As I tucked my son in last night his parting words were an utterance of understandable childhood excitement: “Three more days till Christmas dad!”. My response was shamefully pragmatic: “Well, the faster you get to sleep the quicker it will get here!” Admittedly, in my haste to finish bedtime and put my feet up, I realize that once again I missed a teachable moment. (Not the first time and probably not the last).
As Christians we say that Christmas is about Christ, but lets face it, when you’re a kid the prospect of a day devoted to getting presents kind of hijacks your attention. That’s where parents need to play the roll of directing their childrens’ minds amidst all of the festive frenzy. That said, here are are few tips that I trust will help.
1. Make Attending Christmas Eve Service a Priority
Hopefully you have a church that holds a Christmas Eve worship service. What I like about Christmas Eve service is that it reminds us that we belong to a faith community. Jesus didn’t come to just save a bunch of individuals; he came to make a people for God. In fact the Apostle Paul describes Christians as “members of God’s household…joined together to become a holy temple in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22) This actually informs my attitude toward attending church all of the time, but at Christmas I especially do not want its importance to be overlooked, for me or my kids.
So, if attending Christmas Eve service has just turned into a “do we have to!” moment, re-think it and re-task it to become an important reminder to your family of what Christ’s coming meant. The King’s people gather to celebrate the King’s birth…TOGETHER!
2. Open the Bible with Your Children On Christmas
There is no question that you need to be intentional about keeping the focus of Christmas on Christ. With a little effort you can build this into the DNA of your family’s Christmas traditions. Here is a simple but I think effective way to do so using the birth narratives from Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels.
CHRISTMAS EVE: Read Matthew 1:18 – 2:12
This passage is the core of Matthews account of Jesus’ birth and is short enough to read with your kids, even if they are young. Matthew of course is very interested in how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God, hence his recurring refrain: “This was to fulfill what was written through the prophets”.
In the case of Jesus’ birth, Matthew’s focus is in verse 23: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means “God with us.” This is a direct reference to Isaiah 7:14 in which God promises to give King Ahaz a sign that he was with his people. The immediate fulfillment in Isaiah’s day was a baby born to him by his own wife, but its ultimate fulfillment pointed beyond Isaiah’s son to an eternal Son of God, one who would reign forever. Hence Isaiah points forward in 9:6:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)
In reading Matthew 1:18-2:12 on Christmas Eve, help your children to focus on the excitement of knowing that at Christmas God himself came into the world. God sent his own Son as a baby, just as he promised, so that we could never ever doubt that he is real, that he is present in our world, and that he loves us perfectly as our heavenly Father. Explain to them that because he loves us he came to be with us.
End by praying as a family and thanking Jesus for coming and showing that God is really with us. Thank him for living in our hearts through faith, and thank him for being the living and breathing proof that God really loves us and wants us to be with him.
CHRISTMAS MORNING: Read Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-20
Luke’s account of Jesus birth is much longer, but one of the themes that runs throughout is Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ kingly nature. Luke makes sure to point out that Jesus is the heir to David’s throne, which is tied to God’s promises to King David in 2 Samuel 7:16:
“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
King David was far from a perfect king, but his reign was representative of how a king would lead his people to live under God’s rule. God’s promise to David was to ensure that his throne, so characterized, would not fail to endure for all eternity. In short, God would establish a King to lead humanity forever in faithfulness, peace and joy under God.
Luke wanted to make clear in his telling of Jesus’ birth that he was indeed the King of God’s promise to David. Hence his emphasis on Joseph’s Davidic lineage (1:27); the angel Gabriel’s pronouncement to Mary: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David…his kingdom will never end” (1:32-33); and the angelic pronouncement to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (2:11)
Luke’s emphasized that Jesus was the eternal King of God’s promise. With the coming of Jesus, God’s rule as King had come to earth. This means that when we worship Jesus as king, we are worshipping God as our king. It is appropriate then that we help our children see Christmas as a time where we remember to worship Jesus as King.
This also brings true meaning and significance to giving gifts at Christmas. While giving gifts to one another is fun and a great way to show our love for each other, it really needs to represent our wish to give our lives as our gift to King Jesus.
Application: Ask your kids this question: “Before we give gifts to each other, what gift can we give to King Jesus this morning?”
Sing a worship song to Jesus.
Pray to Jesus, expressing our desire to honour him as our King.
Show Jesus we love him by obeying his command to love one another. (Maybe that means doing something to deliberately put someone else first on Christmas)
3. Prepare Your Own Heart
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; you can’t pass on to your kids that which you do not possess yourself. Check yourself. Have you taken any time to reflect upon and appreciate the significance of Christmas? I’d encourage you in the next couple of days to spend some time with your bible open to the passages we’ve talked about, and do a bit of your own study. Look up some of the Old Testament references that both Matthew and Luke felt were so important to emphasize. Thank God for his faithfulness to fulfill with the coming of Christ all that he promised through the centuries. Pause to marvel at the miracle of the incarnation and what Christmas truly means.
These are just a few suggestions from a fellow pilgrim trying to keep Christ in Christmas. As a parent, my great wish is to lead my children into ever increasing love and faithfulness to Jesus as their King. Christmas is a great opportunity to do so, but as I learned even last night at bedtime, it requires some intentional effort.
I hope this helps you do that this Christmas with your own kids, to the glory of Jesus the King!
Other posts to help you prepare your heart and mind for Christmas: