“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
The winter solstice slips in quietly next Monday, Dec. 21. This marks the onset of winter and also it marks Dec. 21 as the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere.
Young children are noticing that there is a nip of cold in the air as they bundle up in coats, hats and mittens. Too, they are noticing frost on the ground as well as on their windows early in the mornings.
Jack Frost provides a quiet, peaceful environment this week for children to wrap gifts, no matter what age. Their excitement of wrapping gifts is truly a contagious joy that touches all. I love in the classroom when young students have put finishing touches on their handmade gifts for their parents and are so proud to wrap up their gift from the heart. Many times, children will help each other in wrapping their gifts. As a teacher I look upon this as a wonderful, cooperative learning lesson and as children sharing their talents and hearts in helping their fellow classmates.
The Wise Men gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Giving and exchanging gifts has been around for a long time. To actually wrap our gifts is a recent tradition established in Germany in the seventeenth century. Children love to listen to the story of how gifts were wrapped and called “Christ Bundles.”
How appropriate this name is because of Luke 12:2: “This will be assigned to you. You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger.” The wrapping paper was whatever paper they had at home. It was usually brown, and the children would decorate with nature, drawings, beautiful ribbons, bows or other items. The Christ bundles contained fruit, nuts or simple educational items such as pencils, books or tablets to reinforce learning the alphabet, numbers, etc. Too, with Christ Bundles were Christ Rods ribboned onto the package gently to remind folks to act good all year long.
During this challenging year for the whole world, HOPE is a present that our children need to wrap up in their hearts. Hope is trusting and desiring that something good is going to happen. We can teach our children to have hope by teaching them to pray. I love to join young children in prayer as I teach them about who God is.
God is not too busy to lean down and to hear a child pray. What I have told children is that His telephone line is never too busy for a child. God wants us to talk to Him just like we would talk to our family or friends.
During circle time in preschool when we meet in prayer time, many little hands go up on prayer requests. I absolutely love the faith young children have in asking God for needs. There is nothing too big or small for children to offer prayer requests for. We pray about our families, grandparents, friends, pets, et al. I know one time as a teacher I had absentmindedly misplaced field trip permission slips and money and we were scheduled to leave for the field trip in five minutes. The young students said let’s pray. The prayer was answered in that I had put the slips and money under a vase on my desk; one of my students quickly saw it and said, “Prayer answered!” God provided a perfect visual faith-building lesson in answered prayers from young hearts.
Love is a gift that needs to be in a gift wrap of sharing. I have been blessed to serve in the early child classroom and be an activity assistant for our elderly for many years. Christmas time has always been a wonderful time for intergenerational activities of singing, crafts and other activities with the young and old. This year, due to COVID-19, the young and elderly cannot gather for the traditional community Christmas in our retirement villages. Sending pictures and cards to our elderly friends is a way your child can use “share wrap” in expressing love.
Young children love to share love in good hugs. Even in masks, I love the way young children have come up to give me a good old hug around the waist. Sit down and talk to your child about people they love and about people who show them unconditional love. Love is wrapped up in words and actions just like the Christmas Star that shone upon the manger where true love in Jesus Christ was born. Young children quickly pick up and love to sing the song “Away in a Manger.” Even the youngest of children love to sing this over and over.
The gift of peace is wrapped up in the actions of getting along with other people. Christmas time is a season that offers all of us a way of giving one’s self to others. During this year of challenges, truly helping others is a wrap that ties up peace. We know to wrap the gift of peace we have in prayer, lack of worry, the Bible and a relationship with God.
This year in wrapping up gifts we must remember it is not about the material gifts. This Christmas, the gifts of relationships with people, family, friends are all that matter. Our relationship to God through His son Jesus Christ is a gift wrapped up in believing, forgiving, love and grace as we celebrate the gift of eternal life.
From the Heart of Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd