Though we talk about Jesus and teach God’s word all year through, Christmas time, or the month leading up to Christmas day, can be a special opportunity to really focus on what we believe and why. It is an opportunity to address issues of faith – because the idea of Jesus coming as a baby is foundational to all that we believe as a Christian. Today we are talking about ways to grow our children’s faith at Christmas time.
Baby Jesus came – truth and grace – so that God’s intention to have a restored relationship with his creation could be put in place. Our relationship with him was to be restored – by grace. And it is important that our children know God’s word and what that all means when we talk about a Christian Christmas. When we dig into God’s word it is about more than a baby in a manger. The story isn’t just a cute story – it isn’t even just a story with historical significance – it is a part of God’s word, God’s truth, God’s plan for humanity.
I wanted to use this event on our yearly calendar just to touch base with the foundations of our faith. I asked myself, and you can ask this question too as you start to think about what heart lessons your child needs to hear this Christmas – the question was: How can this Christmas help my child grow in their faith?
Just ask yourself that question and start listing the ideas, the topics, the truths that come to mind.
We can dig into that a bit further with a few other questions:
- What questions does my child have about why Jesus came as a baby?
- Does my child doubt any part of the Christmas story? How can I help them believe?
- Does my child understand why baby Jesus came, do they understand the connection with Easter?
- What part of the traditional Christmas message, or Christmas themes, would encourage my child to walk with Jesus?
How to meet their Need
We can assume that in order for our kids to grow spiritually that they need a devotional book, or a Bible study. And that may be what your child needs – but I think my kids grew the most because I talked to them. Jesus popped into our conversations all the time. Jesus was the reason we held to certain beliefs about the world, about the church, about our community, about our family, about ourselves. Jesus really is the reason!
Like I said above we can ask ourselves those questions as we think on our kids’s hearts – but from the time your kids are about 7-8 they can probably give you some clues by asking them questions and having conversations with them. Ask them –
- Why do you think Christmas starts with the name of Jesus – Christ?
- Do you know why Jesus came as a baby? What is that all about?
- Can you tell me why Christmas and Easter are connected?
- What does the Old Testament have to do with Baby Jesus?
Of course we don’t want to put our kids through a 20 Questions drill – but rather have conversations. Share what you are reading in a Christmas devotion and ask them for their thoughts. Pull them up when listening to Christmas carols – and ask if the words line up with God’s word. Watch a Christmas movie and ask them if the characters reflected the real meaning of Christmas. What is the real meaning? Would our Christmas look any different, should it look any different, than the character’s in this movie?
When you raise these questions – let it be a conversation starter – not a quiz. Add your thoughts, add your memories from your childhood, add your questions and doubts. Invite your kids to think, to question and to go and find answers. There is no reason you can’t ask them a very blunt question – how does Jesus change you this Christmas?
When we have conversations with our kids we start to see gaps in their thinking or in what they believe. When this happens we have a very clear answer to the things we need to focus on in the coming weeks. We also have an obvious prayer need – we need to pray that God will become real to our kids in the coming weeks.
Discipleship is about listening to Jesus our teacher, and learning to walk as Jesus walked. As a discipleship guide for our kids this is how we want to help our kids. We want to help them listen to Jesus, and the truth of God’s word, and to respond to Him. We want them to learn how to walk like Jesus walked, and to become more like Jesus.
If we don’t think about these things now we will put the Bible on the shelf – we won’t have time to talk about it, read it, or live it. The decorations, food, activities – even the Christ centered ones – will become the fun of the moment. We need to carve out time when we can look at faith issues.
Age Appropriate Studies
Though I always encouraged my kids to have their own personal devotional time, especially after they decided to follow Jesus, I liked doing Bible time as a family – regardless of the differences in ages and abilities. This meant there were times when the youngest sat and coloured in while the older ones talked deeper, but there were also times when the older ones listened and encouraged the younger ones in their questions. We need to create a multi-aged family Bible time culture in our family – this should also be how church is done too. We are family, both natural and spiritual and we need to learn to give to each other, and to encourage each other to grow in our faith.
One of the key ways that we balanced Family Bible study or Family Devotions was that we read together and then started engaging with the ideas and truths starting with the youngest, and letting each child (or rather, requiring each child) to contribute a thought. We started with the youngest and we expected each child to contribute something different or to expand on what was said – they certainly couldn’t say – yeah what he said! They had to find the words to communicate what they were thinking or feeling. Of course, we lead these family conversations with grace as there were times when someone had nothing to say. It wasn’t a legalistic expectation.
Let me just say that it is much easier raising kids to love the Lord once they’ve decided to love the Lord. If your child hasn’t come to that place then your discussions or devotion time is going to look different. Please keep that in mind when I talk about how our kids discussed Biblical truths.
If your kids aren’t interested in God, then it is still your job to introduce God to your children – that is God’s command to you. You are to live in a way that reflects God’s truth (as we all are), you are to sow seeds, and be ready at all times to talk about the hope in Christ that you have.
As our children grow older not only what we teach them, but how we engage them in God’s word changes too. When they are young they love stories and craft activities. One thing you do need to be very clear on is that the Bible stories are real stories – they are both historically true stories as well as stories of what God has told his people. They are not fairytales.
Once they start to read and write, then you can up the lessons to be more thinking and knowing Biblical truths – they need to know why those stories are in the Bible and how those stories relate to them personally.
As your kids grow towards and in their teen years, they need to be digging deeper into Biblical truths and applying it to their own life. They will also be able to start connecting different truths and theologies to each other and start to see how the Bible fits together as God’s plan for mankind.
If that sequence of maturing in understanding God’s word intimidates you then that is a sign that you need to dig into God’s word for yourself so that you can disciple your children. We don’t have to be super ahead of our kids in our faith journey – Peter often says that he and his parents grew in faith at the same time – he was only a teenager, and yet his walk with God was his walk with God that was in step with his parents. And yet his parents continually encouraged him to press into God. Your children don’t need you to be ahead – they need you to be committed to growing in your faith.
Finding a Christ Centered Study at Christmas time
There really is no right or wrong study to have leading up to Christmas. The market is full of them and there are new books for all ages, coming out every year. So it is about you knowing where your child is at, and what will meet them where they are at so that they can meet Jesus.
Four guiding principles to help you find the right study or resource that will guide your family to grow their faith this Christmas season this year:
1-Be intentional: To be intentional means you know what you want to achieve, and how you are going to do it. So make time to make a decision as to what heart (belief or value) issue your family needs to focus on, what material you will use to direct your instruction and when in your day you intend to do a family devotion or Bible study.
2-Stay heart-focused: We need to remember that anything we do is about preparing our children’s hearts – not our heads full of knowledge. We want to make sure there is an opportunity in the study that enables our children to respond to God – it isn’t just about head knowledge in an intellectual way.
3-Be family-focused: Make sure your choice of study fits your family – don’t make it a complex study if you have little ones. As our family grew older we were able to dig deeper, talk more, and write more. Christmas comes around every year – there will be plenty of opportunity to dig into the deeper things. When we had little ones it was more about reading a story, talking, and maybe drawing a picture or doing a craft.
4-Be realistic: Don’t try to do it all! Lighting a candle, once a week may be more achievable to your family this year, than creating a Jesse Tree project. It isn’t about what your kids create, or what lessons you can tick off as done – what is important is the connection you help your children make with the truths of God’s word.
These days, you’ll find plenty of resources for free and to buy – start looking using Google searches for – Advent, Nativity, Jesse Tree, Names of Jesus, Names of God, Symbols of Christmas. (I’d love to see what you find – leave a comment at the end – it will be fun to see the different resources people are using!)
Faith without works is dead
James 2:26 says, “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”
Christmas is a good time to be doing good deeds. Cultural Christmas encourages it – but so does God’s word. When we know God, our love and faith in him, our hope that He gives us motivates us to love and care for others. Not just at Christmas time, but all year round.
But just as Christmas gives us a specific opportunity to address some theology (the study of God) it also gives us an opportunity to put that belief into practice and to love others.
In fact, Christmas really is about that – loving God, and loving others.
So as you encourage your children to grow in their love for Jesus, and their faith in God – you can also encourage them to find ways to live that out and love others. I think it is important to remember that others are – siblings, parents, extended family, church family, neighbours, and the people we meet or see down the street. Ask yourself – How can we show love at this time? How can we put God’s word into action with the people we are around?
It’s an All-Year Thing
The hard truth is that if you only do family Bible study or devotions at Christmas, if you only talk about God-stuff as you start to think about Christmas – and not all year round – you have already lost so much ground in reaching your child’s heart. The number one reason young adults give us for walking away from the faith that their parents raised them to have – is the inconsistencies in their parents’ faith between what they said and what they did. Don’t take on the idea of a family Bible study at Christmas time if it is not a part of your family habits throughout the year. Or at least, be committed to starting a new way of doing things – in the new year.
Truly the message of Christmas is a year-long thing. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity that celebrating Christmas gives us to reach our child’s heart – but neither can we ignore the rest of the year to do the same.
Heart-focused Action Step
This week ask yourself – what can I teach my child this Christmas that will help their faith grow? What will help them know and love and serve Jesus?
Remember from last week I shared that we need to plan
- What to teach
- How to teach
- When to teach
So take the ideas that you have and go look for resources that are age appropriate and will serve your family, and get ready to teach those heart-based lessons. Of course, you can start whenever you want. I’ve started reading my Christmas devotion already – there is no rule about starting on the 1st of December – the key is for you to be aware of what your children’s needs are, and to get ready to meet those spiritual needs.
Our Children Need to Meet Jesus – and We Should Make the Introduction: As Christian parents we want our children to love Jesus and follow God’s word so we have to be wise in how we teach our children about sin and mercy and grace.
2 Ways you can Teach your Children to Hide God’s Word in their Heart: There are two key ways we can teach our children to hide God’s word in their heart so they learn not to sin again him: Intentional times and Incidental times!
When You Teach Bible Lessons, Teach from your Heart: When we teach our children Bible lessons from our heart, instead of from a lesson plan, we make life-giving connections for them.