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How to spiritually engage your family this Christmas

These next 5 weeks are insane for most of us, and it seems to be worse for those of us who call ourselves “Christians”. There are the regular activities that happen: school, work, sports, boy scouts, piano lessons, gymnastics, private tutors, etc. And then there are the extra special holiday events: work parties, classroom parties, hosting, decorating, caroling, packing, traveling, unpacking, cleaning, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, gifting, card mailing, etc.. If you’re anything like me, when you read a title like “Spiritually engaging your family”, your initial reaction is “Not right now! Perhaps after the holidays. I know spiritual vitality is important, but it would make a great New Year’s Resolution. I can’t pack anything else in…have you seen my calendar? I’m about to collapse or have a mental breakdown or both.”

That’s why I find so much encouragement from Deuteronomy 6. Moses instructs parents on how to spiritually lead their families. His approach is not what I’d expect. He doesn’t stress adding another line item to the to-do list. I’m not instructed to pile on another “bible study” or “hymn hour” to my schedule. It’s refreshing to read verses 5-7.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

When” seems to imply that I am going to do those things already. Don’t complicate your life; infuse what you are already doing with PURPOSE! God is asking you to be intentional, not additional.

So what if we as parents choose to be intentional this advent season. We have about 5 weeks to think, plan, pray, and engage with our kids around the birth of Christ and the gospel.

Most of us are not antagonistic to the idea of cultivating spirituality in our homes, we just don’t know how. What can we do to be more intentional with the Holiday’s this year?

Here are a few ideas that we have tried in our home. This list is not meant to be a comprehensive guide or checklist to spirituality. It’s meant to get you thinking and talking. It’s my prayer that you and your spouse spend an evening with each other, your calendars, and your Bibles. Have some fun coming up with ways to shine a spotlight to Christ and what Christmas means to you.

Remember to make this work for your family. If you have toddlers, the Christmas message remains the same, but the presentation looks completely different than if you have teenagers. It ‘s important that we engage our kids where they are at developmentally.  There are so many ideas out there today. Pick and choose some that fit your family’s personalities, schedules, and styles. Perhaps try a few that push your boundaries and require a leap of faith. Advent is not just designed to enrich your child’s faith; it’s for you too! Advent is a season when we remember the “coming Messiah” and have our affections stirred as we celebrate His arrival as our great Rescuer. Press into Him and treasure Him above all your to-do’s, deadlines, appointments, and parties.

Here are some ideas that we have found helpful. Feel free to try some and share your own ideas as well.

DEVOTIONAL IDEAS:

  1. ABC’s of Christmas

This activity is great if you have toddlers or preschoolers. We used this for several years when our 4 older kids were all 4 and under.

The idea is to retell the Christmas story every day, but focuses on a different letter of the alphabet each day.

We would let the kids take turns each night at dinner or bedtime and unwrap the “letter of the day”. Then they would all get to guess what person or part of the Christmas story corresponded with that letter. (i.e., “what part of the Christmas story starts with “A”?)

This is something that we would start on December 1 and continue until Christmas Morning. Each kid would get to color in and design their letter with stickers and markers. Then we would tape it up on the wall or sliding glass door. They loved seeing the alphabet get completed and seeing if they could remember all the parts. Here are the words we chose. Get creative and think of your own!

  • Angels
  • Bethlehem (or Baby)
  • Cows
  • Donkey (or Dream)
  • Emmanuel (or Elizabeth)
  • Frankincense
  • Gabriel
  • Herod
  • Inn
  • Joseph
  • King
  • Love (God loved us soo much send His one and only Son for us)
  • Mary (or Manger)
  • No Room
  • Obedience (of Mary and Joseph to trust God)
  • Presents….the Wise Men brought presents for baby Jesus
  • Quiet….(hahaha it was probably not quiet)
  • Rescue (Jesus came as a baby to rescue us from our sin)
  • Shepherds (or Star or Stable)
  • Trust (our response to Christmas is TRUSTING Christ to be God’s provision for our sin)
  • Undeserving Grace (God’s gift to us is something we don’t deserve)
  • Visions (Angel came to Joseph in a dream, twice)
  • Wise Men
  • Oxen
  • Yippee!! Jesus is BORN!!
  • Zoo (it was like a Zoo in the stable….so many animals)

Here is another ABC example:

  1. Retell the story OR Act it out (using Fisher Price Little People Nativity)

My little ones would love to take turn retelling the story. We would read the story out of the “Jesus Story Book Bible” and then let the kids take turns acting it out.

  1. Wrap it up

One evening I wrapped up the Little People Characters and let them take turns opening them up. When they unwrap the character, they have to explain who they are and what part they play in the Christmas story.

  1. Jesse Tree with “Jesus Story Book Bible “

SPEICAL ACTIVITIES TO DO TOGETHER

  1. Advent Calendar

We have an Advent Calendar where you open a door every day and place a magnetic figurine on the nativity scene. Along with opening a door, there is also an “Advent Activity” inside each door. Here are some of our favorite activities.

There’s nothing special about the calendar. Any advent calendar with flaps or doors will work just fine. Ours looks like this: 

  1. Make Christmas Cookies

Make cookies together and decorate with favorite sprinkles and toppings

  1. Glen Mar United Methodist “Walk To Bethlehem”

TOYS AND BOOKS:

  1. Nativity Legos
  1. Books
  1. Fisher Price Little People