Saturday, December 8, 2012

Free Engraving

I was purchasing a gift for someone this week.  The company offered "free engraving" as a means of personalizing the gift.  An engraved name establishes ownership, a way of "making it mine."  It is no longer a SKU number, a box, a thing, but it now belongs to someone.

Engraving requires a deliberate effort to impress deeply letters or designs upon an object, patterns sunken beneath the surface, for permanence.

The first Christmas that Bill and I were married, we purchased a Nativity set (as mentioned in a previous blog).  We bypassed buying the beautiful glass figurines, and instead went for the painted plastic set.  We wanted our future children not just to see a decoration, but to play out the story of the birth of Christ.  And they did.  The girls would -- almost daily -- move the shepherds and wisemen and Mary and Joseph around, acting out the story, sometimes even as it was being read to them.   And once, we found a Santa candle on top of the stable, "visiting Jesus," they said.   Physical touch is one of the primary means of teaching young children and getting it to stick.

When our girls were young, surrounded by the trappings of Christmas, the hoopla in the stores, the lure of television commercials, pseudo-Santas in the mall making minimum wage, we deliberately used every opportunity to engrave the truth into their hearts.

We also emphasized to the girls that this was not just another story, but that this is true.   Christmas is REAL, not just a made-up tale.  God has always used stories to imbed His truth, because narratives are so powerful.  But it is important to help young children to know what is real and what is pretend.  It is amazing how quickly children learn to differentiate between truth and the imaginary.  Make sure your children know that the Christmas story is real.   Jesus really came, just as had been promised.

Our creative girls took the story to other dimensions.   At school, our oldest had an assignment to create a holiday centerpiece as a gift.  She glued pieces of wood to a carousel of sorts.  And even now, two decades  later, Mary, Joseph, a lamb and the manger, still grace our table the month of December.

One bitterly cold Saturday in Ohio, our girls performed the Christmas story for us, the angel also serving as director and narrator.  "Joseph" had a beard of construction paper, and she also played the role of the terrified shepherd.  Mary "rode" a donkey, fabricated of a brown fuzzy blanket over a tricycle.  The plastic playhouse-- being stored for the winter in our unfinished basement -- became the Inn.  And our fourth daughter, only a toddler at the time, caused mayhem when she balked at being put into a cardboard box which was supposed to be the manger.  "Baby Jesus" did not cooperate at all, but wandered through the scenes.

But it was another means of "engraving" the story.

At age five, one of our daughters memorized Luke 2 which chronicles what happened.  Memorizing used to be called "learning by heart."  And indeed it was.  Those words were so engraved, that now more than twenty years later, she can still recite them word for word.

One year the Christmas story was molded in clay.  Another time in dough that spread the Word and flour all over the kitchen.

Let them see, hear, smell, touch, speak, and experience the truth of God's Word.  Let them have fun with Christmas in creative ways.  Let them make a mess.  It will follow them all the days of their lives.  And engrave the Truth.

And in that region there were shepherds
     out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
                          Luke 2.8

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