When you think of your Christmas celebrations as a child, what do you recall? I picture myself as a young girl, standing by the closed living room door on Christmas morning, knowing that on the other side awaited lots of presents around the Christmas tree. But before that door would swing open, Dad would read the verses in Luke about the real meaning of Christmas.
I remember thinking, Can’t you hurry? We have presents to unwrap!
Today I cherish the memory of my father wanting his children to know the real story of Christmas. It’s an impossible account, one of a virgin giving birth. And not just to an ordinary child, but to the very Savior of the world!
Not too long ago I once again read Luke 2 and other Scriptures about the day the Jesus was born. As I imagined what it must have been like, the old familiar story came alive with rich spiritual truths. And I was reminded of some of the things that our children need to know about the Messiah's birth.
Long before you open Christmas presents this year, why not spend an evening reading aloud through the story of Christ's birth? As you read through the accounts in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, here are eight things to teach your kids about Christmas:
1. Christmas is about Christ. The earthly mother of Jesus, Mary, never overlooked the fact that Christ’s birth was anything but ordinary.
When the shepherds came to worship the Babe, they told Mary and Joseph about the heavenly host who had announced His birth, praising God. What was Mary’s response?
Luke 2:19 says that she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She took time to think over and over again about what had happened on that first Christmas day.
Imagine what must have gone through her mind as she heard the shepherds describe the angelic host that proclaimed Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).
A lifetime of pondering would never provide human understanding of how it had all come about. How could a poor young girl cradle the Savior of the world?
As presents are placed under the Christmas tree, we should teach our children about God’s greatest gift to mankind: Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus is God and has always existed. Imagine young Mary gazing into the face of her newborn on what we now call the first Christmas day. As she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, she held the perfect Son of God. “He is the image of the invisible God,” says Colossians 1:15-17, “the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created ... And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
When I was a child, I didn’t understand that Jesus Christ always existed. In my little mind I thought that His life began on Christmas. But now I realize that although His earthly life had a beginning, Jesus Christ has always been. Why? Because He is God.
We should teach our children that even though Jesus’ human form began in Mary’s womb, the Son of God is eternal.
3. Jesus was born into a family. From the beginning of time God chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother and Joseph to be His earthly father. Joseph was already betrothed to Mary when he learned that she was going to have a child. At first he planned to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-25). After all, how could Mary have been faithful to him if she was with child?
Imagine how he must have felt when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Like Mary, in a moment of faith he accepted what was fact: Mary was going to give birth to the Son of God. And God had chosen him to be His earthly father. Mary and Joseph’s relationship was centered on pleasing God and following His unique purpose for their lives.
We should teach our children that God placed His Son in a family.
4. We can trust God with the circumstances of our life. Was it a mere coincidence that Caesar Augustus had required a census of the entire Roman world at the exact time that Mary was to deliver her child? Was it just a twist of fate that caused Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, the “City of David”?
Perhaps, from man’s point of view. But not from God’s perspective.
Centuries before the Savior was born, the prophet Micah foretold where He would be born. “But you, O Bethlehem … from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old” (Micah 5:2).
We should teach our children to trust God in the circumstances of their lives. Sometimes the puzzle pieces of individual events won’t make sense … until He puts them together. And sometimes that won’t happen on this side of eternity.
5. Everyone does not want to worship Jesus. Matthew 2:1-2 tells us that sometime after the birth of Jesus, “Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'”
When Herod heard this he was troubled. Why? Because he knew the prophecy in Micah 5:2 and feared the one who would be “the ruler of Israel.” Herod thought the “king of the Jews” would capture his throne.
Herod ruled as a tyrant, killing anyone who threatened his power. But rather than show his disdain for the Messiah to the wise men, he asked if they would report where He was born. It was a seemingly innocent request that did not reveal his evil heart: Herod actually wanted to kill the Babe of Bethlehem.
We should teach our children that all people do not want to worship Jesus, even if they say they do. Some people today are like Herod—their actions will reveal their hearts.
6. Jesus can work in the darkest places of life. A prophecy of Zechariah about Jesus was recorded in Luke 1:78-79: “Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness … then showing us the way, one foot at a time …” (The Message).
In our 21st-century world, children cannot be totally protected from the onslaught of darkness. Through television, the internet, and radio, horrific events find themselves not thousands of miles away, but in our very living rooms.
What should we as parents do? The same thing parents needed to do centuries ago: point our children to Jesus. He is the light of the world, and He wants to guide them one step at a time.
We should teach our children that Jesus can work in even the most sinister situations of this world. That they can be certain that darkness can never overcome Him.
7. The Son of God had a humble beginning. At the time of Jesus’ birth, most people struggled to provide for their families. Farmers, fishermen, carpenters—they did not have lives of privilege. Though Jesus was called the King of the Jews, He was born into a humble family.
This points to the fact that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Mary gave birth to the Christ Child in a stable, because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7). The One who created everything in the universe laid His head in a feed trough; the riches of this world are nothing compared to knowing Him.
May we teach our children that God does not value people according to their possessions. Instead, He looks at their hearts.
8. Jesus is the Bread of Life. More than 2,000 years ago a baby named Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, “the house of bread.”
As we gather with loved ones to enjoy a Christmas meal, may we teach our children that Jesus is the Bread of Life. That they not only need bread for their physical nourishment, but also the Bread of Life for their spiritual health.
John 6:33 tells us, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
As you read through the nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke, you will probably think of additional truths to teach your children. Whether you teach them eight or 80 eternal truths, one thing is certain: Jesus is the treasure worth seeking. He is the very reason that we celebrate Christmas.
Copyright © 2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved
Looking for help or inspiration this Christmas? FamilyLife offers several resources to help your family focus on Christ during your Christmas celebration. The Ever Thine Home® Christmas collection includes ornaments and other decorations help you honor Christ and proclaim your faith. The 12 Names of Christmas™ ornaments are designed to help you teach your children about Jesus is and why He came to live among us. And in When Christmas Came, Barbara Rainey reveals the substance of Christmas in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.