I love Christmas.

But if I’m honest, now that I have a toddler and a baby, preparing for the festive season seems like a lot of work. Besides, my kids are so little—surely they’re not even going to remember what we do . . . so I’m off the hook for instilling the truth, hope, and joy of Christmas in them, right?

After all, why should I bother to teach my kids the meaning of Christmas if they’re too young to even remember?

As I reflected on what the Bible tells us, I’m now convicted of three reasons why I need to be intentional about Christmas with my young family this year.

1. I want my kids to know the real reason for this joyous season.

“It’s not the traditions I want them to remember, but the message behind it.”

It truly is never too early to start teaching your children about the hope and love of God, and what better time than Christmas when there is already so much excitement and anticipation for the coming of our Saviour?

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Proverbs 22:6 instructs: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” It’s not the traditions I want them to remember, but the message behind it.

This year, I plan to start a few Advent traditions with my family. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas, beginning four Sundays before 25 December. It’s a time of preparation and anticipation for the arrival of Christ. This year, it began on 27 November.

Celebrating throughout this Advent season lengthens the excitement and fun around Christmas and gives me, as a busy parent, more time to teach my kids about the meaning of Christmas.

Creativity is not my strong point, so I asked other Christian families, especially ones with children older than mine, how they celebrate and which things have impacted their children.

For this year, I have decided to make a simple Advent calendar to open each day with my kids. We will read a verse or two from Scripture, sing a song, and talk about different aspects of not just the Christmas story, but also the whole gospel narrative.

You can also consider lighting an Advent wreath. It comprises a wreath with four candles surrounding a white candle in the middle, representing the passage of the four weeks of Advent. A candle is lit every Sunday, with the first candle symbolising hope. The remaining candles have various meanings depending on your denomination. On Christmas Eve or Day, the white candle, called the Christ Candle, is finally lit, in a fitting reminder that the Light of the World has come. (If your kids are like mine, they might enjoy blowing them out just as much as lighting them!)

“These Christmas traditions don’t need to be perfect, nor are they set in stone, but I need to start somewhere.”

Creating the nativity scene in one way or another is also a family favourite—there are countless storybooks on the birth of Jesus, and even if you read the same book every day to your toddler, it will be worth it. In addition, nativity sets make great toys and talking points too. Just make sure you won’t be upset if they get dribbled on or broken!

There are so many wonderful ideas for celebrating this season with our kids that put Christ at the centre. These Christmas traditions don’t need to be perfect, nor are they set in stone, but I need to start somewhere. I’m simply picking one, and will no doubt change and build on it each year. The one thing my more experienced friends shared with me was to persist amidst the chaos. More goes in to their little hearts and minds than we realise—just as the Proverb suggests!

2. I too need reminding of the living hope of the gospel.

After considering all these ideas for my children, I was convicted that I too need to know the truth of Christmas, and that this needs to infuse everything I think and do.

As I get on with my tasks of buying presents and decorating the house, I want to view them through the lens of the gospel and incorporate my kids in these activities too.

Over the weekend, I took my toddler shopping to buy gifts for some friends of ours. Although he is only two years old, he is well aware of the concept of gifts! I used the experience as an opportunity to show him how by giving gifts to others, we are imitating God as the original gift-giver, who gave us His Son so we could be rescued (James 1:17, Romans 6:23).

“These festive rituals and symbols are constant reminders of all that God has given us and promises us—just as much for me as for my children.”

When we decorate our house, I point out that our wreath is a circle, which symbolises the eternal nature of God and the everlasting hope and life we have in Christ (Psalm 90:2, 1 Peter 1:3). Our star on the tree reminds us of the star that shone over Jesus to direct the wise men and the shepherds, announcing the arrival of the Messiah (Matthew 2:1–12, Luke 2:1–21). The lights that set our tree glowing remind us of Christ’s light shining in the darkness (John 12:46). By preparing our house, we in turn prepare our hearts for Jesus’ arrival.

These festive rituals and symbols are constant reminders of all that God has given us and promises us—just as much for me as for my children.

3. I want my family to put Jesus in His rightful place.

Jesus is not only the reason why we celebrate Christmas, He must also be the centerpiece of how we celebrate. We want to be like the mesmerised shepherds and the determined wise men who sought after and worshipped the promised Messiah in awe and wonder.

When I turn up to a Christmas party with gifts, I’m struck by the parallels to the first Christmas. Although the wise men brought gifts, the giving and opening of presents was not why they came (Matthew 2:11). And although the shepherds went as a group of friends, fellowship was not the reason for their visit (Luke 2:8–20).

The reason was Jesus. The reason is Jesus. The reason must always be Jesus.

“We want to be like the mesmerised shepherds and the determined wise men who sought after and worshipped the promised Messiah in awe and wonder.”

The next Christmas party I attend with my kids, I will remind them that these celebrations are a foretaste of heaven, and that the reason we gather together is more than for presents and friends, but to excitedly welcome and worship the Saviour of the world with others of the same mind. We echo King David in saying: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

Christmas is not just about the activities we do, or the fellowship with people we enjoy. It is about a response in our hearts. Let us prioritise Jesus at Christmas, and encourage our kids to do the same.

Don’t Trivialise Christmas

We underestimate our young children and do them a disservice if we reduce Christmas to just another holiday to simply enjoy time with family and friends. May we plant the seeds of hope in our children, and continue to water them every Christmas.

If we’re not careful, we’ll miss the true meaning and blessing of God’s Son coming into the world to rescue us. It’s a warning to myself, too: if I don’t approach Christmas with intentionality, then it will be all about parties and presents—which are not inherently bad things, just not the point of Christmas.

Introducing Christ-centred family traditions in our home this Christmas can help our children know why they’re celebrating this season, remind us as parents of the living hope we have in Jesus, and enable our family to put Jesus in His rightful place in our lives.

“If I don’t approach Christmas with intentionality, then it will be all about parties and presents—which are not inherently bad things, just not the point of Christmas.”

With renewed vigour, I know that nothing is more important than celebrating Jesus with my young family this Christmas. Let us be like shepherds and wise men—and teach our children to be the same: excited and mesmerised, focused on Jesus, and gathering around him in expectant joy, this Christmas and always.

Max and Fiona moved from England to Singapore in 2017 with their then seven-week-old son. They are now navigating the challenges of raising two small children and are acutely aware that each day is lived solely by and through God’s grace and mercy, as they slowly but surely discover God’s plans for their family.
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