Saturday, December 24, 2016

A very special Christmas Eve.

We made "Christmas Eve" an all day party.  Instead of one long "program" at night we did parts of the program all day long.  It was so great.
We had lots of chess games going on.
Nate and Hazel.
Quinn and John David.
We had a talent show after breakfast.
{I love this picture}.
Nate's talent was being cute, ha, just kidding Nate.
Sister-in-laws Becca and Lauren played an awesome duet without even practicing {because Lauren's been in Japan}.
Becca and Addie sound so good playing together.
Aaron had a spreadsheet with everyones name on it for a HUGE memory tournament that went on all week long.  This game was the biggest hit of the holidays.  It's quick and fun and every age level can play.
Tagg and Pete caught up on some lost play time together.
Anna and Eliot doing play-doh {see ... there was a little bit of everything}.
Nate and Tagg and Lauren and Hazel.
Norah's talent was sleeping.
Lots of rough-housing in the basement.
Hazel is good at smiling for me!
Enoch and Bodie playing memory.
I love that concentration on Bodie's face.

After a day of activities and food we had our more formal 'program' once the sun went down.
We started with grandma giving everyone a gift ...
Can we say TIRED?!
Notice Anthony is yawing in almost every picture {ha} sorry Ant, it's so fitting because he was SO TIRED ... poor Esther got up at 5 AM every morning and Anthony was always on the morning shift.
Matching PJ's for everyone.
The only grandchild missing is Nelson who was having a complete FIT about something and refused to be in the photo.

Next my dad planned a spiritual program to help each grandchild really focus on the meaning of Christmas. 
Each 'adult' child was responsible for talking about a part of the Christmas story and the grandkids were divided into groups which rotated around learning about the Christmas story.
Gregg and I were assigned Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem and finding a place to stay.  The posted above is what I prepared.
Here Bodie, Eliot and Addie colored pictures of the animals that lived in the stable and might have been present when Christ was born.
As the kids colored Gregg and I read from the scriptures and facilitated a discussion about what that night might have been like.
Here Jean and Truman color pictures of more animals that might have been there.
We also glued natural elements on our board that might have been in and around the stable.
The next group was Enoch, Ira and Pete.
We never got a picture of our finished poster :( which I am SO sad about.
All the grandkids added something that they thought might have been there the night Christ was born.  We really tried to set the mood.
I think Tiff and Aaron talked about the wiseman.

Super cute Valley.
I love this pictures.
Tired Valley in her Christmas PJ's, the fire in the back ground and my grandpa Arave tending to it.
I think Sharon and Anthony talked about what was happening in the America's at the time of Christ birth {via the Book of Mormon}.
{Note: Anthony yawning}
Nate and Lauren {not sure where Lauren was} talked about the shepherd's hence Nate's outfit.
I am including ALL these photos because it was such a special night and each photo tells a part of the story.
After about 40 minutes we gathered together and the grandkids took turns explaining the posters we created.
I didn't get a picture of our finished posted :(
There is its before.
Below you can kind of see it hanging up.
We hung the posters up in the great room where they could be seen.
Just as we finished talking about the posters there was a knock at the door.  All the kids ran to the door to see who it was {maybe Santa?!}.
It wasn't, it was Mary and Joseph and they were looking for a room.
Grandma and grandpa's house was pretty full - we all agreed we could move our car's out of the garage and they could sleep there.
Each group sand a song that represented what they talked about.
My dad bore a powerful testimony about making room in our lives ALWAYS for the Savior.
Below, he wrote an article about it for the Ensign.  He gave me permission to publish it here.
A Visit from Joseph and Mary
12/24/2016 (3)

It had been four years since our entire family had been together for Christmas.  Foreign work assignments, missions and “yours or mine” holiday commitments had kept us apart.   I was retiring early next year and my wife and I were planning to leave on a mission next Fall.  It would be another two years before we could possibly all be together again.  With a lot of planning and cooperation we were all going to be together this year.

Given these circumstances, we wanted to make this Christmas Eve something special, something our children and grandchildren would remember for years to come.  With seventeen grandchildren under the age of thirteen, married children, grandparents and my wife and I, we took on the challenge to plan a Christmas Eve program for 33 people from age 80 down to six months old.

We wanted to come up with something that would be engaging and actively involve everyone as a participant.  We came up with four topics related to the nativity story; The Book of Mormon Prophecies, The Shepherds, The Inn & Stable, and The Wisemen.  We assigned each of our adult children to facilitate one of the topics and to research and plan a discovery activity for the grandchildren.  Each group had a 2’ x 3’ poster board and markers to help the grandchildren “discover” that part of the nativity story.  We divided the grandchildren into four groups.  Each group of grandchildren spent ten minutes at a topic and then rotated to the next topic.  At each topic, the facilitator would explain what had already been discovered about that topic and then ask, “what else do you know about this topic that we can add to the picture?”  The grandchildren were involved listening to the story, drawing pictures and writing words to illustrate that topic.  Each group also picked a hymn or primary song related to their topic. It was a very immersive activity with all the grandchildren excited to be involved and contribute to the discovery of the story about each topic.

After 40 minutes we all gathered back together as a group where the facilitator explained their picture and we sang the related hymn.  During the second group’s presentation the doorbell rang.  All the grandchildren jumped up and yelled, “It’s Santa, It’s Santa.”  Some of our children and spouses said sarcastically, “Great timing, right in the middle of our nativity program.”  The grandchildren ran and gathered around the front door.  An anxious, young grandson swung the door wide open and the whole room went dead silent.  There standing on the doorstep were Mary and Joseph.  

They were a young couple in their mid-twenties.  They were dressed in ancient clothing.  He had a beard and she was expecting a child.  He introduced himself as Joseph and his wife Mary from Nazareth.  They had come to be taxed.  The town was full and they could find no place to stay.  They asked if we had room and could they come in out of the cold.  The grandchildren’s eyes searched for grandpa and grandma with that look of “what do we do now?”

We invited them in and offered them a chair.  I asked a couple of grandchildren come up and asked, “Do we have any extra rooms?”  “No” came the answer.  We went through the house room by room asking, “Who is in that room?  What family is in that room?”  “Will any of you give up your room for Joseph and Mary?”  I asked a couple more grandchildren to come up.  “You don’t even have a room, you are sleeping on the couch or floor.  Will any of you give up your space and blankets for Joseph and Mary?”  An eleven year old granddaughter’s hand shot up, “They can have my space.”  Next I asked the oldest grandchildren bring a manger in that we keep on the front porch during the holiday season to remind us of the Savior’s birth.  Then I asked, “Where in the house do we have a lot of room?”  A young grandson replied, “You have a lot of room in the garage.  Maybe we can turn the heat on and they can stay in there.  Mary can put the baby Jesus in the manger.”

By now there was hardly a dry eye in the room.  Making room for the Savior had suddenly become a very real experience for all of us.  We closed the program by bearing testimony that we all need to make room in our lives for the Savior.  We need to make room for His atoning sacrifice.  We need to make room in our lives by making time to serve Him and others in our callings.  We need to make room in our lives to put off the natural man and become more Christ-like.

Christmas was on Sunday that year.  Imagine the surprise as our grandchildren saw “Joseph and Mary” on the bench behind them at church the next day (she really was expecting a child)!  We are eternally grateful for loving neighbors who took time out of their Christmas Eve to make ours so unforgettable.  We hung the posters around the house and our children and grandchildren commented the next few days about how strong the Spirit was that night.  When our seven year old granddaughter went back to school she had to write a paper about what she liked most about the Christmas holiday.  At the end of the paper she wrote, “When Joseph and Mary came to visit at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.”

All the grandkids with Mary and Joseph.
I don't think anyone will forget this experience for a long time - I feel very thankful and grateful to my dad for providing this opportunity.

Back home we put the kids to bed.
McKay and Rachel worked some "Santa" magic.
And with that we were off to bed ...