Now, I’d love to tell you how to be ready for Christmas in three perfect steps, but I am just not that clever. Truly, I think I’d need magic to make that happen.
However, I have given this some thought and have created a list of three things that we can do to ensure we celebrate Jesus this Christmas. Choose one thing, yes, just one thing from each category.
- Explore the Christmas story together
- Pause, reflect and maybe pray
- Bless someone else
It really is that simple! Below are some suggestions and details about how to accomplish these.
1. Explore the Christmas story together
I’ve purposefully called it explore, because most of us know, or think we know the Christmas story. We’ve probably heard it, read it or seen it somewhere. You might have even studied it. However well we know the story, there’s always more to discover in it, more of God to allow into our lives through it.
For older children and adults
As you probably know, the Christmas story is told in Matthew and Luke’s gospels in the Bible. Examining how different each account is and how few overlapping details there are, is a fascinating way for older children and adults to engage with the story.
For children under 11 (and maybe older ones too!)
I’d recommend exploring together in a hands-on way, here are a few ideas:
- use a nativity set or put out Play Mobil, Duplo or Lego to create your own nativity scene
- set up a crib scene using toys and a cardboard box for a manger.
- make a felt board with a roll of felt and cut gingerbread men out to be all the Christmas story characters.
- use an IKEA gingerbread house as a stable and dress up your dinosaurs or superheros as Mary, Joseph and the wise men.
For children aged 3+
I’d suggest reading the story directly from the Bible which you could do a few different ways:
- A little bit each day (the GodVenture Sticker Advent Calendar has the story split into small sections for this exact purpose, and comes with a sticker to place each day as well!)
- A short section each week (you could split the story into four like I did here)
- All in one go (this will only take just over 20 minutes, so grab some hot chocolate and decorate some gingerbread while you put on the story)
Spark a conversation
Listening and reading the story is only the beginning of exploring, it’s digging in, finding out new things, asking questions, and getting creative.
Here are some easy questions to spark a conversation:
- I wonder what your favourite part of this story is and why.
- I wonder who your favourite character is and why.
- I wonder who you would most like to be in this story.
- I wonder what the most important part of this story is.
- I wonder if there’s anything in this story we could miss out and still have all the story we need.
(N.B. These questions come from Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play material. There are a few lovely retellings of the Christmas story in these materials which you might also like to use.)
There is no end to the fun you can have exploring. Remember that play is a child’s first language, so don’t expect lots of deep theological conversations in words. Instead, have a go at immersing yourself in their play and see what you discover new in the story!
2. Pause, reflect and pray
The Christmas season is busy, so to make this step effective, it needs to be planned, and the plan needs to be realistic!
We have found lighting a candle each morning a simple, easy way to calm our focus for a couple of moments. You might like to combine this with 31 Ways to be Thankful which offers a simple thanks prompt for each day. Light the candle, take it in turns to say something you’re thankful for. Simple.
You might like to use the Lectio365 app which includes an audio version which you could listen to together or use Lectio for families.
Stretch and pray
You might like to do a short stretching exercise together and pray your daily prayers. This can also be an excellent way to learn to sit quietly with God.
I love the simplicity of wreath prayers. We make a wreath with greenery from the garden and put into it four candles and one large one in the middle. The first week of Advent, we light the first candle and pray a simple prayer as you light it: Jesus, light of the world, come into our darkness.
The next week we light the first candle and add a second one, repeating our prayer. On Christmas day we light all four and then the central one and pray: Welcome, Jesus, light of the world, light in our darkness.
Whatever you do, choose if you will do it daily, weekly or just once. Be realistic. Remember you can always build on this next year!
3. Bless someone else
I always find December an annoying time as people are constantly asking my children what they want/are getting for Christmas. (They often say, ‘from Santa’, which we don’t do, which often leads to puzzled looks, but that’s for another post!) Marketing also tells us that we should want more and have more.
Number three is how we as a family look for someone to bless rather than focusing on what we will be receiving.
This could be a one-off activity, or something which you do three of four times in December – again, make it work for you, be realistic.
Here are some ideas:
- Buy/bake Christmas goodies and give them to a neighbour
- Go carol singing in your road
- Give a gift to a food bank or homeless shelter
- Make Christmas decorations and give them to delivery people who come to your door
- Volunteer at a charity or perhaps in an outreach your church is doing
- Offer to do a Christmas shop for an elderly person you know
- Book a Christmas Eve online shopping slot and offer to get things for your neighbours
How to make it happen
Once you’ve chosen three things, do what’s needed to make sure you can do them easily:
- Book it in your diary
- Get the resources together
- Chat with your family about it
It’s ok to be choosy
Then be kind to yourself and say no to a whole load of other things, choosing only what you want to add to your Christmas.
Fun equals faith too
This year, we’ll be going ice skating in a local seasonal ice rink in a garden centre. We will go on our own or sometimes invite friends to go with us. I have no plans to make this an annual event, it’s something we all enjoy and will have fun doing together.
These things are important too! Recent research shows that faith is passed on in families who have good, positive relationships, so the fun stuff is as important as the more intentional ‘faith stuff’.
I hope this helps you let go of any unrealistic expectations you might have put on yourself and gives you some ideas on what three things you can do this December.
If you’d like more ideas, check out my 50 fun faith at home ideas this Christmas.