Giving gifts to family and friends during the Christmas season is a tradition followed by most people, regardless of their beliefs. Although the Wise Men figure prominently as historical gift givers, it is God who “so loved the world that he gave” the Gift of Christmas - Jesus. This tiny baby, God’s own Son, came to our world bringing hope and salvation to all who would believe. It is this amazing love that inspires us to give gifts to each other out of gratitude and joy.
When I married my husband David, I was introduced to his wonderful family tradition for opening gifts at Christmastime. It included reciting the Christmas story from Luke 2 prior to opening presents, bringing focus to Jesus as God’s gift to the world. I loved how this practice created a pause for gratitude and reflection, which added rich meaning to our time of gift giving.
As our family grew, we continued to read Luke 2:1-20 and sing a few Christmas carols before our gift opening each Christmas. Students or friends whose homes were too far for travel were often invited to join us. If they were not people of faith, I often wondered if they minded sitting and listening - or if our practice made them feel left out.
When our children grew up and began bringing home special friends, I wondered how it might look to include everyone in this tradition in a way that would be comfortable for all and help them feel part of the family. We needed to have something on hand that would help us point to Jesus and enable each person to participate - something that would be a visual reminder for keeping the tradition, a “hands-on” faith tool for all ages, and a treasured memory for our children and grandchildren. In thinking about what it would sound like, what if each verse from Luke 2:1-20 could be typed up separately so that the voices of all - young and old, family and friend, faithful or seeking - could be heard proclaiming the precious account of Jesus’ birth to each other?
Honoring the True Gift of Christmas: A Luke 2 Tradition
The project involves making a series of hole-punched cards that can be organized onto an “O” ring and then handed out for reading. An inexpensive white 4 x 6 index card is used as the base; old Christmas cards and scrapbook paper are cut to size to decorate the front and back and affixed with double-sided tape. (You can also use a glue stick.) You could omit the index card, however, it adds a nice sturdiness to the cards.
The verses, words of explanation, and prayer are printed out and then torn or cut out to add to each card. Tearing around the words creates a vintage effect and is fun for children. A bit of distress ink dabbed around the edges adds visual appeal, or you might add a thin line of gold gelato and blend with a sponge (pictured). Punch a hole in the upper left-hand corner of the card, assemble on an “O” ring, and add some yarn and ribbon embellishment if desired.
For the cover, choose a card that takes your breath away (because then you will see it every year!) I loved the rich hues of this image and added ribbons and yarn in similar colors.
Scrapbook paper adds visual appeal to the back of each card. The explanation and optional idea for carol singing fit well on the back of the cover. The second card provides words to share prior to the reading of the Christmas story - words to reflect on and call hearts to focus on the Christ Child. This is not meant to be scripted - a family leader may choose their own words - but for those who are not sure or who are new to the faith this may provide needed support.
More words describing God’s Gift may be added to the back of the focus card - these are especially appropriate for an older crowd. As the years pass, you might add an extra card or two with your own reflections or meaningful words from a Christmas devotion.
Each verse from Luke 2 is on it’s own card. It works well to gather everyone in a circle around the room and then pass out the cards - this will make it easier for the reading. If your group is small, verses card can be divided up between everyone; a small child might want to participate on cue with special words like “Fear not!” or “Glory to God in the highest.”
Large verse numbers are provided for the back of each card to make it easier to put back in order afterwards. (It might also be a fun job to give the kids later on!)
As you choose a card for each verse, may it be an enjoyable task to find an image to reflect the text. In the weeks before Christmas, you might find time to flip through the cards with your children - ask which one is their favorite or talk about how the words connect with what they see.
It’s these processes of taking time, of slowing down, of hearing and seeing, and repetition that will help hide the Word in little hearts.
The project text is sized to fit vertically on the card -- but the verses will all fit horizontal orientation as well. It’s really up to YOU how you want to put it all together!
And finally, a closing prayer.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” - 2 Corinthians 9:15
Download instructions and text for this project here:
~ Pat Maier
Emily Ransdell lives in Dover, Delaware where she is in 8th grade at St. John’s Lutheran School. She is the daughter of Pastor CJ and Melinda Ransdell, who teach and support visual faith practices in their home and with their church family. Emily practices visual prayer and Bible journaling, and when we saw a picture of her beautiful pumpkin, she agreed to tell us a little bit more of the story. Here is our interview with Emily:
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO CARVE SUCH A CREATIVE PUMPKIN?
Emily: My school had a biblical pumpkin carving contest. The winner goes to another contest at Dover Place, a senior living center near my school.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION?
Emily: I found a cute angel gourd while searching ideas on Pinterest. Then I saw a picture of a stable carved into a pumpkin.
On my own, I came up with the ideas to put our nativity figures inside, carve a star, and paint a galaxy. Then I added the bible verse from John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
HOW IS THIS A VISUAL FAITH PROJECT?
Emily: I was expressing my faith through something you can see while crafting, carving, and painting. It represents the birth of Jesus, which I reflected on while I created it.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your project with us! We love it!
🎃 UPDATE: Emily’s pumpkin won 3rd place in the big contest at Dover Place! Congratulations, Emily - thanks for letting your (visual faith pumpkin) light shine for Jesus!!!
Maybe this is the year to start a new family tradition. One to capture visual blessings and story and to create a very tactile way of sharing the journey.
A simple way to bring focus to a Bible verse. Using painter's tape - tape card to table top- placing tape to have a margin on the top, sides and a larger margin on the bottom. Using Watercolor Cards (Michael's or Hobby Lobby) simply add watercolor.
Then with a Sharpie pen add silhouette images to the card. You may use a regular or fine-point Sharpie pen. Image ideas can be found by Googling Silhouettes. Remove tape and add Bible verse in the bottom space. Polaroid Praise is ready to display or bless someone else!
We thank Visual Faith coach- Michele Bowden for demonstrating this great and simple idea at a recent Creative Haven event. She will be at the Visual Faith Assembly on August 3, 2018 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Springfield, Virginia to share this idea with others
I had some time with my granddaughter- Ellery Jane White (almost 8 years old) about three weeks ago and introduced her to Bible Journaling. She absolutely loved it. My friend Bev shared with me how to make the booklets out of paper bags. Well, Ellery just decided she was going to write her own story. She had taken her first communion in the PCA Church they attend the week before. Well, she sat down and wrote her thoughts. I was a proud Grammy for sure.
It was wonderful to discuss the Sacrament of Holy Communion with her. Thanks be to God. I had such a blessed time with her.
Thanks to Visual Faith Coach Jean White with this simple reminder that telling the story of significant faith milestones is both legacy and a blessing to the next generation. It also enhances the story we tell of God's faithfulness to THIS generation.