Monday, December 8, 2008

Family Home Evening

One night each week, usually Monday night, Mormon families everywhere gather together to spend a night together. They have a family "meeting" of sorts that is called Family Home Evening. This practice was introduce almost a century ago by one of the prophets. Joseph F. Smith, in 1915. 

In these Family Home Evenings the family grows together and parents have an opportunity to teach their children their core values and beliefs. They also get to spend uninterrupted time with their children. In todays busy age of technology and distractions, this time is invaluable.

A typical Family Home Evening starts with a prayer and then a song sung together by the family. Perhaps a scripture will be shared. A prepared lesson is given by one family member and then the family does some sort of activity together. At the end another song and prayer are said and a refreshment is enjoyed. 

Now that is pretty textbook. In reality, many Family Home Evenings (at least at our house) are not as well prepared as they should be and sometimes we combine the lesson and activity together. Still, the time spent together is worth all the trouble to pull something together. I know for those with teenagers it is sometimes difficult to get kids happy about participating, but our little kids LOVE Family Home Evening. We keep the lessons short to account for their attention spans and they adore the activities.  

Tonight we had a great Family Home Evening. I thought I would share what we did. We started with our prayer and then I asked the girls to sing a song they have been learning in church for the ward Christmas party. It is about how heavenly choirs must have had children and how they must have sung at his birth. It is a great song. They did a great job singing it.

For our lesson I read to the kids an email story sent to me by my cousin. It is about Santa coming and telling us to teach our children about Christmas and its true meaning. (I will paste the story to the end of this post so those who want to can have it). It goes over how so many of our Christmas traditions can point to the Savior if we look at them symbolically. 

After the lesson, we gathered together and made a gingerbread house out of a kit I bought at Costco. 
It was a fun time together. The kids loved it and Jon and I had fun too. Next, Jon sat to the piano and played a bunch of Christmas songs. Annie played Jingle Bells, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and Jolly Old St. Nick on the violin, and we all sang. (The girls emptied the dishwasher while singing and I did the dinner dishes.)

By the end of the music it was time for bed so we had our closing/family prayer and put the kiddos down for the night. All in all, it was one of our better Family Nights. 

Family Home Evening may be a "Mormon" teaching, but it is a great idea for any family. The lessons can be whatever beliefs any parent holds. What is most important is that the program strengthens families. Even if it is just spending a night playing games together, the time spent together deepens family relationships. 

So whatever your beliefs may be, I challenge you all to pick a night and try spending a Family Home Evening with your family. Adapt it to your needs and situation. If you take the challenge, let me know how it goes. If you already do this, share one of your best Family Home Evening Ideas. I always love good FHE ideas!

Here is the email I got for those interested:

The Meaning of Christmas
Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room, and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out. "What are you doing?" I started to ask him.

The words choked in my throat, as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement, TEACH THE CHILDREN!

I was puzzled: What did he mean? He anticipated my question, and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree.

As I stood there bewildered, Santa said, Teach the Children! Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that a now-a-day Christmas has forgotten! 
Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it on the mantle. Teach the Children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind. All the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven.

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. Teach the Children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of that promise.

He then reached into the bag and pulled out a CANDLE. Teach the Children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness.

Once again he reached into his bag and then removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree.

Teach the Children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection.

He then pulled out from his bag an ornament of HIMSELF. Teach the Children that Santa Claus symbolizes the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December.

He reached in again and pulled out a HOLLY LEAF. Teach the Children the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent blood shed by Him.

Next he pulled out a GIFT from the bag and said, "Teach the Children that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Teach the Children that the wise men bowed before the holy babe and presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We should give gifts in the same spirit as the wise men."
Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree. Teach the Children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the shepherd's staff helps bring back strayed sheep from the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper. 
He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. Teach the Children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace and good will.'
Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulledout a BELL. Teach the Children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of a bell, it should bring people to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.
Santa looked at the tree and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the  Children the true meaning of Christmas, and not to put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One who is, and I bow down and worship Him, our Lord, our God."