Abigail Stabler shares some of the ways we can direct our families to focus on the joy of the coming of Christ during this Christmas season.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14
- Preparing for advent
It is no secret that the Christmas season can put a lot of pressure on our closest relationships. When that pressure is applied the weaknesses and “cracks in the foundation” of our relationships become apparent and some even begin to crumble. And yet, Christ promises peace to those who follow him, not strife and enmity! Jesus comes to us with healing in his wings and the peace that the angels proclaimed at his birth. When pressures mount we often need to DO less and LOVE more, through the power of his Spirit. As Christmas approaches and I plan many advent activities with the children, I try to keep this verse in front of me- “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of sacrifices with strife” (Prov 17:1). If Geoff and I are not loving each other well, then all the advent activities I do with my children are “worthless sacrifices.” If I harbor bitterness, anger, or even hatred in my heart toward my mom or my dad because of painful childhood experiences and want nothing to do with them, can I claim to love Jesus? (I John 3:10). So the first thing in preparing for advent is preparing our hearts. I thank God for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the same one that raised Christ from the dead, that enables us to love others the way that He loves us!
- Giving in advent
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As adults we know how true the words Jesus spoke are, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b). Geoff and I love to give gifts to our children (And so do their grandparents!!) As a parent, I want my children to experience the truth of these words themselves. It is very encouraging to see children grow in generosity and to see the delight they take in giving! Here are a few ways we encourage our kids to give:
MNM offering – pull down a world map and take time to talk about and pray for our missionaries. Let them contribute to the money we are giving if they are able.
Operation Christmas Shoebox – let them fill a box for a child of their age and gender.
Immanuel Tree – let them pick a child from the tree and shop for their gift.
Make cookies and cards for the neighbors.
Buy or make gifts for family members. Often my children want to give siblings their used toys. This is very significant because these are toys they have enjoyed, not their castoffs. I encourage this type of giving.
Giving to family is the most emotionally rewarding of these and very significant in their development but I also want to communicate to my children that we are called to give to the “poor and needy” and we should give even when there is no “reward,” emotional or otherwise. Our Father in heaven sees this type of giving and He will reward us one day (Matt 6:2-4). It is not uncommon for a child to ask why they can’t have a certain toy or even why we don’t have a nicer car, etc. during the Christmas season. We love the opportunity to share with them how we prioritize how we spend our money and how if we spent it all on our family we would be unable to give to others. They respond surprising well to this (thanks be to God!) and we pray it bears fruit later in their lives.
- Celebrate Jesus!
“Behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY that will be for all people!” Luke 2:10
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year here at the Stabler house because it is the most intentional time of year that we celebrate Jesus! Each day in December the children eagerly await their turn to reveal the advent activity for that day. The joy and anticipation of this simple act is infectious! Through the month we read the biblical account in the scriptures and do simple activities such as looking at stars, drinking hot cocoa and eating candy canes, looking at lights. But in everything we ask, “How can this remind us of Jesus?” “How do Christmas lights remind us of Jesus?” “How do presents remind us of Jesus?” And, “If Christmas is this much fun, how much better is it going to be when Jesus comes back again?!”
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:3-4
Looking for ideas to do with your children? The following is a list of some of the things we have done over the years.
I would love to hear about some of the ways you keep Christ central during Christmas in your home! Please leave a comment!
o Go to the LCS Christmas Musical.
o Make a nativity video.
o Before going to bed, look out at the night sky. Imagine how surprised and scared the shepherds felt when they saw the army of angels appear out of the darkness. Luke 2:8-14
o Read Luke 2:15-20. What did the shepherds do after visiting Jesus? How can you share the good news with others? Ask God to help you be brave in telling others about Jesus.
o Make Christmas cards for widows and/or widowers in the church.
o Go to the Christmas Parade.
o Go to the Lake Mirror Snow Fest.
o Read Isaiah 1:18. Discuss how snow can remind us of Jesus cleansing us from sin. Make paper snow flakes!
o Read Daniel 7:9-14. Who is the “Ancient of Days”? Discuss why his clothes are described as being “white as snow.” Who is the “son of man”? Reflect on the incredible number of OT prophecies about Christ.
o Read Matt 28:1-10. What is described as “white as snow” here? Why? Anticipate the resurrection.
o Make snow. (science kit)
o Drink hot chocolate and eat candy canes. How can candy canes remind us of Jesus?
o Go to the Florida Baptist Children’s Home to look at lights.
o Visit a barn. Imagine having to sleep there while you where traveling far away from home.
o Go caroling to older people’s homes.
o Decorate a gingerbread house. Thank God for the house He has given you.
o Bake the gingerbread for a house. Think about how wonderful heaven is. Thank Jesus for leaving that home for a while to become a man and live on earth.
o Read Isaiah 9:2-7. Which name of Jesus here means the most to you? What does your name mean?
o Paint a picture of your favorite Christmas scene.
o Go for a drive and look at Christmas lights. Think about how the lights make everything more beautiful. Think about how Christ does that as the light of the world and our lives should make the world a more beautiful place as well. John 8:12; Matt 5:14
o Before bed, look at the stars through the telescope. Think about how excited the Magi were when they saw the star heralding Christ’s advent to the world. Matt 2:1-12
o Go to the Christmas Eve service.
o Deliver cookies with an invite to the Christmas Eve service to the neighbors.
o Make a kingly crown. Did you know that as His children, one day we will reign with Christ? (Rev 5:10; 2 Tim 2:12)
o Act out the nativity.
o Paint story rocks with the nativity characters.
o Take down world map, use chess pawns to mark our missionaries. Pray for them.
o Read Christmas books and listen to carols.
o Go to Grandma’s house for dinner.
o Plant bulbs in a glass jar with river rocks, cover with water and wait for them to grow!
o Make salt dough ornaments
o Celebrate the birth of Jesus!!