Santa pictures, stockings, wish lists, and a morning full of gifts. How do you keep Jesus at the center of Christmas for you and your children when everything around you beckons with glitter and flash to get you to want more, spend more, do more?
Wise parents have many strategies: pastor John Piper’s wife Noël created the Noël Calendar for her kids, an advent calendar that tells the Christmas story step by step each day. Wise children also have strategies: One of author Ann Voskamp’s sons asked her what gifts Jesus gets on Christmas one year so the family started a tradition of picking out gifts for Jesus, such as seeds for orphans or mosquito nets for those in malarial countries.
All of the best strategies center around the main one that God has given us to learn and remember who he is and what he has done: storytelling. In his Word, God has told us the most amazing story of his son, coming to earth as a baby, to be a savior for sinners like us, who can’t stop doing bad things—and who can’t even do the good things that we want to do. It sounds absurd, but that’s precisely what makes it so wonderful.
Because he was born in a manger, grew up, became a man, died, and then went to heaven, we can be forgiven for the bad things we do and given the strength to do good things for God’s glory. And we can also follow him to heaven one day. But it all started with a newborn in a manger.
Since Christmas is centered around a child, sometimes it is best to see Christmas like a child to appreciate the mystery and wonder anew. Children’s author Sally Lloyd–Jones writes in her new book of stories for children, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing:
The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around. The God who made the universe with just a word. The one who could do anything at all was making himself small and coming down as a baby. Wait, God was sending a baby to rescue the world?
“But it’s too wonderful”, Mary said, and felt her heart beating hard. “How can it be true?”
“Is anything too wonderful for God,” Gabriel asked?
So Mary trusted God with more than her eyes could see and she believed. I am God’s servant she said, whatever God says, I will do.
By seeing the Christmas story in a fresh way, we can then go back to the Word and see it anew as well, as a story that God wrote for us:
But the angel said to them: Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)
Who did Jesus come for, when he came to lie in a manger? He came for you.
Lindsey M. Roberts spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine, before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and two children in Wisconsin.