Service Sleigh Bells

December 2, 2013
Almost as soon as I became a mother, the holiday season changed. Whereas I was once a participant being “pampered and stuffed in the merry ol’ land of OZ,” I suddenly became “the Wizard” behind it all, desperately trying to recreate the Spirit of Christmas. I erroneously worked on what I thought would make Christmas more exciting for my kids. We had an elf “sent from the North Pole,” we wrote letters to Santa, visited the Polar Express, and sang Christmas carols about Frosty and Rudolph; yet the more “magic” I tried to recreate, the more miserable I became.On Christmas Eve 2010, I hit a low point. As I reflected over the course of the past several years, I realized that there seemed to be a depressing weight attached to my Christmases, steadily dragging me down into emptiness and disappointment. What was I doing wrong?
In the middle of my struggles I remembered an email my dad had sent just a few weeks earlier.  From his email:
“I must admit, as Christmas approached, I was aware of a lack of the feeling of the spirit of Christmas. I couldn’t really put my finger on “why” or even “if” Christmas had lost its savor, but I knew something was missing and I was not anticipating Christmas as I did as a child! I went through the motions of Christmas but nothing seemed to be working.
Then, Mom and I listened to a devotional where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang the old traditional Christmas songs. They began by singing “Oh come, All Ye Faithful” and amazingly, I immediately began to feel the spirit of Christmas return to me. Then they sang “Joy to the World” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the feeling of Christmas continued to grow inside me! As the Choir finished with “The First Noel”, “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night”, I was so filled with the feeling of Christmas that I realized that the spirit of Christmas had not left ME, the spirit of Christmas had just not ever really begun yet!
As I read his words I began to realize that although I believed in Jesus Christ, my children were only learning to believe in Santa Claus. This message planted a seed in me that grew as I pondered how I could lead my family to the Savior during the holidays.

There are a few things we have done to put Christ back at the center of our Christmas, but one of my favorites is the service sleigh bells. Up until that year we had been using “buddy the elf” to visit and watch over the kids. As I was realigning our holiday I decided to replace buddy with the sleigh bells, and decided there was no one better to explain the new idea than buddy himself.I crafted a letter from buddy in which he introduced our new holiday tradition. He explained that each day during December one of them would find service sleigh bells in their stocking, and a name in the advent calendar of someone in our family to serve. After they did their service they would get to shake the bells (which can be heard to heaven!) and God would know they had been “extra-specially nice.”I couldn’t have foreseen the big impact such little acts of service would make. My children have felt the joy that comes from serving and giving to each other, just as Christ did. (If you are interested in incorporating this into your own family traditions I have included the letter as a printable with a list of service ideas below.)

That first year it took more time than I want to admit to get my 5 and 3-year-old to understand that Christmas day is not a celebration of Santa or his birthday, but they get it now. Even while Santa still magically comes, fills their stockings and drops off a gift, Jesus Christ has been our reason to celebrate. And consequently, I think that when my children are old enough to learn about Santa, the joy of Christmas won’t die.

As we have dedicated our holiday season to the Savior a profound change has happened in our home. We have felt the true spirit of Christmas.

{Laura was sweet enough to share the darling letter she wrote for her children, which you can download below. Feel free to use it or modify it to best meet the needs of your family!}

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  • Reply Jesika Harmon December 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    What a perfect way to start the season! Children understand more than we realize and I agree completely Laura, that the magic of the season comes from Christ, and it is surprisingly wonderful how when that becomes the focus and not Santa, our children get more out of the season as well!

  • Reply Melissa November 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    What a wonderful idea! I would love to do this with my kids this year. Are the letter and service ideas printables still available? I am not creative enough to write one on my own…

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