Guest Post by Mallory Allen
December is here. Christmas is just around the corner. It really is a warm (literally in the South these days) and fuzzy time of year and, some might add, stressful at times. During this time of year, many of us add the extra roles of interior decorator, professional shopper and tradition keeper to our already long, everyday list of to-dos. We pull out boxes of ornaments, lights and the many other festive things Hobby Lobby has convinced us we “need” to make over our house for one month. We carve out time to comb the mall (or surf the web), trying to find the perfect gift for each of our family members. We strive to keep traditions alive from not only our childhoods, but those of our husbands’ as well, while also forming new traditions as a family. We spend time wrapping gifts, attending church musicals and Christmas parties, organizing a large meal, and sending out Christmas cards; but somewhere along the way we must really decide what is most important in these busy 24 days leading to THE day that is Christmas.
I love giving gifts. My husband jokes with me and says I may love it a little too much! This year I was taking “inventory” on what presents I had and what I still needed to get when my 3-year-old came in and asked me, “Mom, why do we buy everybody presents for Christmas?” I decided this may be a good time to put down the list for a teaching moment. Being three, he is just learning what this whole Christmas thing is all about and understanding enough to ask questions and really get into it. For about six months now I have been telling him the story of baby Jesus. So I took this moment to teach him that baby Jesus was the best gift ever given to us. He would later go on to give us the ultimate gift by dying on the cross for our sins and raising to new life so that we could be forgiven. When we disobey or do bad things, we can now be forgiven because of Jesus, and have Him come to live in our hearts if we simply ask Him.
So simple. So profound. So easily grasped by the heart of a child. After reviewing this with him, I went on to tell him that we give gifts to others whom we love, to celebrate the best gift given to us on that first Christmas. This really connected with him. So now he will tell you the best gift is baby Jesus, followed closely by a new bike, as to be expected for a 3-year-old.
His simple question helped put things back into perspective in my own heart, as it is so easy to get caught up in to-do lists and lose Christ in our Christmas.
My husband and I want to give our kids the best gift we can give each Christmas, and that is to point them toward Christ. Everything else comes after this main goal.
It’s not easy though. Slowing down in the midst of the craziness is impossible unless planned. We are a young family, with a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old, and by no means know exactly what this should look like. We are still learning what works for our family each year. But I want to share with you a few ideas we have picked up along the way and watched other godly parents we look up to do with their children to prioritize Christ in Christmas:
- The Christmas story—it starts here. Read it from the Bible to your older kids before bed or before opening gifts. For the younger children, read it from a children’s or toddler’s devotional book that is more on their level. Tell it in your own words that they can understand and have them help you fill in the blanks along the way. If you have visual learners, color the nativity while you tell them the story or play with a nativity set.
- Invest early in a child-friendly, non-breakable nativity they can get down on the floor and play with. Let them feed the animals and place the wise men and shepherds who have come to worship baby Jesus. This will show them the nativity is not just a grown up thing or something on the mantle they are not aloud to touch.
- While you are wrapping gifts for friends and family, explain why Jesus was the best gift and why we celebrate Him every Christmas by giving gifts to others. For younger kids, let them help put in the tissue paper or put on a piece of tape. They will feel part of the giving this way.
- Give back. When I was growing up my mom was a social worker and now works in ministry. I can remember every year going to shop for needy families. We took presents for the kids, a Christmas meal, and my mom always asked if she could share Christ with them and invited them to our church. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see these families with nothing, and offer them the hope of Jesus. It made me realize how blessed we were. There are all kinds of ways to get involved in giving through your local church or parachurch ministries, like Samaritan’s Purse, which does Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. And as we give to those in need, may we remember that the ultimate need is to tell others about Christ!
- Have a Happy Birthday Jesus Party (probably for the younger crowd). Invite friends, bake a cake for Jesus and use your kid-friendly nativity to share the story of baby Jesus with the kids. Some of your child’s friends may have never heard the story.
- If you do Santa at your house, set out the nativity with their presents and remind them that Santa loves bringing them gifts, but he wants to remind them the best gift ever given was Jesus.
- Pick up a book on celebrating Advent or the “arrival of Christ” at your local bookstore and focus on the different symbols of Christmas that point us to Jesus as a baby, and that He is coming back again for us!
With young kids at this moment in life, our list trends more on the simple side. I don’t think reading the whole Christmas story before letting them open their presents would be very effective at this stage in life. But each stage for your family will be different, so do what works best for you with the main goal being to give them the best gift you can give by prioritizing Christ in Christmas!
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