by Lisa Prysock
I hope each of you enjoyed a wonderful time of Thanksgiving with your family as we roll head first into December whether we are ready or not! It’s an exciting time of year as Christmas is right around the corner. It seems as though 2016 was a blink! I can hardly believe the holidays are upon us and how busy this year has been for so many of us…
It’s one of my favorite seasons as we are able to freely celebrate the birth of our Savior, a freedom I deeply cherish… one I don’t take for granted. With that thought in mind, I try to make the most of it. I usually try to go the whole nine yards with a tree; lights; decorations; a family dinner; shopping for gifts; making and giving presents; baking; wrapping; attending as many parties as we are invited to; going to see pretty light displays with the family; going to church functions to worship our Savior; and especially being involved in giving to those in need on as many fronts as possible.
It’s a wonderful time of year to rejoice over what God has done for us in sending us His Son. It all seems to start with Thanksgiving. Other than our church worship services, it seems as though the family dinners for both Thanksgiving and Christmas are the highlight of our celebrating … when we are able to sit down with our family and friends, if possible, and enjoy a meal together while reflecting on what is truly most important and all that our Heavenly Father has done for us. With this in mind, I would like to share about some things we do in our home to make our Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday dinners a happy and memorable event. Great planning can go a long way toward making this a wonderful time of worship for you and your family.
This year, at Thanksgiving, I wanted to be able to include everyone who wanted to be involved with our holiday dinner table and preparations. I especially needed an idea which would include my elderly mother as she was really interested and wanted to contribute. Doing a ton of baking or cooking isn’t the ideal activity for her. Instead of spending hours laboring in the kitchen, she brought store bought pies from our local bakery to our dinner. We also thought of an idea for her to make place cards with fun personalized drawings on the outside for each dinner guest. The elderly often have many extra hours on their hands and might enjoy an activity like making place cards.
Mom included a Scripture verse to reflect the meaning of our Thanksgiving celebration on the inside of each place card. For example, my card was decorated with a picture that reflected my writing efforts and inside, a verse from Psalm 100:4. This was a really creative way to get my mom involved as she would have had a hard time spending many hours baking in the kitchen. It gave her something fun to do that she really enjoyed. The end result was that each of our family members loved the personalization she put into this project. The cards ended up being funny and very memorable.
This is also a wonderful activity for children to do at home or with your local Wednesday evening children’s church class. Kids can copy down names of expected dinner guests/family members and make their own drawings and decorations on the place cards. This is a very easy and low cost way to allow our children and elderly to participate in the preparations for the holidays. You may use plain paper, card stock, or any number of other ideas to make these cards. They may be designed in any shape or size to place above or on the place setting, or they may be tent cards which stand unaided like the ones we made. One can make these as elaborate or simple as desired.
While children are making the cards, you can explain or remind them why we celebrate Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. This is another opportunity for children to learn a Scripture if you allow them to help choose a Bible verse to copy into the inside of the place card (or anywhere on the card such as on the reverse side). You may provide them with a list of verses from which to choose or a specific verse to copy (older children can do an internet search for a verse that fits with your holiday dinner theme using today’s many Bible search tools).
Each time we include a Scripture and say a prayer of thanksgiving before our dinners, we are planting a seed in the hearts of our guests and bolstering each other’s faith in Christ. It may not seem like a lot, but the Lord will use these seeds when we pray over them. These small complements to your holiday meal may go much farther than discussing religion at the actual dinner… which can cause needless arguments and may seem like a confrontation. They will not go unnoticed and will speak volumes without having to be read out loud. Every guest at our Thanksgiving table took their place cards home with them this year as a keepsake. Not one guest had to be reminded to take them! They really loved these name cards and the Bible verse in each one.
This is also a great time of year to start thinking about the centerpiece you may want to use on your Christmas Dinner table. Candles, lanterns, tiered serving plates, greenery, pine cones, flowers, vases, candied faux fruits, ornaments, festive ribbon, a nativity scene, special napkins, napkin rings, even the table cloth and type of dishes and glassware you choose… these are all items which help make the celebration festive and help us remember the reason for the season. Not only do these special touches help make the holiday warm, elegant, and memorable– but they also help children and unsaved family members to realize the importance we place on this time of year and why.
Another thing to consider might be who will be assigned to lead the family in prayer. Will it be a written out and specially designated prayer to be read by an honored grandparent or guest, or will it be the head of the household of the host/hostess to say the prayer? If guests of multiple faiths will be in attendance, it’s all the more important in my opinion not to change our Christian traditions in order to not offend guests or to appear “politically correct.” The Lord is watching how we represent Him and whether or not we will remain true to Him. Your prayer to Jesus or in His name may be one of the few prayers some of our guests may hear all year through. Now is the time to reach out and invite someone to your holiday dinner who needs your love and prayers.
Other things to consider are the menu, placing mints and chocolates on the table, and if you desire or are able to leave a small gift at each plate such as–: an ornament, candy canes or Christmas candy, a small box or handful of chocolates, a handwritten poem, a jar of jam dressed up with a ribbon, a jar of salsa you canned from your garden this year, a tin of cookies and fudge, a box of seasonally flavored tea, or a small book perhaps.
Younger children might really appreciate the gift of a small toy or coloring book and crayons. This might give them something readily available to do while mom and dad are having pie. You can really have fun thinking up ideas of things to do with regard to each individual place setting in the gift giving arena. Family members may also enjoy making decorative gift tags for these items; especially children, who often have such a strong desire to be a part of the giving at this time of year. This is yet another opportunity to plant a seed of faith by including a Scripture on the gift tags. You may also want to consider making wrapping paper out of plain brown paper which can be decorated with snow scenes, more Scripture verses, faith words, or pictures of Bible scenes. Whether you decide to use brown paper you decorate yourself, standard Christmas wrap, or tissue paper, with a little twine or ribbon, and handmade gift tags… these wrapping ideas are very popular ways to make good use of natural looking and regular household items for a vintage look. If you are blessed to live near pine trees or can purchase a bit of extra faux greenery, you may want to add a little piece of greenery from a pine branch or a sprig of holly leaves to tuck into the twine or ribbon wrapped around your gift idea for a simple, yet elegant flair. If holly or pine branches aren’t your thing, you may want to try adding a candy cane, a mint, or an individually wrapped chocolate item to your gift. These ideas work well for gifts placed under the tree as well.
Old-fashioned string banners with a message of faith on them hanging from the fireplace mantel or on a wall in your dining room can be another way of making the holiday festive and getting other family members involved. These banners are also very popular today and another great way to plant a seed that may share the gospel of Christ. This is also a perfect time of year to get out the sewing machine and make Christmas themed linen napkins or place mats for your table. You can use these types of items year after year. Using words in your sewing and decorating like faith, joy, peace, believe, and Jesus are wonderful yet easy ways to share the gospel message.
Many of us love to bake cookies as another way to celebrate during this time of year and show our family how much we love them. If you bake in advance, you can freeze a few of each kind for your Christmas Day Dinner. Placing a few tiered trays of cookies at each end of your table or glass platters of cookies about the dining room will also make your dinner preparations complete, along with soft Christmas music playing in the background, candlelight, and a covering of prayer before the big day.
Let’s face it, not all of our friends and family may be saved which can make for a tense meal together. It can also be a difficult time of year for some individuals who may not have many or even one family member to celebrate with. For many, this is a difficult time of year, especially if they have experienced a recent loss, health issues, financial challenges, or any number of other issues. Many families are facing a variety of challenges in today’s world; emotions may be running high during the excitement, stress, and importance of the holidays. These are the reasons why I think it can be an exceptionally wise idea to begin praying for your Christmas celebration to have the blessing of the Lord upon it now… particularly the family dinner table. There is something about my attitude that changes when I pray. It helps keep my focus on the Lord and what this season is really about. Prayer helps me keep my attitude, my heart, my mouth, and my behaviors in check as a servant of the Living God. This is often easier said than done, but in general, I find Christmas far more enjoyable when I begin by bathing it with plenty of prayer, don’t you?
I am reminded how enjoyable this time of year and the winter season in general can be as I share this brief excerpt from one of my newest books, the third volume of ‘The Lydia Collection,’ a post-Civil War Era, 1870’s, mail order bride “Jane Austen-ish” story, Persecution & Providence :
“The winter season was filled with sledding, snowball fights, church socials, and to Lincoln’s delight, building snowmen. Amelia was in high cotton because she could ice skate when the weather caused the pond to freeze over for a few weeks during the coldest part of the winter. Molly and Shane Brannigan came to visit a few times, bringing their children for days of playing in the snow, hot chocolate, and afternoons of sewing and reading by the fireplace. Life had finally calmed and settled into a pleasant pace for the McLanes. Braydon could finally enjoy peace in his family again and focus on his ministry to the local church.”
Let us not forget our missionaries this time of year. When you purchase one of my books as a gift for the reader in your family, a generous share of the proceeds helps to support missions!
Do you have any other ideas or special traditions that add to your holiday table or this wonderful season as you celebrate the birth of Christ? Will you be making place cards or a holiday banner this year for your dinner table? What type of center piece do you plan to use? Have you tried making your own gift tags, cards, or wrapping paper before? Do you plan to spice up your holiday table with a small gift at each place setting? Do you have an elaborate, gourmet, or a traditional menu planned? I would love to hear about your plans and ideas! Do you use special Christmas dishes or a holiday tablecloth perhaps? Will you be spending your holiday at home, or do you travel to be with family or friends? How is your Christmas shopping and giving going? Will you be making gifts this year or purchasing gifts, or some of both? Do you have a gift idea to share with us? How may I pray for you at this time of year?
However and wherever you spend Christmas, may God richly bless each and every one of you as you remember Jesus during this season and all the year through!
About the Author:
Lisa M. Prysock is the author of “To Find a Duchess,” a Regency Inspirational Romance and two more Historical Christian Romance books with Kentucky settings in the Victorian Era, “Hannah’s Garden: a Turn of the Century Love Story,” and “Abigail’s Melody,” Volume 1 and 2 in a series titled “The Victorian Christian Heritage Series.”
“I don’t know how it happens but most of my books end up in beautiful England at some point and two start out in gorgeous, rolling Kentucky…”
Kentucky inspires her writing and is home. She is happily married to her husband of seventeen years and homeschools two of their five children. She has a son in college and two stepdaughters, grown. Lisa grew up in the Ohio Valley and also spent her early childhood years in Minnesota on a farm. “Yes, there were chickens, a cow named Daisy and even horses one summer, a huge vegetable garden, fishing and snowmobiles!”
Lisa remembers writing her very first book in kindergarten in Wisconsin, with help from the teacher and a stapler. “It was a book about ‘Curious George.’ I couldn’t spell yet but the teacher wrote words beneath my illustrations for what I wanted to say on each page.” She has been writing ever since. She won a prize for a short story in 8th grade and remembers buying a manual typewriter with her first ever babysitting earnings.
Lisa is a huge fan of the “Little House on the Prairie” series, the “Anne of Green Gables” collection, the Jane Austen collection, C.S. Lewis books, “Heidi,” “Christy,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Little Women.” She loves writing family oriented, classic style literature: a little less conversation and a lot more detail and background. She also loves sharing her faith in Christ with her readers. She believes people just need to know how wonderful He is and attributes her dream of writing coming true entirely to Him.
She gives a portion of the proceeds of her books each month to missionaries and evangelists to further the gospel. She is currently writing her eighth book, and she recently completed “The Lydia Collection.” For more information about Lisa and to find out when her next book will launch, she can be found at: www.LisaPrysock.com