In our commercialized society, children are bombarded with messages that may not always be consistent with our faith. Many parents feel like they are always trying to filter and explain the world to their kids. Fortunately, Christmas is one time of the year when we are presented with many great opportunities to easily teach the lessons Jesus taught (and not just to children). It’s a time when faith, hope, joy, generosity and love triumph over darkness. Here are a few ways to teach kids the meaning of Christmas.
Go to church. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Let’s be honest, there are plenty of times when getting the kids ready, loading them up, and trying to keep them focused while at church is nothing short of exhausting. How many times have you skipped out because of this battle? Depending where you live, Christmas service is either #1 or #2 in church attendance with Easter service as the other. Unfortunately, many of the faces we see at Christmas service are new and unfamiliar. A multitude of reasons exist why the attendance during this holiday is so large (i.e. family visiting, invites from church members, more convenient service times, etc.). However, those reasons fit only a small amount of attendees. The sad truth is between 50-85% of your community don’t have a church home or regularly attend church. Taking our kids to church sets a precedent in their lives as well as yours.
1. They will follow your example. Believe it or not, your kids see and take mental notes of your priorities in life and begin to make those priorities theirs.
2. Taking your kids to church throughout the year helps them absorb and retain the knowledge of the reason for the season – Jesus Christ.
3. Your kids won’t feel like they’re being dragged to church one of the few times a year.
4. Your kids will absorb the culture and content your church has to offer.
5. You and your children will have plenty of talking points for dinnertime or car rides throughout the week.
Why go it alone when you have a community who wants to help your family stay strong? As a family, we always attend on Christmas as well. It’s a good reminder to our boys that this season isn’t about them or gifts.
Set up a nativity scene. If you don’t already have one, try to get either an outdoor or indoor nativity scene to display. I’ve even seen home-made displays made from construction cutouts. This visual serves as a great reminder to kids and adults of that awe-filled night so long ago. It tells both a simple and complex story. Toddlers have a way of simplifying the story to adults and teens have a way of dissecting the importance of the details throughout the display. (While you’re at it, grab the movie The Nativity Story to show your kids when you feel they’re old enough to understand it.)
Employ an Advent wreath or Advent calendar for nightly discussions. Have your kids take part in putting together an Advent wreath and lighting the candles each night. Include a weekly theme to pray about and incorporate into their daily lives. While there are slightly different meanings for various Christian denominations, the significance is generally universal. You can find more information here. You can also purchase or make a fun Advent calendar wherein the child gets a treat each day during the countdown to Christmas. This heightens anticipation for the big day, teaches children to value each day, and to look forward to simple pleasures (among countless other lessons you can teach with the calendar as your guide). To see more on Advent I have a lot of resources right here at AweFilledHomemaker!
Read all about it. While you can certainly read scripture, we all know kids like pictures and animated stories. Take them to a bookstore or to the library and read children’s books about Jesus’ birth. Since many of the themes surrounding the folklore of Santa Claus also encourage generosity, believing in something you can’t see, and childlike joy, make secular books work for you, too. The truth is, your kids live in a secular world and will need to be able to find Jesus’ teachings in desensitized and over commercialized world around them. You can even create a scavenger hunt for them to find books with the Christmas theme of your choice. One of the best books we have incorporated into our studies is The ADVENTure of Christmas. This is considered a “secular” book, but I encourage you to check it out. I’m very picky when it comes to book and this one is nothing short of fantastic!
Shop and give to the less fortunate. Walk the walk. It’s perhaps more important to show kids how Jesus would live out His mission than to simply talk about the story of His birth. Teach children how they can put into practice all they’ve been learning by explaining that there are people who live on less and need our help. As a family, you can enjoy shopping, but give your purchases to someone who needs it more than you. You can even give the kids their own money to spend and allow them to choose their purchases. There are plenty of charities to choose from, including choosing an “angel” off of a giving tree or adopting an entire family. We even incorporated a tradition that our kids must choose some of their toys to give to foster homes prior to Christmas. It’s kind of an “out with the old and in with the new” mentality, but their toys must be “like new.” My oldest has a heart for others and is willing to give the shirt off his back if necessary. My middle son has a heart for service and enjoys service projects. We’re still working on my youngest.
Volunteer. Children learn from watching us, so spend time showing them that others matter. There are plenty of modern ways to live out the Beatitudes. You won’t have to look far to find organizations who need help this time of year.
Have a Birthday Party! My mom started the tradition with my kids to have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” party each year. Each year, either she or I bake a cake with the kids and let them decorate it. We read scriptures about the night Jesus was born and sing the Happy Birthday song to Jesus. This is a sweet time that my kids LOVE and will always remember.
Share a Candy Cane. You might be asking yourself how on earth that can help your kids understand the meaning of Christmas. We have actually bought candy canes and attached the Legend of the Candy Cane to them and passed them out. During Clay’s last tour overseas, the kids and I filled stockings for all of his Soldiers. We included candy canes inside little stockings and the gospel for him to pass out. They all loved them and truly appreciated the gesture! We have also passed them out around town. Use each and every opportunity that you can to share the gospel of Christ.
Lastly, I would encourage you to check out Christ-Centered Family Traditions System. This is a brand new resource to keep CHRIST at the Center of your Christmas without taking too much time to prep. Literally, it is all compiled in one spot for you! You just need a printer and you are good to go!