The Christmas season is upon us! This is only my third Christmas as a parent and while I love the festive season, now that I have a toddler and a baby, to be honest Christmas seems like a lot of work. And besides, they’re so little, they’re not even going to remember what we do… so I’m off the hook for instilling the joy, truth and hope of Christmas, right?

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 was convicted of three reasons why I need to be intentional about Christmas with my young family this year.

Creating Traditions And Good Habits

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.

Proverbs 22:6 says if we start children off on the way they should go, that 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 for the first time I plan to start a few Advent traditions with my family. They don’t need to be perfect nor are they set in stone, but I need to start somewhere.

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

Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and is a time of preparation and anticipation for the arrival of Christ. Celebrating throughout the 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.

Other ideas include lighting a candle on each of the Sundays to symbolise hope, faith, joy and peace – although your kids might enjoy blowing them out just as much as lighting them!

There are also countless storybooks on the nativity, 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 sucked on or broken!

There are so many wonderful ideas for celebrating this season with our kids that put Christ at the centre, 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!

I Need Reminding Of The Gospel

After considering all these ideas for my children, I was convicted that I too need to know the truth of Christmas, that it 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.

On 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 (James 1:17), who gave us His Son so we could be rescued.

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.

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, John 1:1, Romans 6:23, 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 and announce the arrival of the Messiah (Matthew 2:1-23). 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 symbols in our home are constant reminders of all that God has given us and promises us – just as much for me as for my children.

Putting God 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 mesmerized shepherds and the determined wise-men.

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, it was not why they came (Matthew 2:1-12). And although the shepherds went as a group of friends, fellowship was not the reason for their visit (Luke 2:8-18).

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

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 food and presents, but to excitedly welcome 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. We must prioritise Jesus at Christmas, and encourage our kids to do the same.

Conclusion

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

If we’re not careful we’ll miss the true meaning and blessing of God coming into the world to rescue us. If I don’t approach it with intentionality, then it will be all about parties and presents, which are not inherently bad things, but not the point of Christmas. Putting good habits and traditions in place will help keep God in his rightful place.

With renewed vigor, I know that nothing is more exciting or important than celebrating Jesus with my young family this Christmas. I want to teach my kids to be shepherds and wise-men: excited, mesmerized, focused on Jesus, and gathering around him in expectant joy, this Christmas and always.