Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
-Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
If you ask my kids what Christmas is, they’ll tell you, “It’s Jesus’ birthday.” If you ask them why they like Christmas so much, they’ll tell you, “Because of PRESENTS!” When pressed, they’ll agree that the festive decorations, the fun activities, the food, and giving to others is fun too. But it’s all about the presents right now. And you know what? I understand that. Presents are fun.
It is just important to my husband and I that we take that excitement in our children for presents and turn that passion toward the Lord. The presents they get are a symbol, a picture of the amazing gift we were given on that very first Christmas. If we had that same excitement our children have when they wake up on Christmas morning and see the gifts under the tree every time we thought of the gift of salvation, how that would change our lives.
So here are a few things that we don’t do in order to keep Christ as the focus of our Christmas celebrations.
1. We don’t neglect our time with the Lord. I carve out time, usually early in the morning, every day (as best as I can), to spend time with my Lord. During December, we pause our regular Bible lessons and go through the story of the very first Christmas, from Luke and Matthew. I use flannelgraph or paintings as visual aids, we sing Christmas Carols that (attempt to) tie to the theme of the lesson each day.
Today, X-man noticed with a look of dawning understanding that in our Bible story, “Mary is almost going to have Jesus. And it’s almost Christmas when it’s Jesus’ birthday!” I know it is awfully obvious, but for my 7 year old son to notice the correlation himself fills me with delight.
We also go through a Advent storybook together as a family every evening. Last year, we read through and very much enjoyed The Jesse Tree. It was wonderful to have a review of the whole Old Testament and how it all points to the coming Savior. This year, we have begun the story Jotham’s Journey. It was highly recommended by our pastor and so far it is really enjoyable. It is exciting and scary and the kids all groan when the chapter is over. Then we sing Christmas Carols and rejoice and worship our Savior around the lit up Christmas tree. It is a beautiful family time of worship together.
2. We don’t try to modify behavior by threatening lumps of coal instead of presents. In fact, we don’t tie gifts to behavior at all. Sometimes the idea of presents only coming to good children does come up in the stories we read or the movies they watch. Then we explain that Christmas is a time to celebrate the gift God gave us in His Son- the gift none of us deserve at all. Although we all are sinful and deserve to be on the naughty list, if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, our names were crossed off of that list with His blood and He has signed our names on the good list, the Book of Life. Christmas is all about grace. Just like we don’t deserve the gift of God’s Son, none of us deserve presents under the tree. We get them anyway, because of love.
3. We don’t forbid Santa and we don’t lie to our kids either. We read stories about Saint Nicholas (and watch the Veggie Tale) and explain that legend has it that St. Nicholas was very generous with his family’s wealth, giving away what he had to those less fortunate because he loved Jesus. Now people love to make up pretend and magical stories about him that are fun to read and watch. We enjoy reading and watching stories about Santa ourselves. He is a good role model- a generous, loving, joyful guy who loves to share and give. We should all be like that- giving to others because we love Christ.
4. We don’t just think about what we are going to get. I definitely let my kids give me ideas for their Christmas lists. I break up the list into the four categories- Want, Need, Wear, Read- so that they are thinking about more than just toys. I am also very careful to remind them that this is just to give their parents and grandparents ideas and they will not get everything on the list.
Then we try to talk more about what we are giving to others at Christmas time. We pack boxes for Operation Christmas child. This year, each of our older three kids (7, 6, 4) got to fill a box for a child his or her age. We also went to the grocery store to purchase items for a “Stocking the Staples” (cute play on words there) drive for a local mission that helps out the homeless. I also encourage them to think of what they might want to get for their siblings. We want to teach them while they are young the joy of giving to others.
5. We don’t complain or accept entitled attitudes. We are currently working on the habit of gratitude and thankfulness. Whenever I hear a complaint, I (try to) stop the child in his tracks, quote I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Then the child has to tell me something he is thankful for. Then we will get into the practice of focusing on our blessings, instead of our wants and filling our minds and words with thanksgiving instead of grumbling. The more gratitude, the more joy and praise will fill our home. The more joy and praise we have in our hearts and home, the more it will feel like Christmas.
What we do is try to make the most of every opportunity we have to point our whole family’s eyes to Christ. As we turn our eyes to Jesus, the things of the world, the stuff, the frantic stress of the season, the many worries and concerns, fade in the light of his awesome glory and his amazing grace.
*Need some Christmas Bible lesson ideas? I’ve attached my Christmas Bible Lessons– my Christmas gift to you.