I hope the holiday season is going really well for you! I pray your expectations and hopes bring you joy. I ran a few of my last big errands this morning and even made it to a yoga class. The next few days will be busy, but I am starting to feel ready for next week.
One of my favorite things this time of year are the Christmas cards. I love finding the notes and pictures from friends and family in our mailbox every day. We just got lovely notes from my mom and stepdad: personal messages to each of my boys and a letter for me and Randy. They also included this short scripture study list. It has such a clear, neat focus on Christ’s various roles. These topics would be perfect to guide your family scripture study for the final five days before Christmas, for a Monday Family Home Evening, for your class on Sunday, or to review on Christmas Eve. I thought I’d share them here with an easy printable below.
Merry Christmas, friends.
Click here for a guided scripture study of Christ for Christmas
I love the cover on the December 1954 issue of The Improvement Era. It’s titled “Holy Night” by Martin Feuerstein.
The full color is only on the front and back pages. Here’s the back, because the ads are so fantastic. I guess Beneficial Life was the early version of DMBA–a church health and life insurance company. Because the President is David O. McKay. How much do you love that candle?
Before diving into the conference talks, The Improvement Era reports on the “Free Women of the World in Conference.” Belle Spafford represented the United States in “one of the most thrilling moments of the entire conference,” for this author.
I thought I’d post Ezra Taft Benson’s address as he is the subject of Sunday School next year.
Click through for more…
Our Primary presidency is prepping for the new year, just like the rest of you. Our secretary is busy printing off lesson schedules and binder covers (super cute versions available here and here), but what keeps rising to the top for me as I go over the lessons for 2015 is a phrase at the beginning of each month in the Sharing Time Outline booklet. The whole paragraph reads: Supplement the ideas provided here with some of your own. Plan ways to introduce the doctrine to the children and help them understand it and apply it in their lives. Ask yourself, “What will the children do to learn, and how can I help them feel the Spirit?”
I think every adult who interacts with children on Sunday would benefit from this question: What will the children do to learn, and how can I help them feel the Spirit? I especially love the question because I have four active sons. I firmly believe that “reverence is more than just quietly sitting.” I would be so grateful if every teacher was concerned with what my sons were *doing* every Sunday to learn. It feels like very often the default scenario is a teacher who lectures and expects the children to sit quietly in their chairs. But I don’t think that is the best way for children (or adults, for that matter) to learn the doctrine at hand. Moving, creating, building, asking questions, and just generally engaging with the subject is so much more meaningful and effective than learning how to “sit reverently.”
So I put together a little printable, four per page, designed to be slipped into the cover of a binder (one that probably already has a cute 2015 cover printout!) as a reminder for teachers or the Primary presidency to plan for the children to DO and FEEL every Sunday. It would be perfect for a teacher training meeting or just a quick reminder for your seasoned, dedicated teachers as they begin the new year. It would also work well with a magnet on the back.
There are so many amazing opportunities for teaching and learning during the Christmas season. Just in case you don’t have plans for your Family Home Evening tonight, here’s a simple idea: fill out and share your #sharethegift signs!
Here’s the source for the original video and printable on lds.org. The idea is to think of a way you can share the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ during the holiday season, fill in the blank on the sign above, and then post a picture of you and your sign on social media. It’s such a great way to spread the true meaning of the season.
Our Primary president put together a quick Family Home Evening which we sent home with all the kids at church yesterday! Start with a Christmas hymn and a throw in some snacks and you’ve got a great, meaningful, hands-on FHE that the grandparents will love. (They will LOVE to see picture of their grandkids using #sharethegift on Instagram or Facebook!)
As a family, discuss how each of you can share the gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Have each member of your family fill out their own #sharethegift sign. Take a picture of your family and ask your parents to share it online.
John 3:16; Luke 2; Matthew 2.
We also included links to the following videos: What Shall We Give? and The Reason Behind Christmas, both with really great Christmas messages.
Today I have a fun game from a friend that would work well for teens and adults! It’s in Powerpoint format, but I’ve also translated it into a simple printable so you could use it without all the tech.
The point of the game is to identify the Christmas song with just the first initials. For example, guess this song:
It’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!” There are 22 different songs. It would be a fun time filler for all the Christmas related parties around this time of year.
What, you want the answers? You’ll find them in the Powerpoint “Notes” area, but you’ll also find the answers below:
1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
2. The First Noel the Angels did Say
3. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
4. Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright
5. On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me
6. Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly, Fa La La La La La La
7. You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry
8. Joy to the World, the Lord is Come
9. You Know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
10. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus Underneath the Mistletoe Last Night
11. City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks, Dressed in Holiday Style
12. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King
13. Grandma Got Run Over By the Reindeer
14. Oh Holy Night, the Stars Were Brightly Shining
15. All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth
16. We Three Kings of Orient Are
17. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
18. It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas
19. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
20. Up On the Rooftop Reindeer Pause, Out Jumps Good Old Santa Claus
21. Come, They Told Me, Pa Rump Pum Pum…
Today I’m posting for a Christmas Advent over at Chicken Scratch n Sniff. Be sure to check it out for more great Christmas activities and ideas. And welcome to any friends who came over from Camille’s website!
By this time of the season your halls are decked and your stockings are hung! It’s the perfect time to gather your children and talk about the symbols of Christmas. I know you’ve heard of these before: many common Christmas objects and traditions have a deeper, often religious meaning associated with them. For example, the candy cane can remind us of Christ’s role as a shepherd. I bet you have most of these Christmas symbols decorating your house right now! Object lessons waiting to happen. Associating these items with a more spiritual meaning could help connect you and your family to the true meaning of Christmas.
To make things a little more fun, I put together a quick matching game with these great Christmas icons. They are meant to be cut into 2.75 inch squares. The image above will give you a better idea of how to trim the page, but there is plenty of white space that should be very forgiving. You can show each image as you talk about their additional meaning and then play a matching game together.
Below are the possible meanings of these common Christmas symbols and items.
Red: Red decorations and ornaments are everywhere at Christmas. The color red can remind us of the Savior’s sacrifice.
Christmas Tree: The evergreen tree can remind us of Christ’s victory over death. Through His atonement we can have everlasting life. Mosiah 15:8 “And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained thevictory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men.”
Bell: Shepherds sometimes used bells to help their sheep find home, reminding us of Christ’s love for each of His sheep and His desire to welcome each of us home.
Gift: The gifts we give and receive can remind us of the gifts the wise men brought for the baby Jesus and the gifts of repentance and redemption that Christ has given us.
Bows: A gift wrapped with a bow can remind us to tie our families and friends together in the bonds of goodwill.
Lights: Christ is the light of the world. John 8:12, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
Star: Reminding us of the star the lit the sky over Bethlehem when Christ was born.
Candy Cane: Just like a shepherds crook, the candy can can remind us of Christ’s role as the Good Shepherd. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
Wreath: The circle of the wreath never ends and can remind us of the everlasting love Christ has for us and the love we can show for Him, for our families, and for others.
Stocking: Hanging empty stockings and hoping they will be filled can remind us of the importance of patience in waiting on the Lord. Psalm 123:2 “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.”
Holly: A sprig of holly is evergreen, reminding us to persevere and keep our faith alive in the hope of Christ.
Light: The Christmas lights can remind us to share our light! Matthew 5:14 and 16: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
This is one of those posts that may reveal just how crazy I am. Or. It will be useful and helpful to a few people. Or. It’s super simple and it’s stuff you already know. It’s about a subject that’s near and dear to me: calendaring. When it comes to church callings, I’m a huge advocate of planning ahead. It helps avoid scheduling conflicts (drama!) and it has always helped me, as a leader or teacher, plan with a purpose. Calendaring gives everyone plenty of time to organize activities for a specific person or need so that actual ministering can take place. My sense is that when activities are planned last minute they are prone to be parties or entertainment.
So how do you start this kind of long term planning? If you don’t already do this, now is a great time of year to plan a basic schedule for 2015. Once you get all the big “must do” events on a calendar, it’s much easier to address any gaps or special needs and really minister to those you’re serving. There are plenty of great calendar templates online: I like to start with a blank calendar, one month per page, to get organized.
First, start with some direction from lds.org. For example, the youth programs are focusing on D&C 4:2, the adults are studying the New Testament and Ezra Taft Benson, and the Primary theme for the year is I Know My Savior Lives and the curriculum for Senior Primary is also New Testament. On top of these general themes, Primary, Young Men and Young Women all have monthly topics for teaching. When I’m in charge of planning for an auxiliary, I like to include these general themes on planning calendars just to be sure everyone has the bigger vision in sight. Even if you’re just looking ahead for your own children and family, it’s still really nice to have a handle on what everyone will be learning and teaching in 2015.
Once you have the basic direction down, you can layer in additional goals for your auxiliary. For example in Primary, we’ll be studying an Article of Faith every month. We’re going to read and repeat a new one every month and the presidency member who is conducting is going to explain the doctrine behind it. So that is part of the calendar for the year!
In Young Womens it would be a great idea to highlight one value per month with an accompanying scripture. In Young Mens you could easily layer in goals and scriptures from Duty to God. Both youth programs could benefit from incorporating principles from For the Strength of Youth into a monthly schedule. Even Relief Society and Priesthood might decide to focus on learning or perfecting certain areas of gospel study that need additional support. Adding small monthly goals is a good way to add momentum to larger, long term objectives.
Now it’s time to hit the actual calendar. There are usually a couple of areas to cover for Sunday worship: lessons and conducting. It’s pretty simple to calendar in the lesson schedule for the year. Be sure to accommodate conferences and special events like Easter or Christmas. Think about whether you want to highlight or celebrate any other important birthdays (Joseph Smith, President Monson, or Eliza R. Snow?), events like Pioneer Day or anniversaries of priesthood restoration. Conducting is also pretty simple: just decide which presidency member or class is in charge of opening exercises for the year and fill it out.
You kind of have to do this simultaneously as you pencil in other big events. Start with the basics like General Conference, Stake Conference, Ward Conference and holidays. Add pertinent activities and training from the stake calendar (if it’s not available to you on LDS Tools, ask a ward or stake clerk–the stake calendar really should be complete by mid-December). Then start penciling in your plans for the biggies like New Beginnings, Young Women in Excellence, Baptism and Priesthood Preview, the Primary Program, scout camps, Girls Camp and youth conference. Every organization has about half a dozen important events that they are in charge of scheduling. Choosing your dates in December, booking the venue and sending out “save the date” e-mails sets a great foundation for your bigger activities.
Add another layer by including the birthdays from your organization. This is especially important in youth organizations, but it’s always good etiquette to remember and acknowledge the birthdays of the friends around you!
Finally, check all of this against community calendaring resources: I’m thinking school schedules, municipal sites that will calendar events like parades or festivals, and cultural opportunities nearby. Checking in on local charity websites can help you think about getting your auxiliary or quorum involved in the broader community. It’s impossible to plan for every variation in your city, but it’s just good sense to know when the local schools start and finish or when big local events might impair traffic.
By now, your whole calendar will be full of notes! A lot of the special needs will already be addressed in the plans for your year. This is a good time to review a list of the people in your organization. Think carefully about the spiritual and physical needs of these friends. Are all these plans really going to reach those you’re serving? Is there anything unnecessary that can be eliminated? What kinds of activities can be added to meet the needs of the people in your organization? Your calendar will help you see how to make changes that will serve everyone. This is a good place to add in all of the additional activities and traditions that you’d like to maintain for 2015.
I think this kind of calendaring session gives you a basic outline for the whole year. Too much? Too crazy? To me, it feels like this is the kind of thing everyone is already doing all around the church! But maybe the list will remind you of details you’d like to include or remind you of an idea you wanted to schedule. I hope your plans for 2015 are going well already!
I wanted to point you in the direction of another cool resource called Millenial Mormons. It has a clean interactive interface and lots of articles and information that skew younger (you know, for kids). I really like the perspective and the insights that come from the younger writers. I think it would be a great place to browse if you’re trying to relate to YSAs or the YM/YW, or if you’re interested in a younger point of view on Mormon doctrine and culture.
I originally stumbled on to their site because of their Christmas countdown calendar with articles focused on Christ. You might enjoy it for your personal scripture study.
Are you still recovering from your Thanksgiving food coma? We wrapped up the very last of our leftovers last night (a little bit of stuffing and gravy was just enough for a side for dinner). You know what that means: it’s time to start thinking about baking for Christmas!
Do you make cookies for neighbors? Sometimes I do. Some years I make cinnamon rolls. Once I gave away red gumballs (Rudolph noses). About five years ago I had some pencils printed with the note “Merry Christmas from the Davis Family!” We gave them away with a pad of Christmas word searches and Sudoku games. But I think that really great homemade cookies are always appreciated by neighbors and friends.
Today I’m sharing my ten best cookie recipes for the plates of cookies you’re giving away, taking to the cookie exchange, or delivering to the ward potluck. They are all special, battle tested (I have four hungry boys who love each one of these recipes), and memorable. I don’t think I could choose a favorite! If only I could make them for you. Maybe next year…