FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Honoring Christ at Christmas

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | November 26, 2019
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How do you prepare for the holidays? Dennis and Barbara Rainey are passionate about celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. Together they share fun ways they've done that, and tell how you can too. Hear their suggestions for having family devotionals around the names of Christ throughout Advent, and how you can decorate your tree and packages with the names of Christ.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

How do you prepare for the holidays? Dennis and Barbara Rainey are passionate about celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. Together they share fun ways they’ve done that, and tell how you can too.

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Honoring Christ at Christmas

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
November 26, 2019
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Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 26th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. Jesus is the name above all names, and it’s His name we ought to have at the forefront of our Christmas season. We’re going to talk more about that today with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m just curious: “Have you, Ann/have you been comfortable with the temperature here in the studio over the last several—

Ann: I feel like this is a loaded question. [Laughter]

Bob: Just wondering.

Ann: I have been, yes.

Bob: It’s been comfortable? You haven’t been too hot or too cold?

Ann: No.

Dennis: This is a voice from the past. [Laughter]

Dave: What is going on?

Dennis: This is Dennis Rainey—[Laughter] [Indistinct chatter]—with his wife.

Bob: Barbara Rainey is here as well. Barbara how does it feel today?

Dennis: And you have a root of bitterness. [Laughter]

Bob: Are you comfortable, Barbara?

Barbara: I am comfortable.

Bob: Yes? Dennis how do you feel today?

Dennis: Perfect. [Laughter]

Bob: See, here’s what you need to know. [Laughter]

Dave: I’m wondering what we need to know.

Bob: Here’s what you need to know: For years—because it was 26 ½ years—

Dennis: Right.

Bob: —that Dennis and I were first in a closet, over in another building, where we recorded the first ten years of FamilyLife Today; and then finally, in a recording studio, here, at our headquarters. It was for those years we would walk in and Dennis would say, “Man, it’s hot in here.” I would go, “No, it’s comfortable.” I would look at Barbara: “Barbara, how are you feeling?” She said, “It feels comfortable to me.”

Barbara: He always had on a suit coat—

Bob: A suit coat.

Barbara: —or a blazer or jacket of some kind.

Ann: Barbara, you’re so nice. Look at you sticking up for Dennis. [Laughter]

Bob: He would have on an undershirt, a shirt, and a suit coat; and he would say, “Man, it’s hot in here.” I would go, “Well, maybe it’s because you’ve got three layers on in the air conditioning.” [Laughter] We fought like an old married couple about what the temperature should be, but the guests always affirmed that I was right and Dennis was wrong. [Laughter]

Dennis: I told you to stop coming to work in shorts. [Laughter]

Bob: You can see I did. I’m wearing jeans today instead of shorts. [Laughter]

Dave: I’m feeling a little hot right now—[Laughter]—getting warm.

Bob: We want to, again, welcome back Dennis and Barbara Rainey to FamilyLife Today. Nice to have you guys back.

Barbara: Well, thanks. We’re glad to be here; it’s fun.

Bob: I have to think there’s some listeners, who are tuned in and go, “Did I get in a time warp in a machine?”—you know, and—“I’m back…” But I know our listeners—it’s been fun to hear from listeners, who have said, “We’ve missed Dennis and Barbara”; and at the same time, they’ve said—

Dave: Both of them—both of them wrote. [Laughter]

Ann: We missed you, too.

Bob: Well, at the same time, they’ve said, “We’re really enjoying getting to know Dave and Ann.”

Dave: Yes.

Bob: So it’s been fun to see how the handoff happens and how we continue to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. That’s what FamilyLife Today has always been about—less about who’s talking and more about what’s the content we’re talking about.

Dennis: Yes; and two things, Bob, to that. First of all, thanks to the thousands of listeners who wrote us cards; we’re still reading them. I’m still reading the cards; and some of them—re-reading them—very meaningful/very, very encouraging, especially when, back last summer, I went through knee replacement surgery. You need something to get you out of the pain. Those cards—those cards did that.

The second thing I want to say is just how proud we are of Dave and Ann and the job they’ve done of carrying on, here at FamilyLife Today, and also David Robbins and being President. FamilyLife is going to be around, by the grace of God, to make an impact for a lot of years. You two, as well as Dave and Meg, are part of the human reasons that’s happening—not to mention the co-host here, Bob Lepine, helping steer the ship as well.

Bob: You’ve had a chance to listen to a few FamilyLife Today programs?

Dennis: I have.

Bob: Any highlights from the last eight or nine months?—any programs that stood out for you? [Laughter]

Dave: Oh boy.

Dennis: Yes, I’ve really liked what you did with Steve Robinson and the story of Chick-fil-A®. I guess it’s because Steve is a very good friend of mine—I love that one. Gary Chapman—his story of befriending a 16-year-old African American young man, who attended his church, who has gone on to make a great impact for the kingdom—that was really sweet to hear their story.

Yes; just to hear—again, Dave and Ann doing a great job interviewing.

Dave: I would just say—we are so grateful and humbled to be here. Thank you.

Ann: Plus, you guys really are irreplaceable.

Dave: We’re standing on the shoulders of giants. I mean, I hope we do well. This is a fearful moment; every time we walk in here, we’re on our knees, asking God to continue to do what He did through you.

Dennis: That’s a good place to be; we were there, too.

Barbara: —on your knees; yes.


Dave: Yes.

Bob: I’m just curious if there are any programs you listened to, where you thought, “What are they talking about?!” “Who said that?!” “I’ve got to talk/I’ve got to call Dave and tell him.”

Dennis: No.

Bob: You didn’t have any of those moments?

Dennis: Not any of those.

Bob: Okay; well, if they come, send them to me; okay?  I’ll get somebody on it. [Laughter]

Dennis: Dave and Ann, thanks for inviting us back and for the opportunity to be on the program a couple of times this fall and here, again, today.

Bob: And with Thanksgiving coming up this week, I know you guys are busy; because Thanksgiving is a busy holiday at the Rainey house. But I also know you’re looking ahead to the fact that, as soon as you say—well, I guess as soon as the dishes are done on Thursday—you start turning your attention to the fact that Christmas is, this year, less than four weeks from the end of Thanksgiving. This is one of those short Christmas seasons; and Barbara, you’ve got a passion to see us make the most of every moment of the holiday season.

Barbara: I do; and I know a lot of women start actually doing all of their Christmas decorating over the Thanksgiving holiday, so there may be many people who already have their trees up before Thanksgiving. I know that’s what a lot of women do.

Ann: Will you have your tree up before?

Barbara: No, no; I never put it up before.

Ann: That’s tradition.

Barbara: Yes, it’s just part of the old rule that we had around here; right? We didn’t celebrate Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

Bob: But Dennis will tell you that, as soon as Thanksgiving’s over, he becomes a pack mule. [Laughter] Isn’t that true?

Dennis: —18-wheeler.

Bob: Yes; and you’ve got to unload—is the closet still full of—


Dennis: —boxes; yes, the boxes.


Barbara: Do you have to do that, too, Dave?

Dave: Oh my goodness, every year.

Ann: Every year.

Dave: How can we have so many? We have to go up to the attic.

Barbara: Yes.

Dave: One of these years—

Dennis: Oh, yes; I have to go outside to get to the attic. [Laughter]

Dave: Really?

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: This particular cottage houses—we built this cottage.

Barbara: Oh come on—you’re exaggerating.

Ann: Oh a cottage for the decorations?

Dennis: Yes!

Barbara: Actually,—

Dennis: Not really.

Barbara: —it’s a little building; because we converted our garage to a playroom for the kids, years go, with a ping-pong table and all that so we built this little thing in the backyard for the lawn mower, and the bikes, and the weed eater, and the leaf blower, and all that stuff.

Bob: They’re now all out in the yard, because it’s been taken over with Christmas decorations. [Laughter]

Dennis: Actually, it was all those boxes that convinced Barbara: “Somebody’s got to do something to bring the real meaning of Christmas back to families and let them seize the day with their families to transmit their faith to their kids.”

Dave: Yes.

Bob: This has been a passion of yours for a long time.

Barbara: A long time; yes.

Bob: A passion that you put some elbow grease toward about a decade ago, where you said, “ I’m going to create what I wished I could find every time I went to the hobby store,” and that’s Christmas decorations that talk about Jesus.

Barbara: That’s right. I wanted that when we were raising our kids. I wanted something besides the manger scene, which was lovely. I have two or three of them, and we put them up; but you just look at it. Until Christmas Day, when we read the story, there was no way to interact with it. I thought there had to be more.

I began creating Christmas ornaments that are the names of Jesus for the Christmas tree. My vision was that, as the children would hang the ornaments on the tree, mom and dad would teach them to read it—if they were toddlers or preschoolers—teach them to read some of those words; and if they’re older, just begin to talk about these names of Jesus.

When you think about it, how many names do we have as people?—three?

Bob: Yes.

Barbara: —maybe four.

Bob: We have titles and some of these—


Barbara: If you’re a king or a queen, you might have five or six—if you’re the Queen of England. But Jesus has, some scholars say, upwards of 300 names. Our names tell us something about who we are. When you meet someone for the first time, you ask what their name is.

In fact, when Moses met God for the first time, he said, “What is Your name?” God answered and told him who He was. He said, “I am that I am.” As we celebrate the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to begin to teach your children who Jesus is. He came in a manger; he was born as a baby, but who is He? What are His names? The names are the easiest way to begin to make inroads into your child’s heart and into their soul about this person who came to change their lives.

Dennis: I love what Barbara did, because she has created over 30 different ornaments that bear the name of Christ. There’s a set that are “His Family Names”; there’s another one: “His Eternal Names.” Still yet another one: that has the name of Jesus in a—

Barbara: —five different languages.

Dennis: —five different languages around the world, called “His Name Among the Nations.” Then, what we’re talking about here today: “His Advent Names,” which are the names of Christ around His first coming to planet earth.

Bob: There are some people you’ve talked to who have made their tree, exclusively, names of Jesus. Not everybody does that; some people still—

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: —have reindeers, and Snoopy, or whoever else they want to have on there.

Barbara: Sure.

Dennis: Did you say “…deers”?

Bob: Reindeer.

Dennis: You said. “…deers.” [Laughter] I’m sorry; I went into autocorrect.

Bob: Yes; you did. [Laughter]

Dave: Is there something wrong with “reindeers”? I don’t know; what’s the problem here? That’s what we call them in Michigan! [Laughter]

Bob: That’s right. There are, also, people who have had two different trees: they'll have a family tree; but they’ll have a decorative tree—

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: —that’s designed to remind us: “This is really what the season is all about.” How have you done it at your house?

Barbara: Well, let me just say this first. My daughter-in-law’s the first one that I saw do that. They have their big tree in their den, and the girls all—they have four daughters—the girls decorated it with all this stuff.

But she found this cute little tree, and she put it in the living room; and she put just the names of Jesus on it. She said, “I used to love to go in there every morning during the month of December.” She said, “I would sit there and have my quiet time, or read my Bible, or just sit and look at it.” I think a lot of people have started doing that. She called it a “Jesus Tree.” Now, I’ve started calling ours a “Jesus Tree,” too; because that’s all I put on our tree anymore are the names of Christ.

Ann: I have all these ornaments on our tree.

Barbara: Do you?

Ann: And I have several trees at home too. One—

Dave: Yes, we have a tree in every room of the house. [Laughter] She’s not telling you—in the bathroom, we have a tree. [Laughter]

Ann: No, that’s not true.

Dave: Okay; maybe, not the bathroom.

Ann: It is true; it’s just a great reminder—but not only that they’re beautiful—people remark on them when they come in because they’re different. They’re beautiful; they’re extraordinary. They’ll ask, “Oh, where did you get those?” Because you don't find those in any—

Barbara: That’s right.

Ann: —store around.

Barbara: Yes, and that’s why I ended up having them made; because I kept thinking: “Somebody’s going to make these ornaments. Somebody’s going to make ornaments about Jesus,” and nobody ever did. So I did.

Bob: If folks are interested in seeing the whole variety of names—all of them—they can go to our website,; and they’re different. Each season, you took a different approach to the ornaments; so it’s not like your tree—if you’re going to use these on a tree—are going to have just one style of ornament.

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: Some are globes, and some are two dimensional.

Barbara: That’s right.

Bob: So it’s a different approach; but again, folks can go to and see all that’s available from Ever Thine Home® and order them for their own home this year.

Barbara: They make really great gifts, too. I just remember when all of our kids were in school, and it was getting closer to Christmas—I remember, every year, I would go: “I want to give something to the kids’ teachers. What do I give the kids’ teachers?!” I never felt like I did a good job; but these ornaments make a really nice gift that you can give to someone like a teacher, or a Sunday school teacher, or someone. You can let them know that: “This is about Jesus,” and “This is who we celebrate at Christmas in our family.”

Bob: Think about that—you know, most of the year, you would feel maybe a little awkward giving a gift to someone, and you don't know where they are on their faith journey.

Dave: Right.

Bob: You give them something that’s overtly Christian and you feel like: “Is that going to feel heavy-handed?” or “Aare they just going to say, ‘Thanks,’ and not really care about it?”

Christmas ornaments about Jesus—that people would go, “I can see a connection there,”—even folks, who aren’t regular church goers, are going to look at this and be open to it at Christmas. This season of the year—we lose sight, Dave, of the fact that this season of the year is a season when we can have conversations about Jesus with people who don’t talk about Jesus any other time of the year.

Dave: We tell our people at our church: “If you invite your neighbor to a Christmas service, eight out of ten will say, ‘Yes.’ They will not say, ‘Yes,’ in the middle of July; they will at Christmas.” We’ve done research to find that they are going to be open to a Christmas invitation.

Same thing’s true to talk about Jesus, so this is a tool that gives you a way to do that. It’s a beautiful way to open up something—that’s maybe there waiting to be talked about and you never talk about it—but now, I have a way to do that.

Bob: Did you do anything intentionally discipleship-oriented with your kids during the Christmas season as you were raising the boys?

Ann: Yes, we would—we had an Advent calendar, and we would talk about it. We would read the Bible regularly. We had a birthday cake when they were little; I think a lot of people have done that. What about you guys?—did you have some great traditions?

Bob: I stop and think. We did have traditions—most of them were around what meals we were going to have, what food items were going to be served at what meal, or around how the stockings get opened. I mean, we had those little family customs that are a part of things.

To have something that’s focused on: “What’s this holiday all about?” and to use it intentionally—it feels awkward to us, as parents, I think, sometimes to do that with our kids. We don’t have confidence. That’s why to have a tool like this makes it easier for a parent that goes, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” but somebody says, “Here just do this,” and you go, “Okay, I can do that”; right?—yes.

Barbara: Because everybody’s decorating for Christmas anyway.

Bob: Right.

Barbara: Everybody has ornaments for their tree, so it’s just not hard to communicate around something that’s common across our culture.

Bob: We’ve had, here on the table this week, four of the ornaments that you created. These are the “Advent Names of Jesus.” They’ve been hidden away in brown paper bags with numbers on them; and little boy Dave has been staring at them the whole time, [Laughter] going, “When do I get to open another one?”

Dave: So the numbers represent what?—each week?

Barbara: —the Sundays of Advent; yes.

Dave: Yes, so I’m opening up number two.

Barbara: So the second Sunday of Advent.

Dave: Let’s pretend you just did this. Walk us through what you would do at this globe.

Barbara: Okay; I would say—well, no; you’re holding it—so I would say: “What does it say? Can you read us the name?”

Dave: Am I supposed to be your child?

Barbara: Yes, I think so. [Laughter]

Dave: There you go; “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us—John 1:14.”

Bob: That’s the verse; the name’s on the other side.

Ann: Turn it.

Barbara: The name on the other side says—

Dave: Then you flip it over and it says, “Jesus is the Word.”

Barbara: —is the Word. I would ask, “Do you know”—depending on the age of the child—I would ask: “What does it mean that Jesus is the Word? Do you know?”

Bob: And a five-year-old says, “I don’t know.”

Barbara: A five-year-old says, “I don’t know.”

Dave: A twenty-five year old might say the same thing. [Laughter] Seriously; really—

Barbara: Well, yes.

Dave: —you know?

Barbara: Well, yes; that’s not a normal name—

Dave: Right.

Barbara: —that people have, so we don’t really know what that means. The set of ornaments comes with a small book. I’ve written a story for each one of the names that you can read out loud with your kids that will help them understand.

But that particular name comes from the first chapter of John, where it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and the Word means Jesus—so just helping your children begin to understand that and what it means for Jesus to be the Word.

Bob: And you know, you stop and think about it, words are simply an assembling together of letters that are pointing to something bigger than what they are. We read a word, and something pops into our mind; we understand. If I say, “chair,” you have a picture now in your mind.

Jesus as the Word—theologians will look at this and they will say, “The Word is kind of God’s big idea about what life, and meaning, and purpose,”—it's what God had in mind from the beginning. Jesus is God's big idea; when we talk about Him as the Word, it’s what is in the mind of God from the beginning. So His incarnation, His death, and resurrection—when we say, “He is the Word”—this is the plan of God, from the beginning: that He would come, that He would live a perfect life, that He would die a substitutionary death, and then be raised again to new life so that those who have been separated from him/those who have been far off could be brought near.

Dennis: Isn’t He referred to as “the Word of life”?

Bob: Absolutely; yes.

Dennis: His words bring life. He shows us the way: the way to God, the way to live life, the way to withstand challenges.

This has been a tough year for our country. There's a lot of strife; there’s been a lot of evil that has occurred in our country—a lot of division, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding. We need words—we need the Word to bring healing and life to our country.

Dave: It’s interesting, as you go look at John 1:14, I mean, you talk about a little Bible study you could have with your kids or with your adult kids.

Barbara: Yes.

Dave: “And the Word became flesh,”—there's the Christmas story in the very beginning of that verse—“And the word became incarnate—

Bob: “The big idea became a human being.”

Dave: Right—“and dwelt among us,”—literally, pitched His tent in our neighborhood; came to live here. “And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Boy, oh boy, you could talk for an hour. You could have a very interesting discussion with your children about: “What’s grace and truth?” “What does the Word really look like beyond just Christmas morning?—just a baby in a manger?”

Ann: I love verse 4 of John 1 because it says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.” That is a great discussion.

Dave and I had three great conversation times; one was on the way to school.

Dave: You’re talking about with our kids.

Barbara: —with your kids; yes.

Ann: —with our kids. One was at dinner, and one was at bedtime.

Barbara: Yes.

Ann: I could see putting a bag on the kitchen table when we eat, or a bag on their beds at night, to talk about that; because kids don’t want to go to bed when they’re little. [Laughter]

Barbara: No; well, they’re happy to talk if it’ll mean staying awake longer; right?

Ann: Exactly; they want to talk about anything and everything.

Barbara: —anything.

Ann: So they can drag this conversation on for a long time; then to pray about that. What a simple but great application of pouring into this next generation.

Barbara: Yes.

Dennis: I want to read something; but it’s too long, and we’re going to take Swindoll’s time, or Alistair Begg, or someone; so if you want to hear this, listen to the podcast.

Bob: Well, what is it we want to hear? What is it you’re going to read?

Dennis: It’s about the greatest reveal of all time.

Bob: Okay; so—

Dennis: You know how they have reveal parties, here, these days?

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: This was and is the greatest reveal to date.

Ann: He teased us!

Dave: —to date?

Bob: So folks who want to hear it are going to have to go online; and there will be a separate podcast, where you can hear Dennis talking about the great reveal.

Guys, thanks again for being with us today; and hope to have you back soon.

Dennis: Hope we can get there. [Laughter]

Bob: Yes?

Dave: I hope you can, too, Dude!

Dennis: Yes, the context is everything; isn’t it?

Barbara: Yes, it is.

Bob: I want to point our listeners to our website,, where we’ve got a link, Barbara, to your website,, where you’ve been at work developing resources, for years now, to help moms and dads/help families be focused on Christ during the Christmas season. You’ve got “Jesus’ Advent Names”: Jesus is the Son of God; He’s the Messenger; He's the Word; He’s the Light, with corresponding Bible verses on the backside of those ornaments; a beautiful gift box.

These, by the way, make a lovely gift that you can give to neighbors or friends. I’m always amazed how, during the Christmas season, we can be much more open about our faith and about the meaning of our faith, and we can do that without offending people; because that’s what Christmas is all about, so give a set of ornaments to people in your neighborhood, or at work, or your child’s teacher.

Go to to find out more about the ornaments Barbara Rainey has created—“His Advent Names”—and then go to her website for other resources that she has created for the Christmas season. Our website, again, is If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Our team has also put together a set of 12 ornaments for preschool and elementary-age kids; these are kid-friendly ornaments. Each one of them focusing on a different name of Jesus—like: Jesus is the Bread Of Life; He’s the Good Shepherd; He’s the Lion of Judah; the Bright and Morning Star. There’s a booklet that goes along with the ornaments so that you can have a devotional as you hang one of these ornaments on the tree. Maybe do it each day for 12 days leading up to the Christmas season.

This resource is our thank-you gift when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Our mission, here at FamilyLife, is to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marriages and families can change the world one home at a time. When you support us, you make that mission possible. You help us reach more people more often with practical biblical help and hope for their marriage and for their family.

When you make a donation today, ask for your set of “The Twelve Names of Christmas” and use these with your children or your grandchildren during the holiday season to help them understand whose birthday it is we’re celebrating—the One, who is the Living Water, who is the Good Shepherd, and the King of kings. Ask for your set of “The Twelve Names of Christmas” when you donate today, online, at or when you call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life and then the word, “TODAY.” 

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to be in college and to get the news that Mom and Dad are divorcing. We’re going to hear from Lauren Reitsema tomorrow, along with Ron Deal, as they explore what that feels like in the life of a young person. I hope you can tune in for that.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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