In our blind, hurried rush through the Christmas holidays each year, many of us are much like small children who tear through a pile of wrapped gifts on Christmas morning. Once the frenzy is over, they sit on the floor surrounded by paper and boxes and toys … and cry because it’s all over. Is that all we get?
Christmas is a time of joy and frustration. A frenzy of preparations and merry-making, followed by weariness and even emptiness: Is that all we get?
Is this your year to make a change? To create a meaningful Christmas for you and your family, you may need to eliminate a couple of time-stealing activities and replace them with something more meaningful.
Here are some ideas:
1. Talk about the names of Christ. There’s nothing more meaningful at Christmas than learning more about Jesus Christ, the Savior whose birth we celebrate. For He is so much more than a baby in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
In fact, Jesus is known by many other names in Scripture … and in the Christmas hymns we sing. He is the “King of kings,” the “Redeemer.”
In “Let’s Talk About Christ This Christmas,” a new devotional from FamilyLife, you can learn about four names of Christ, each of which helps us learn more about Him and why He came to earth. The four-part series includes discussion questions for couples and ideas for parents to talk with your children. And add to your family discussion with the new set of ornaments from Ever Thine Home®, featuring the same four names of Christ.
2. Conversation starters. Download this PDF with a list of questions to talk to your family and friends about Christ and Christmas. You may work these into normal conversation, but often they work best as part of a Christmas party or formal celebration with your family. You might pose a couple of questions to the group, asking everyone to answer one or both of them. For young children, be sure check out the “Questions for Kids” section. The PDF also includes a “Jar of Conversation” section: Cut out the questions and put them into a jar (or two, if you have young children). Pass around the jar and have everyone answer the question they pick.
3. A stocking for Jesus. “We had the kids decorate a special stocking with the name of Jesus on it. We hung it up with the other stockings, but the gifts we placed inside were different—we put in objects, drawings, or notes that signified something we wanted to give to God in the coming year. We would think of a spiritual resolution we wanted to make—an area of growth, a commitment to using our spiritual gifts, tangible ways of loving people, etc.—and then think of a way to symbolize that resolution.
“Once we drew a watch, and wrote underneath the picture that we wanted our time to be under the Lordship of God, and we wanted to make Him a priority in our lives. Once we put a map of the world in the stocking, and we prayed as a family that we would be willing to go wherever God wanted us to serve Him.” (Idea from Lee and Karen Smith)
4. Share stories about how God has worked in your life. Have you ever told your children the story of your salvation? How about your spouse? While the family is together during the holidays, use the time to share your personal stories about faith, redemption, and life change. Also, reflect on the previous year and talk about how you have grown in your faith individually and as a family. (From Sabrina McDonald)
5. Advent wreath. “One of our favorite Christmas activities is utilizing the Advent wreath and an Advent devotional. When the children were old enough to light the candles, they took turns doing that. As they got older, they read the devotions. Eventually the kids became completely responsible for the Advent readings on some nights. There are a variety of Advent devotional books available these days. We had an Advent wreath in my family when I was growing up. I hope my sons will pass this tradition on in their families.” (From Elaine Crowell)
6. Three gifts. “Before we had children, I noticed how so many parents tried to top their gift-giving from the previous year for their children. Once my husband and I had children we decided that they would get the same number of gifts that Jesus received—three. On Christmas Eve we read about the birth of Jesus and talked about the three gifts He was given. The following morning the three gifts for each child were under the tree and we again talked about the real meaning of Christmas.
“When the children were younger they really enjoyed knowing they got three gifts just like Jesus, and it became a great ongoing tradition. Doing this helped us avoid the trap of making each Christmas ‘bigger and better’ than the one before. It helped us point our children back to Jesus’ birthday and the Bible on Christmas morning.” (From Tracey Eyster)
7. Create a tree about Christ. The Christmas tree is the focal point in most homes during the holiday season. “What has made me sad for years,” Barbara Rainey says, “is that our trees don’t tell the story of Christ. And I just started thinking about what it would be like if Christians all over the country and all over the world, in fact, would have the names of Christ on their trees and symbols of what Christmas is all about. It would be a statement of our faith. It’s a way of bringing the truth of Christ into our Christmas celebrations.” These Ever Thine Home ornaments will fill your tree with the names of Christ. All sets include instructions for talking with your family about the significance of each name.
If you have young children, you might want to use The 12 Names of Christmas, a resource from FamilyLife with colorful ornaments that help children learn about the names of Christ.
8. Consider the feelings of Mary and Joseph. For older children, read Matthew 1:18-25 and then discuss:
- How do you think Mary, a virgin, felt when she discovered that she was pregnant?
- How do you think Joseph felt when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy?
- Why did both Joseph and Mary have the courage to believe God and undoubtedly suffer ridicule from man?
- Who did they (and you) turn to when life is not what they anticipated?
- Why can we always trust God even when His ways are different from ours?
(From Mary Larmoyeux)
9. Other Christmas stories from Scripture. Often we focus on Luke 2:1-20 during our Christmas celebrations. How about reading from some of the other Christmas narratives? For example:
- The prophecies of Jesus’ birth in Isaiah 1:1; 6:1,8; 7:14; 9:6-7; and 11:1-5. Talk to your children about how these prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.
- Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, her cousin (Luke 1:39-45). Both were carrying babies whose conceptions were a surprise. Note Mary’s strong faith in her response after Elizabeth recognizes that Mary is carrying the Son of God.
10. Announce the birth of a king. After reading the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2:1-20, family members can share how they would announce the birth of a king. Where would they arrange for the infant king to stay? (You could make paper horns for the children to use for their announcements.) Also, if it’s a clear night, go outside to look at the stars and ask your family how they think the shepherds felt when an angel and a bright light suddenly appeared.
Then talk about the way Baby Jesus entered the world more than 2,000 years ago. Be sure that the children understand that He was placed in a manger, which held food for livestock. Ask them why they think Jesus was born in a manger, and why was there no room for Him in the inn. Then read Revelation 11:15, “ …There were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’” Talk about how Jesus will come again to reign and to rule as our King. (From Mary Larmoyeux)
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