There are few things in life that dial the whole family in like an IRS audit. I have never been through one personally but I was through one as a child. I still remember the auditors name appropriately enough was Mrs. Castro. My parents were being audited but the whole family felt the impact. My parents were on edge we had to be extra quiet. We had to stay out of the kitchen but peer through the windows of the kitchen as Mrs. Castro disassembled seven years of our families lives. For a few days in the summer of 1990 our family’s life stood still. This IRS audit affected all of us.
Christmas time more than any other time of year does something magical. It does what family ministry leaders dream of all year long. It does the very thing that IRS audit did for my home growing up. It gets every member of the house on the same page. It consumes every member of the house. Three year old kids know it’s Christmas fathers who are work-a-holics are talking to their kids about santa and his elves, cutting down trees and putting up lights.
Here is where I think the church needs to be more proactive at Christmas. I think families are looking for things to create memories with their kids. I think parents this time of year more than any other time of year are looking to pass on traditions they grew up with as well as instill new traditions for their kids. As a way of helping parents who might be reading this or ministry leaders, I thought I would share some things our family does to help reinforce the powerful message of the incarnation of Christ.
Advent calendar - we allow our kids to open a door a day – They love this and it helps build that anticipation towards Christmas. I find it helps them focus on the coming of Christ.
Traveling wise men – This is a new tradition for us. We borrowed the idea from Sally Lloyd-Jones. We let each child take turns moving the wisemen and their camel around our house. They move them to a different location each day until christmas. With each child who moves them I talk for a few minutes about what Christmas is all about. I try to help them connect their anticipation to bring the wisemen to the manger on Christmas with the anticipation so many had for the Messiah. A month feels very long for the kids but they love moving the wisemen all over the house.
Cutting a tree – We still cut down a tree this tradition is just really fun. We listen to christmas music and often get hot chocolate.
Decorating cookies – I did this as a child it was much more fun as a child than it is as an adult. I am not sure we will do this again this year it was a bit stressful but the kids seemed to really like it.
Reading the Christmas story from the Jesus Storybook Bible - We read the Christmas stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible the few days leading up to christmas as a way to remind ourselves that Christmas is not about gift getting but in the gift that was given to us from God in Christ.
Practicing Thankfulness - On Christmas eve (yes that’s right Christmas eve) before we open our gifts we do a couple of things I love.
1. I read the story of Christs birth from luke out of the ESV
2. We each take turns saying one thing we are grateful to Jesus for.
3. Lastly we start with one family member and everyone says 1 thing they love about that person we do this till every family member has been praised then we pray thank Jesus and open presents.
Christmas can be leveraged for so many reasons and so many things. I always want to do what I can to leverage Christmas to reinforce to our kids the two things that are most valuable to our family, Jesus and each other. I would love to hear what traditions you have for Christmas. There are very few times you will the attention of whole families at a time, unless you are an IRS auditor, so lets use the this season to reinforce the things that are most valuable to us.