It was Christmas morning 2 years ago, and three little boys ran downstairs with all the excitement that kids should have on Christmas day. They ripped open packages and slung presents around, eagerly ready to move to the next item.
The younger two boys seemed quite content with their loot for the day. But our oldest son sat on the floor with his arms crossed and a sour look on his face. In his lap set a box for a brand new iPad mini still in the wrapper.
Let me just pause right here. I do not even have an iPad. Just sayin’.
When asked what was wrong, he proceeded to through a fit about how he didn’t get a phone like mommy’s or any crutches. (His Christmas wish list consisted of an IPad, a phone, and crutches…crutches?) He was furious!
I could not believe how ungrateful he was being. Didn’t he realize how awesome the gifts he had received were? How did we get to the point of demanding what we should receive and then being mad if we didn’t get it exactly as expected? Didn’t he understand he couldn’t have everything? Didn’t he know that Christmas is about more than receiving everything on your wish list?
As I sat there on the floor with my wonderful little boys, I instantly felt like a failure.
Clearly, I had missed the mark in explaining to him what Christmas is all about. Why else would he act so ungrateful?
Now before you say it, I know . . . he is 5 years old. And kids are kids. I get that. But it just didn’t sit right in my soul. We had talked about the reason we celebrate Christmas. We read the Bible stories. We went to the Christmas play at church. We even gave gifts from the angel trees and donated spare change to the guy outside Walmart. We had talked about this.
I wanted my children to understand at their very core, that Christmas simply wasn’t about them. It was about Jesus. I wanted them to realize that our gifts should be a reflection of the gifts God gave to us in His Son Jesus. I wanted them to have the fun and excitement that Santa, and the Elf on the Shelf, and Christmas parties at school bring – but they needed to know in their hearts that all of it was because of the birth of our King. Even though they knew these things in their heads, I don’t think they really felt it in their innermost being. And that really bothered me.
The following year was a big year for us as we decided to homeschool, made another move, and various other life changes. One scripture passage remained in my mind throughout that time.
Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
As the holiday season approached I knew we needed to do something different. We needed something that would create an impression on the hearts of our boys and our family. It needed to be in our home, on our doorframes, and at our gates. It needed to be intentional and purposeful.
Today I want to share three things that have been essential in preparing our home and family to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
A true celebration of Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, should be a natural result of a love relationship with Him. To push aside our relationship with Him all year, and then try to put on a “spiritual face” come December 24th just won’t cut it. Our kids can smell that lie coming a mile away. When we are in daily communication with God; when He is a normal part of our family life to begin with, the anticipation of His birthday party will be a natural buzz of excitement in our home.
The word “impression” has Latin roots. It means to apply pressure to leave a mark. In today’s world, parents are often encouraged to let their children figure things out on their own. Well, that isn’t how the Bible tells us to parent. Deuteronomy 6 makes it clear that we are to leave a mark on our kids when it comes to the love we have for our God. When we as parents begin to talk about who Jesus is and what He has done for us on a daily basis it WILL make an impression on our kids. Something as simple as thanking God for the sunshine on a nice day, or praying together before dinner, shows our children that we love God and they should too.
God tells us to bind His commandments to our foreheads. While I don’t think this means we all need to hit up the tattoo shop, it does show us how important this is to Him. Whether it is through artwork or post-it notes stuck to bathroom mirrors, we must invite and welcome God and His word into our homes in a way that our children can see.
When we are getting ready to decorate for Christmas, usually a day or so after Thanksgiving, the first thing we unpack is our nativity scene. We actually take these items out first and it’s the only thing we set up that day. All other decorations get unpacked the following day. We do this because we want them to pause and really focus in on why we are decorating in the first place. As they set up the nativity, we ready the Christmas passages from the Bible and talk about what that might have looked like. How did Mary and Joseph feel? Were they scared? What did the people around them think? It has become my favorite part of the season to see our boys learn and talk about why Jesus’s birth is so important to them on a personal level.
As the Christmas season is approaching us quicker than we all can handle, I would like to challenge you to pray over how your family will celebrate the birth of our King this year. Do your children truly understand what this season is about? Is your family focused on Jesus this year, or distracted by parties, the latest gadgets, and hosting friends? Are you searching for a way to connect all the fun of the holiday with the true meaning of Christmas?
If you are looking for more ways to bring your family closer to Christ during this Christmas season I encourage you to check out my book A Gospel Christmas. It’s our journey through the month of December where we found a great way to connect Santa and his naughty little elf to our greatest gift of all.