On Thanksgiving Eve my family and I performed the sacred holiday tradition of many families, both Christian and non-believing: We put on Home Alone and decorated our Christmas tree. It’s become one of my favorite Christmas traditions and it helps my family make the transition from one holiday to the next. Every year, the whole family gets the Christmas decorations out of the attic, and we begin the process of fluffing the tree, decorating the mantle, and putting the ornaments up.
But as I sit in a coffee house one week later, I begin to wonder if we are really preparing ourselves this advent season to celebrate the incarnation of the second person of the trinity. Oh, sure, as I watch my family’s Christmas account deplete and see the appearance of the ubiquitous Amazon boxes left in the carport I realize that the holiday is nigh, but are we really thinking about Christ this Christmas?
In this post I want to give you 6 ways that you can help your family (and yourself) “turn your eyes upon Jesus” and prepare to celebrate the infant in the manger.
Use an Advent Calendar
Advent starts is a special time of preparation for the Christmas season. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Justin Holcomb notes that “advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom.”1 Here are some great advent calendars for you to try with your family:
The Littlest Watchman Advent Calendar byAlison Mitchell
Journey to the Manger Advent Calendar by Focus on the Family
Come Let Us Adore Him: An Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp (not a calendar but I love PDT!)
Read Christmas Stories
As a with most Christian families, our bookshelves are filled with books that we have collected through 3 boys. Here are some of our favorites:
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
The Tale of the Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt
God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Big Picture Storybook Bible by Heath McPherson
If you have older kids like I do (my two oldest are 16 and 14) then you can get them to read the stories to a younger sibling, or call a niece or nephew on the phone and read to them. There are lots of great stories, and lots of ways to share the story with others.
Tell the Candy Cane Story
The candy cane is a staple of the Christmas experience. One way to use this common symbol is to tell the Candy Cane Story.
The story tells of a Candy maker who made a candy that would help us remember who Christmas is really about. So he made a Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.
He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus. Hard candy to symbolize the solid rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God.
The candymaker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the name of Jesus. It also represented the staff of the “Good Shepherd”.
The candymaker then included red stripes. He used three small stripes and a large red stripe to represent the suffering Christ endured at the end of his life.
Teach Them to Give Sacrificially
My kids aren’t the greatest when it comes to being sacrificial, but one way you can encourage you kids to see the sacrifice that Christ made is to encourage them to do one act of sacrifice during the Christmas season as a family. You may go feed at a soup kitchen during their holiday break, or give to one of the great Christmas charities. This year, we are going to have our boys pick out a gift for a family in need through Food For the Hungry.
Watch Christmas Movies
I know this may sound cliche’, but one way to get your kids ready for Christmas is to watch quality Christmas movies. Here’s a few I would suggest (not Die Hard!):
The Nativity Story 2006
The Star 2017
The Christmas Shoes 2002
Put up an extra Stocking
I shamelessly stole this idea from Abeka and have not done it yet (though I’m hanging an extra stocking tonight!) Encourage you kids to write a letter to Jesus, thanking him for what He’s given them during the year. they can also write about the gifts they want to give him the coming year (kindness, obedience, not rolling their eyes when their parents ask them to take out the trash).
Then hang an extra stocking and have each child put his letter in it on Christmas Eve. Even in the excitement of receiving gifts the next morning, this is a reminder to be thankful for Christ’s priceless gift.
- What is Advent, Justin Holcomb, https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html