How does your family approach Christmas? Does everyone sing happy songs, cheerfully greeting each other saying “thanks for a great year and all those lunches you made Mum & Dad!” and “Wow I love this time of year, I have so much energy and joy!”?
Perhaps your family is a little more like mine: everyone is tired, tests are on, reports are being finalised, end of year performances and concerts abound (does anyone else secretly cheer when the end of year school concert is cancelled due to bad weather!?). I often think the Northern Hemisphere does it better, as they aren’t also finishing the school year, and really, there is always something appealing about snow…
So, what to do?
Chances are, you like Christmas. You rejoice that God came to earth as a baby who would be the Saviour of the world. A well-sung carol can fill your heart with praise. Bible readings of the incarnation remind you again of the joy of the season and the reason we celebrate.
However, translating that into a positive family experience takes a bit of thought, when the pressures of finishing school, making meals, buying presents and planning for holiday leave all add up.
Christmas books abound and treasured ones can be found in both secular and Christian offerings. Spend some time in a bookstore reading before you buy and you’ll soon develop a collection your family will love re-reading as the years go on.
But without a doubt, the best thing to read in the lead up to Christmas is the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth and the promises that lead to him. The Good Book Company has produced some excellent material, including Beginning with God at Christmas for pre-schoolers (designed to go with The Beginner’s Bible), XTB: Christmas Unpacked for early readers, and family advent packs such as Christmas Opened Up. I’m excited to see more high-quality material for Christmas developed in recent years. If you don’t have the energy for anything organised, just grab a kids’ Bible (or a full Bible) and read through the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the days together leading to Christmas.
When our family was very young and we were trying to figure out how to do the lead into Christmas well, there was very little material available. So, we made our own. That’s why we don’t use any pre-produced material although much of it is excellent. We have three sets of Advent material that we work through in various years. They are Genesis to Jesus (covering the background of the Old Testament and the promises leading to Jesus), The Birth of Jesus (from the gospel accounts) and Who is this man? (each bringing out a different aspect of who Jesus is). They’re available free for download and you can find more details here.
Perhaps you personally would also like to read further and reflect this time of year. I always enjoy O Come Though-Long Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie. There are new advent materials for adults out now from both Tim Chester and Paul David Tripp. I’m going to try to get my hands on some of those for future years.
Sometimes having music playing is what makes it Christmas in your home. For fun family Christmas music, you can’t beat Colin Buchanan’s King of Christmas album – lively, funny, illustrative and instructive, it always makes the playlist this time of year. For some more mellow reflection, we all love Third Day’s Christmas Offerings and Nathan Tasker’s A Star, A Stable, A Saviour. Perhaps Handel’s Messiah is what works better for you, or a beautifully sung choral group of carols.
Perhaps what really gets you excited is talking to people about why you love Christmas. There are usually a myriad of events to invite people to – carol services, kid’s church options, Christmas services. Perhaps even invite them into your home and show how Christmas is all about Jesus for your family.
There’s no doubt this can be a busy and hectic time of year. Yet, even in the midst of it, it can be a time of reflection, purposeful teaching, and a celebration of God’s wonderful gifts.
We want our families (and ourselves) to remember it’s not about the presents, or the food, or cleaning the house for visitors. It’s not even about time with family, or friends, or the holidays. It’s about Jesus. Jesus. God’s very precious son, sent by our Heavenly Father to fulfil all his promises to humanity. The Word made flesh who made his dwelling among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). That is indeed good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10). Let’s make sure that news is the highlight in our homes this month.
Wendy & her husband (with their three lovely teen/tweens) are in full-time ministry in Adelaide, involved with university students, and marriage and parenting ministries. Wendy reviews books and blogs at musingsinadelaide.blogspot.com.au.