not likely. Most men in any form of ministry have observed others suffering due to their sin. Don’t they know better? Of course, but once the lust of the flesh kicks in, all reason goes out the door. Likely, this man tolerated an “acceptable” level of lust in his life thinking he could control it without consequences.

Have you seen photos of bomb squad members who were handling explosives in the attempt to disarm them or move them to another location? I imagine the protective gear and shields they use to protect themselves make Goliath’s armor look like a loin cloth. If you think about it, aren’t the bomb squads being overly cautious? When was the last time you heard about a bomb squad having a suspicious item blow up and injure some of them? So why does the bomb squad dress like they do and take all of those precautions? Could it be that they are aware of the serious danger they are in, and they are protecting themselves in the event something were to happen? Their cautions don’t appear to be because they don’t have confidence in themselves or their procedures. Rather, they know that you can’t ever be too careful and that, if something happens, the consequences can be disastrous.

Every man who desires to remain morally pure should have the same attitude of caution that a bomb squad has. The key to acquiring that attitude is understanding what Jesus said in Matthew 15:19: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” In the Greek, the phrase, “For out of the heart,” refers to where these sins originate. Until we lose this body of flesh, we have to come to grips with the fact that we are our own worst enemy. We have to realize what we are capable of because it is bound up in our flesh. We have to understand it isn’t our great wisdom or our lofty spirituality that keeps us out of trouble. It didn’t work for Solomon or David or countless other mighty men that have failed through the ages, and it won’t work for you, our children, or me.

A young man (or father) will not take steps to protect himself if he doesn’t understand what is in his heart and how easily he can fall. If he thinks he is above falling, he doesn’t understand his own heart. I wonder if the main reason many men don’t flee lusts is because they are pleasurable. Could it be like the cute little wolf pup that is found by a man in Alaska? He brings it home, cares for it, and raises it to an adult, only to have it one day suddenly turn on him and kill him. That is one reason why our family doesn’t watch TV. With the programming and commercials that are broadcast these days, television can easily stir up sinful lusts. That is also why we don’t go to movies, many summertime activities, and even the circus any more. They are designed to entertain, but one of the ways they do that is to stir up lust in the men who are watching.

Our children must be taught the depravity of their hearts and not to trifle with sin. Do they have a father who walks as close to the line of sin as possible or a dad who desires to walk as close to the Lord Jesus as possible? I’ve heard some say, “I’m just appreciating her beauty.” But in Proverbs 6:25 we read, “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.” Jesus was clear in making the connection between lusting in one’s heart and committing adultery. It is sin. What are we teaching our children by word and example?

If the children see Dad condoning, by his viewing entertainment, the things of the world, we should not be surprised to see them “going nuts” trying to embrace the real thing when they finally have a chance. If sin is not called sin, what is to stop them? If they don’t understand the mighty fire that the flesh contains, will they want to protect themselves?

Our children must be raised in a home where Christ is alive and Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is lived out. They must see that they cannot have confidence in their spiritual maturity or wisdom to keep them from being drawn in by the world. The world “knows” how to stir up a person’s desires and then what to offer to feed those desires. Our children should understand that they are capable of being drawn. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14).

How about you? The Lord Jesus sees your heart and knows what goes on there. Are you playing with fire? Have you accepted that which is unacceptable to your Lord? If so, you will likely offer little counsel to your children in helping them avoid being ensnared by the world. Prayerfully ask the Lord these questions until next month when we will continue with this critical topic.