Christmas is our children’s favorite time of the year. I think it is for many kids. The excitement of trees and lights, presents and treats, and family and friends puts a smile on everyone’s face. But as our children grow, I find myself continuously looking for ways to slough away the “entitlement” attitude of today’s youth and replace it with a genuine love and appreciation for what Christmas is really all about. The media is buzzing with the latest gadgets and toys, and everyone is filling out their wish lists before we have even gotten through Thanksgiving it seems.
I want our children to experience the fun and anticipation that writing letters to Santa and decorating a tree bring. That’s part of being a kid. There is something magical about the Christmas season that is hard to deny, even as an adult. I know, and I long for my children to know, that this magic isn’t really magic at all – but it is very real and very present! It’s Jesus. It’s the presence and celebration of the birth of our Savior.
Here are some easy and practical was we can point our kids to Jesus and keep all the fun of the holiday season.
1) Start your Christmas decorating with the nativity.
If Christmas is really about Jesus then shouldn’t we start there before grabbing our trees and lights? As a kid, we had the porcelain, candle lit nativity scenes that my mom always set up, but we were rarely allowed to touch for fear of breaking.
Today, they come in everything from blow-up yard decorations to an awesome Little People play set. Whichever suits your home better, I encourage you to make it the first Christmas decoration you bring out each year. Let the kids be a part of unpacking it and setting it up. Read the Christmas scripture or story to them while they set it up in a prominent place in the home. Starting the season off with baby Jesus as the priority sets the month up for a focus on Him.
2) Light the tree with the light of Jesus.
Whether you cut down and haul in your own, fresh cut tree or you pull the artificial one out of the dusty attic, the setting up and decorating of your Christmas tree is a prime opportunity to talk about the gospel of Jesus. While the traditional Christmas tree doesn’t look much like a cross, it can absolutely represent the cross where Jesus died – thus giving us the ultimate gift of all. If it wasn’t for that rugged cross, the birth of Jesus wouldn’t really mean all that much would it?
As you drape the lights over the branches of your tree, take a few minutes to talk about why the baby Jesus is such a big deal. Who will He grow up to be? Why is He so important to deserve the biggest holiday of the year? And when the lights are all on . . . before any ornaments get placed . . . take a moment to turn off the room lights and reflect upon how Jesus is the light of our world. His sacrifice on a tree many years ago, gives us a light of hope for eternity!
3) Have a birthday party for Jesus.
You don’t have to rent a bounce house and invite the neighbors – unless you just want to. I mean, who doesn’t love a bounce house? We make a simple Christmas cake, throw on some candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas eve most years. The cake will always get eaten, and it really helps the kids think of it as a celebration of Jesus’s birth just like we celebrate their birthdays each year.
4) Use an Advent family devotional.
Get the kids active in the story of advent and Jesus by reading stories and doing fun crafts each day of December leading up to Christmas. One of my favorites is Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. We also love to incorporate our Elf on the Shelf following the book A Gospel Christmas. Whichever resource you choose, this is an awesome way to really immerse your whole family in the Christmas story and season during the month of December!
5) Make giving a priority.
From Angel Trees to shoeboxes to the bell guy at Walmart, Christmas is a time for giving a helping hand. Personally, we aren’t always in a position to give great amounts of money or resources, what we can do is make a batch of home-made reindeer chow or some cookies to give to the lady across the street. We can fill out Christmas cards wishing others the love that Jesus brings. We can open doors for others, return a cart back to the return bins, and help someone carry in their groceries. Giving in the little things is just as important as giving in the big things.
6) Give Jesus a birthday gift.
Instead of doing the traditional New Year’s resolutions, we have started the tradition of giving Jesus a gift to celebrate His birthday. Much like a resolution, this gift can take many forms. From forgiving someone, to committing to pray more, to taking whatever step in obedience God places on your heart. Talk as a family about what we can possibly offer Jesus as a gift from ourselves. Even the youngest of children can hear that still, small voice calling them to something more.
7) Attend a live nativity showing.
Most cities will have a church or two that put on a live nativity scene sometime during the month of December. These are great events to walk through and really immerse yourself into what it was like on the day Jesus was born. If you don’t have a live nativity opportunity near you, be sure to make it to a Christmas eve service at your local church. God tells us that where two or more are gathered, there He is also. We are meant to be in community with other believers!
Above all, I wish you the very merriest of Christmases. I pray that you and your family experience Jesus in a way that is real and personal to you and that you share His love and compassion to all those you celebrate with! See you next year!