The tree is up. The gifts are wrapped and ready. Most of all the kids are about to explode with anticipation of Christmas. But that’s true in every home, Christian as well as non-Christian.
So should being a Christian family make a difference? Shouldn’t we be worshipping on Christmas morning? After all, it’s Jesus birthday! And the answer is “Yes!”. For NHC this will be one of those “Acts 2:46” worship events when we worship from “house to house”. Our church will be worshipping, just not all together. But how do we do that?
For some of you, having family worship at Christmas is nothing new. But for many of you, it will be your first attempt. Let me give you some suggestions to make your Christmas morning extra special. Many of these ideas are things Gail and I have done at our home through the years.
1. PUT YOUR FOCUS ON CHRIST
How difficult is this in our society? Everything we see and hear on the media tells us that Christmas is about giving and receiving to and from each other. But very little is said anymore about the gift God gave in Jesus.
Before we allowed the kids to tear into their presents we had our worship time. What a better time than this to teach them that life is “not about me”? Isn’t that hard to do? If it’s your first time to try it, yes, it will be. It’s also a great way to teach them patience.
But don’t wait until they get up on Christmas morning to announce it! You’ll have a revolt on your hands, and angry people don’t make good worshippers. Prepare your kids in advance by talking at meal times about how Christmas should be a special time to worship Jesus. But we’re not going to worship at church. Tell them, “This year we’re going to start our Christmas Day with worshiping Jesus right here at home.”
God’s principle of worship always includes sacrifice, and giving God the “first fruits”, not the leftovers. And think about it for a second. Once they open all those toys you’ve lost them for the day! It’s easier to do the worship first than to try to corral them in later.
2. EAT A MEAL TOGETHER
We start with a big family breakfast together around the table. Gail has this recipe for a breakfast casserole that she prepares on Christmas Eve and keeps in the refrigerator overnight. Then early on Christmas morning she pops it in the oven. Thankfully, as the kids get older, Christmas starts a little later!
Now, if you just can’t see that happening in your house, let me give you an alternative. Later that day have a big family meal together and turn your meal time into a worship time. By the way, whether you have your worship time early or later, include in it the opportunity for everyone to serve – do ministry – by helping with the meal and clean up. Don’t let Mom do it all!
Eating together was a big part of the New Testament church’s worship experiences. And since you have everyone around the table at the same time, it’s an excellent place to have your worship time.
3. MAKE IT AGE APPROPRIATE
When I say “worship time” I don’t mean you have to go for an hour or preach a sermon! The younger the children, the more you’ll need to make it brief (10 minutes max for little ones) and use some visual aids. We always have had a manger scene that we used when the kids were very young to tell the Christmas story. We also have done a “Birthday Party for Jesus” and sang Happy Birthday to Him. They understand birthday parties! That helps teach them what the day is really about.
Whatever you do, be creative. If you have a wide age span, try to have something for everyone, and include the older kids in helping the younger.
By the way, your children will likely see plenty of “Christmas” shows on TV this time of year. Why not invest on a good video that tells the real Christmas story and watch it together that afternoon? There are some productions (Hanna-Barbera for example) that have it in a cartoon format.
4. READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY
When they’re very young, find a good Bible story book with pictures. Make the story come alive. As they get older, read it from the Bible. Have the kids read it. Ask questions. Let them ask questions. (You might want to study up on it!) Keep in mind the incarnation (God becoming Man) was a miracle. And miracles can’t be explained by science. You’ll find the Christmas story in Matthew 1 and Luke 2. Don’t forget to explain why Jesus’ birth was necessary for our salvation.
5. SING CHRISTMAS SONGS AND PRAY TOGETHER
For your worship time sing a song or two that honors Christ. Little children all love “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night”. Older ones love them, too! And if you’re family isn’t necessarily musically inclined, put on a Christmas CD and sing along with those who are.
Encourage everyone to say a prayer and in the prayer include something about Christmas for which they can thank God. With the very young expect prayers of thanks for their toys. But allow your Christmas Story time to lead into the prayer time. If you do a good job of telling the story, they’ll get it.
6. DO A FAMILY CHRISTMAS PROJECT
Christmas is about giving. “God so loved the world that He gave.” If your children are going to learn to be givers and not takers, plan a giving project.
Maybe as a family you can find a way to give to something special. Perhaps you put together a shoebox for operation Christmas Child. Take a moment to pray for the child who is receiving that box. Some families intentionally give up one gift on their list and use that money to give to missions. On Christmas Eve our church will be giving out goodies to the public safety and hospital employees who will be working that night. Visit someone (even a stranger) who is spending Christmas in the hospital. Send a card or package of cookies to a serviceman/woman in Iraq. One year we visited seniors in their homes and sang carols with them.
Most of all let them know the greatest gift they can give Christ is their own lives.
7. DAD: TAKE THE LEAD
Here’s another opportunity to take the God-given role of spiritual head of your family. Don’t leave all this to Mom. Let your family see that this is important to you. Too often in our American culture the men leave the spiritual things to the women. Dad, you be the initiator. Of course, if you’re a single mom, you’re the spiritual head of your home, so you make it happen.
8. INVITE SOMEONE TO JOIN YOU
Look around. Not everyone has a family with whom they can celebrate Christmas. There are singles and older folks who are alone or just the two of them who would love to come over to your house for Christmas. There are still international students here on the beach working. It may be someone at work or a neighbor or someone in your Connection Group. We’re always looking for someone outside our family to invite. Practice biblical hospitality. Share your Christmas with others. It will only make your celebration that much better.
©2008 Rick Lawrenson