A Few Favorite Ideas to Start the Topic
The following ideas can be uses at home or at church, or both. They can also be demonstrated on video by a teacher as an online lesson. They are intergenerational and "different." They not only help tell the story, they also invite individual expression and contemplation, and can be used to share the message of Christ with others.
Advent Sidewalk Chalk
People of all ages like to create with chalk and look at sidewalk chalk art, and it can be used to share the message with others — so why not give a gift to your families and their neighbors this year of Advent Sidewalk Art.
They could create a new part of the Nativity story each week as they progress through Advent. Or draw Advent Candles with messages so others can follow along with your "lighting-chalking of the Advent Candles."
You could also invite families to decorate the walk at church. Have them come at different times or in socially-distanced "chalking pods" to decorate a section of the walk for each week of Advent. Or invite individuals and families to create a special walk for Christmas Eve lit by luminaries. If they won't be coming to church, suggest they do it at home. Have choir members lamenting not being able to sing together? Invite them to "chalk" a favorite line from their favorite song, or create a "Christmas song walk."
You can even create simple themed scenes like the one below that your kids can interact with. These also make great photo memories and Christmas cards to post online or print. Why not one with mom or dad posed as Mary or Joseph, or turning each member of your family into a chalk Advent Candle and photographing it. (Need to do this indoors? Draw or paint the scenes on paper drop cloths.)
This "flat-lay" photo perspective is a great way to do photo and video dramas. You could use it to create your own Christmas story "flat-lay" videos to be shared online or with family members. Here's a short explanation of "flat-lay" at Rotation.org with a link to a Shepherds and Angels lesson plan that also uses "flat-lay" photography.
Christmas Chalk Walk
In 2018, a California LDS church invited people to create Christmas sidewalk chalk art and celebrated with a community meal and outdoor program. See their photos here. Some were created by members, others by chalk artists. While the linked photos certainly show a "pre-COVID" festival, the basic idea of creating and sharing "public" art around the story of Christmas is a great idea for families or communities.
Making Christmas traditions "fresh," interactive, and meaningful are worthy goals -- especially in a year like 2020 when we need refreshing interaction and meaning!
THE CONCEPT: Nativity Rocks uses the idea of "gratitude rocks" that have been a popular Sunday School art and Thanksgiving-time activity -- and COMBINES IT with the ubiquitous "manger scenes" found in most Christian family homes to create a "journey to the manger" display that prompts interaction by individuals and families as each stone is placed or turned over.
The rocks have images, symbols, and words or questions painted or written on them. Participants can arrange them all at once or over a period of time to create a "pathway" or set of "steps" journeying to the manger. Each rock has a message that can be a question for individual contemplation or group discussion (preferred).
Leaders can create a discussion guide for each, or use the Nativity Rocks in a guided-demonstration online or video. Ideally, though, families would make and take the journey.
Leaders can provide the stones (cheaper to purchase in bags at local garden stores) or look for local sources (such as a creek). Leaders can also provide paints or paint pens as part of the distribution of the idea and its materials. (Providing the materials will encourage their use!)
Round or flat stones need to be cleaned before being painted or drawn on with various CHRISTMAS STORY IMAGES & WORDS such as: Prepare and Confess, Hope and Wonder, Light and Darkness, Tell and Serve, Change, or any words you want to emphasize.
Giving Away Nativity Rocks: Create many and give them away, or leave them in public places for serendipitous sharing with others.
Combining Creche, Candles, and Bible to Tell and Display the Christmas Story
The kernel of this idea comes from a "Godly Play" blog. Each Sunday of Advent, a new "scene" is created using parts of the family's nativity set, and a candle "lit." Notice the use of electric candles in the photo and on the felt. Notice also the way the Bible storybook is included in the display. Much more interactive and tactile than a simple manger scene or bunch of candles with fake greenery around them!
A Leader could create a weekly "script" and scripture selection for family use, or simply include words from the church's liturgy of the Lighting of the Advent Candle. Consider providing a strip of felt and the battery operated tea candles (cheap in bulk) to encourage the telling. A parent can lead the weekly "laying out" of the story, then invite the children to retell the story to their family using the same objects.