I absolutely love Christmastime! The lights, the music, the family time, the food, the decorations, the Christmas Eve church service, and especially relaxing in the glow of Christmas tree lights late at night when everyone else is in bed. All of those are good things; none of them are inherently bad. Above all else though, we must focus on the beautiful reality of what we are celebrating—Jesus Christ coming to earth as God incarnate, dying on a cross for our sins, and raising to life after three days. This, above all other things, is what makes the season magical.
Once we are parents, it is not only our job to keep our own hearts focused on Christ, but we are also the key people discipling our children and leading them toward Him. Although it is a year-round task, during the Christmas season we encounter wonder and beauty—as well as many challenges—that are not as present at other times of the year. How do we as Christian parents keep the focus in our households on the gift and glory of Jesus rather than the commercialism and chaos that fills our culture?Here are a few quick tips to help.
You can’t do it all.
This first tip is purely practical. When we are inundated with holiday parties, recitals, volunteer opportunities, church obligations, and feel the pressure to also do ALL the Pinterest-inspired Christmas activities with our children, we end up overwhelmed and burnt out. Anxiety and stress are not of the Lord, and that’s no way to experience the holidays. Let go of that mom guilt now. Try to make a list of a few top priorities (maybe attending a local Christmas eve service, decorating the tree together, doing an Advent devotional every Sunday, or putting together Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, for example), and let all other things feel optional. You know what’s best for your family, and what is most important in pointing all of you back to the heart of Christ.
Decorate with purpose.
As you pull things out of boxes or buy things at the store, consider how the items that fill your home—even if only for a few weeks—draw your attention to the Savior. This is not to say that every wreath and garland needs to have deep meaning, but that collectively your surroundings help tell the bigger story. Nativity sets are a great way to do this, especially with children. Whether they are intricate sets placed high on a shelf or the Fisher Price Little People version young kids can play with, nativity sets are an easy way to have conversations about the first Christmas.
Enjoy Christmas music.
Christmas music can be a wonderful way to worship Jesus and learn or remember key details of the nativity story. Many of the classic Christmas carols, as well as quite a few new compositions, communicate the fullness of the gospel in just a few verses or even stanzas. With children this is an excellent way to expose them to the gift of the nativity story as well as the more theologically complex concepts. For a deeper look at “Hark the Harold Angels Sing” check out our previous blog here. Another wonderful thing about teaching through Christmas music is that it can be either active or passive. Sometimes we use it as a tool to remember scripture or actively learn a liturgy of sorts. Other times, we listen passively in the car or while the kids play, and it is background music. Often it is after hearing a song several times that my son will ask what a particular phrase means, and that is an easy transition into a deeper conversation.
Give gifts with joy.
What a wonderful reminder we have through the wise men to give gifts with joy. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:10-11). It can be hard to shift kids’ focus from gift-receiving to gift-giving, but the more we make the nativity story the central message of the holiday season in both big and little ways, the better it will be. We are celebrating the BEST gift in the world! Make that reminder a constant conversation point as you shop, wrap, and give gifts to friends and loved ones.
Seek out meaningful moments.
Car rides. Bedtimes. Family dinners. Washing dishes together. Picking up toys. Decorating the tree. Seek out everyday moments to connect with your kids, whether they are three or thirteen. In the midst of the rhythms of daily life, some of the most meaningful conversations can happen. With school breaks allowing many families more time together, don’t let that time slip by. Invite questions and be okay with seeking out the answer if you aren’t sure. Show them the heart Jesus has for them. And always keep in mind that they are listening to your actions just as much as your words.
Prepare your kids to think for themselves.
This may seem geared toward parents of teenagers, but I am a firm believer that preparing your kids to think for themselves is essential much younger. Developmentally, while preschoolers and early elementary aged kids need concepts more black and white, older children are ready to start thinking through more complex ideas. You know your own children best, but don’t be afraid of exploring bigger questions with them, and even inviting them to do research with you to find the answers. The nativity story has so much depth and beauty! Don’t allow a pat answer or dismissive reaction to a genuine question to hinder their faith journey. Walk with them through the confusing sections and help them encounter Jesus with both their heart and their head. As an apologetics ministry, we have lots of resources for you, and I’ll link a few below: