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Teach kids meaning of Christmas with time, creativity

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Columbus resident Michelle Lutes knows keeping Christ in Christmas with her 12-year-old and 6-year-old sons can be nearly as challenging as landing reindeer on a roof.

“It can be very difficult because of all the things they see (on TV) and hear (from friends),” Lutes said. “They hear that so-and-so is getting a PlayStation 3, and someone else is getting this or that.”

Lutes said such commercialism often misses the point of the selfless celebration this time of year. So she, like many other parents, purposely works to steer her children toward a more biblical focus.

One recent step was for her and her family to buy gifts for a low-income Columbus family as part of Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center’s Angels of Love outreach. She sees giving as a reflection of God giving Jesus to the world.

“My kids saw that these kids (in the holiday program) were asking just for things like shoes and socks,” Lutes said. “And all one little girl wanted was a diary.”

Lutes’ youngest has been part of Columbus’ Westside Community Church lessons-and-activities program, “The True Meaning of Christmas.” The weekly gatherings use scripture, crafts and games to focus young ones on Jesus and the biblical Christmas story.

“We want them not only to understand the true meaning but to learn to share it with other children,” said Lisa Reuter, Westside’s children’s minister.

Melissa Clark of Columbus said her 5-year-old twins also have been part of the sessions. Her children made paper Advent ring wreaths featuring scrawled Scriptures to be pulled off a day at a time throughout the season and shared as a family.

“And we’ve already read the Christmas story from the book of Luke several times with the kids,” Clark said.

Plus, each year the kids sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on Christmas morning. And Santa brings each of the children only three gifts, reflecting the three gifts the Bible states that the wise men brought Jesus.

“Without some limits, the gifts could really get out of hand,” Clark said.

Westside member Crista Eicher helps her 13-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son bake a birthday cake for Jesus each December.

Greg Smalley, executive director of marriage and family ministry at Colorado-based Focus on the Family, said parents can feel comfortable broadening their approach to the task to include secular traditions and still keep the season’s message intact.

Speaking by phone from his office in Colorado Springs, Smalley said, “Instead of fighting against them, why not learn to utilize them? I think they can, at this time of year, help kids recognize some important character qualities they can work to instill.”

For example, he canceled his family’s plan to go out the other night. Instead, he, his wife and their four children, ages 5 to 18, stayed at home and watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Smalley said he sees big spiritual, Christ-like lessons with the Rudolph story, about a young reindeer rejected by peers because of his bright, shiny nose. He befriends a group of misfit toys and eventually helps Santa find them homes.

“Standing up for misfits is a big one,” he said. “So is the theme of service to others. And it’s presented so clearly. It fits with celebrating Jesus, because he said he came to serve.”

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