… how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11)
In the Bible we read how God loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:10-11). And isn’t that just how we feel toward our children, too? Where does this generous gift-giving impulse come from? It comes from God, our Creator Father! Because we are made in God’s image, he has planted his generous, gift-giving nature in our hearts to encourage and bless our children.
Despite the increasing secularization and commercialization of Christmas, there are an infinite variety of ways to breathe spiritual life into this important Christian holiday. It helps that the birth of Jesus is a relatively simple idea for children to grasp.
Nativity scenes, carols and pageants all help to reinforce the idea that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and make it easier to keep Santa Claus in perspective.
Setting up a crèche, for example, offers one of the best ways I’ve found to both have fun while simultaneously nurturing your child’s faith.
In our family we wait until midnight to put the baby Jesus in His manger. I will always remember the Christmas morning when our two children were as excited about the appearance of the baby Jesus in His crib, as they were about Santa’s gifts under the tree… Well, almost. But it was a start!
When my friend Mary sets up her family’s nativity scene, she places the three wise men and their camels at the far corner of the house, and then moves them closer and closer to the nativity scene with each passing day. On Christmas morning the wise men are still half a room away. “Still on their long journey,” she explains to her children, “still following the star in the East.” The arrival of the wise men 12 days later on Epiphany, with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Christ Child, is celebrated with great excitement, and a special Epiphany tea party with star-shaped cookies.
I have another friend whose family has the tradition of ending their Christmas dinner with a special homemade birthday cake for Jesus, decorated with a sprig of holly and a single white candle. They even sing the Happy Birthday song to Jesus, before allowing the youngest person at the table to blow out the candle.
Do you put out stockings for Santa to fill? If so, this provides endless possibilities for creative, faith-based gift giving. When our two children were young, I found a set of Bible storybooks for our son, and came across a tiny mustard-seed necklace for our daughter, and then tucked these faith-filled presents between the candy canes and other holiday treats in their stockings. Over the years I’ve added inspirational CD’s and videos, scripture stickers, prayer journals, bookmarks, and books. Lots and lots of books! Books are the best! There are so many wonderful books with helpful, wholesome spiritual messages for children.
For example, The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, is actually a very faith-based story, with its reassuring message of a mother who would search endlessly to find her child, as is the children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
For older children, there is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, I am so enthusiastic about giving books that help to encourage and nurture young peoples’ faith that I eventually wound up writing my own books for children, My Friend Jesus and If I Could Ask God Anything. Maybe writing your own book is something you might want to try, too!
So as Christmastime approaches, get creative! Be inspired! Talk to your friends about their family traditions and gift-giving ideas, too. Most of all, access your own unique, inner gift-giving nature, which has been generously planted in your heart by God Who loves you and your children more than you can ever imagine…
And may your Christmas be extravagantly, abundantly, lovingly, and surprisingly blessed in every way!