Traditions are one of the effective ways of passing on truths to children. Since parents are commanded to teach truths and commandments to children as a way of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), one of the ways we could do so is through traditions where children participate or experience things. Christmas is something children always look forward to, and one can become more intentional in teaching transforming truths incorporated into ones’ tradition instead of adopting the commercialized ones that abound. Let me share some of the traditions we have practiced to communicate the message Christmas brings.
Advent Wreath. Advent means “coming.” The advent wreath is a circle (God’s unending love) made of greenery (symbolizing eternal life) with four candles (representing hope, faith, joy, and peace) surrounding a white candle (representing Christ) in the center. We have responsive Scripture reading and prayer as we take turns lighting a candle for each Sunday leading to Christmas. This activity reminds us to wait in anticipation not only of the birth of Jesus but of his coming again. You may visit FamilyLife.com for a downloadable free advent devotional or https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/advent-wreath-prayers-for-lighting-the-candles.html for prayers and passages for each Sunday.
Belen or Nativity Scene. When the children were little, we wanted them to participate in the Christmas story. Beginning December 1, Mary and Joseph are placed in the far corner of the house where they will start their travel to Bethlehem. Each child gets to move them everyday, until they reach the stable where the animals are on Christmas Eve. By Christmas morning, they are excited to see the baby in the manger. In their preteen years, we all participated in the church’s Christmas Cantata or plays where songs and Christmas stories were re-enacted.
Christmas Tree. Devout Christians in Germany are credited for starting this tradition in the 16th century, and later on adopted throughout the world. In our family, we read Angela E. Hunt’s “The Tale of Three Trees” where each tree shared their dreams for their future. One wanted to be a treasure chest to hold treasures, the second wanted to be the strongest ship, the third just wanted to be the tallest tree that points people to God. Three woodcutters came and cut each tree – the first was fashioned into a feeding trough that held hay, the second became a fishing boat, and the third was just cut wood. Each eventually got their dream fulfilled when Jesus came – the manger where Jesus lay, the boat where Jesus slept while the storm was raging, and the cross where Jesus was crucified. The Christmas tree reminds us of the cross and the reason for his coming.
“Names of God” Ornaments. Instead of the usual tinsels and glittery balls as ornaments, I chose decors that declare God’s glory such as angels, musical instruments, and FamilyLife Adorenaments that have the names and titles of Jesus decorating our Christmas tree. The Crown Set has his royal names – Son of David, The Almighty, Lion of Judah, King of Israel, Prince of Princes, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. His Christmas Names Set has Christ the Lord, Emmanuel, Jesus, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, and Savior. My daughter also has the Twelve Names of Christmas Set: The Good Shepherd, Living Water, Lion of Judah, King of Kings, The Vine, Savior, Bread of Life, The Door, Immanuel, Bright Morning Star, Light of the World, Lamb of God. (See https://shop.familylife.com and https://shop.everthinehome.com for these). Each of these sets have an accompanying booklet that can be read while pointing out to each name or title of Jesus which makes us appreciate the many ways he has revealed himself and his importance to our lives.
Candles and Lights. With safe LED, battery operated candles available in stores, I group a lot of these candles, and use strings of lights that point to Jesus as the Light of the World and who lights our ways and decisions through the Bible.
The Giving Manger. To draw the children’s attention from just receiving gifts to giving Jesus gifts, I bought our grandkids this year The Giving Manger (consists of a manger, strips of hay, and a baby Jesus) and a box of Kindness Cards. Each act of kindness or service done for somebody else allows a child to put a strip of hay on the manger, getting it ready for Jesus. The Kindness Card box helps give them ideas on what kind act or service they could do. Each day, they are excited to tell me what act of kindness they have done as they put hay on the manger.
These are some ideas you may consider as you decide to impart truths and make Christmas more meaningful for your family!