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Make Christmas Merry and Meaningful for Teenagers
The Christmas season probably means different things to different members of your family. As parents, you likely feel overwhelmed by your growing to-do list. Younger children feel like December can’t go by quickly enough, as they keep adding to their wish lists.
Teenagers, meanwhile, may feel like they’ve outgrown some of your family’s Christmas traditions. The good news is that the holidays offer the most focused family time that kids will experience all year—and that traditions can change along with your family.
With a little intentional planning, you can make Christmas both fun and meaningful for your teenagers. Most importantly, you can emphasize that the holiday is about Jesus coming to earth to save us. Next, you can move the focus from “self” and receiving gifts to other people, serving, and giving. Instead of packing the Christmas season with constant activities, step back and enjoy some quiet times together. Talk about your favorite Christmas memories as a child. Spend some time with older or younger relatives. Complete holiday preparations such as shopping and baking together.
You can also start new traditions as your kids grow up. For example, decorate and hang stockings, and then fill them with affirmations, notes, and small goodies. Or do a “white elephant” gift exchange and then talk about the gifts we offer to God and what might be on God’s Christmas wish list. When kids learn that Christmas isn’t all about “me,” they’re ready to go deeper and experience true Christmas joy.
Reflect on these Advent meditations, adapted from “In Joyful Hope,” a collection of Henri Nouwen’s writings:
Waiting with patience—Waiting patiently isn’t like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It’s an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we await.
Waiting with discipline—It requires discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our minds. Each day, society bombards us with images and words that demand our attention. Through prayer, we open ourselves to the power of God’s grace.
Waiting with faith—Faith is the deep trust that God’s love is stronger than all the world’s anonymous powers and can transform us from victims of darkness into servants of life.
Waiting with a promise—Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus isn’t empty waiting. We have a promise in our hearts that makes what we’re waiting for already present.
(Creative Communications for the Parish)


Check out these insights into what teenagers really want this Christmas.

Last year, a poll asking teenagers what they wanted for Christmas had some surprising results. Although money and electronics topped the list, kids also said they wanted “something homemade just for me” and “something I will cherish for all my life.” (associatedcontent.com)

In Group Magazine’s annual survey of almost 30,000 Christian teenagers, 52% of kids said “Spending time with my parents is one of my favorite things to do.” But almost 40% said “I’m around my parents a lot, but we rarely have long, enjoyable conversations.” Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute says, “Not only is the amount of time the parents spend with their kids important, but what happens in that time is also important.&ldots; Particularly important to young people is that there’s time to hang around together.”


Great Questions
…to Ask Your Kids
As you get ready for Christmas, chat with your kids about their holiday attitudes and wishes.
1. What are your favorite memories of Christmas as a child? How have your feelings about Christmas changed as you’ve grown up?
2. What old traditions would you like our family to keep, and what new traditions would you like us to start?
3. What does Christmas mean to you? How would you explain the meaning of Christmas to someone who doesn’t know Jesus?
4. What are some ways we can honor the true meaning of Christmas this year?

Pray that:
1. Your teenagers will focus on the true meaning of Christmas, rather than on the holiday’s materialistic trappings.
2. Your teenagers will find joy in “family time” during the Christmas season—and all year long.
3. God will give your kids an abundance of peace, calmness, and rest as they celebrate Jesus’ birth.
4. The meaning of Christmas will encourage your teenagers to serve other people and to share the good news of Jesus’ love with them.

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11)

On that first Christmas night, the angels announced a message of joy and “peace on earth” to the terrified shepherds. Our modern Christmas celebrations can be terrifying in their own right, with more chaos than peace. But because of our newborn Savior, we can step back from the “busyness” of Christmas and thank Jesus for his gift of eternal peace.


Insights from SimplyYouthMinistry.com
Youth ministry expert Jim Burns offers memorable family Christmas traditions you can try:

Watch favorite Christmas movies together, or go to the movies on Christmas Day.
Start traditions with meals; for example, eat pizza or tamales before you go to Christmas Eve worship.
Drive around and look at Christmas lights, possibly on your way home from church.
Bake and decorate homemade cookies, allowing everyone to request their favorite kind.
Read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before your family opens presents.
Celebrate your family’s ethnic heritage(s). Prepare a meal or try a tradition that honors your roots.
Go caroling or, if weather permits, ice skating, sledding, or tubing.
Keep a holiday memory journal or scrapbook. Have each family member contribute thoughts, drawings, or photos.
Volunteer together. Serve at a food bank or visit a nursing home.
Live out an annual family version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Designate a recipient, and then give him or her unique     variations of all the “gifts.” For example, five golden rings could be five glazed doughnuts.
A Challenging Christmas Story
‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck… How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”. “Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves. The runners had been removed from his sleigh; The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And to show you the strangeness of life’s ebbs and flows, Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose
And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation, Demanding millions in over-due compensation.
And as for the gifts, why, he’d never had a notion That choosing which one could cause so much commotion.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute. Nothing to aim, Nothing to shoot.
Nothing that clamoured or made lots of noise. Nothing for just girls, or just for the boys.
No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth. Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
No baseball, no football…someone could get hurt; Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passé; And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed; He just could not figure out what to do next.
He tried to be merry, tried to be gay, But you’ve got to be careful with that word today.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision, Each group of people, every religion;
Every ethnicity, every hue, Everyone, everywhere…even you.
So here is that gift, it’s price beyond worth… May you and your loved ones, enjoy Peace on Earth.