This Christmas seems different than years past. We have 3 adult children now. Our baby is 15, and I can honestly say (as I’ve said many times before) that this season of life is my favorite so far. By God’s grace, we’re actually seeing the fruit of years of tradition in our family, and it’s exciting to behold.
I’ve noted many times through the years, both in my speaking and my writing, so much of what we did as parents I recognize as God leading us in direct answer to our prayers. We prayed every day for wisdom, for the right words in the right situations, for discernment into their hearts, and we prayed that our children would love Jesus and love people—preferring others over their own whims and way.
As I think back though the years, God gave us so many ideas that we implemented in our family that we now get to see the depth of how He used them as our children are grown. We stand in gratitude and awe of how God has worked.
There were several things that we did through the years at Christmas that really impacted our celebration of the holiday. I wanted to share a couple of those traditions with you this week, for you can easily adopt these into your own Christmas celebrations, and I believe with all my heart that they will be transformational for your family as they were for ours.
Our Annual Christmas Shopping Extravaganza
Wanting our children to focus on others rather than on themselves and what they desired during this season, we began when they were very young to allow them to earn money to spend on presents for those they loved. We’d allow them to read for pay, or clean the garage, or whatever we could think of to give them their own money to take out and spend. Then, we’d set aside a family night to shop for each other. That evening became one of the highlights of our year for a long time.
With their envelope of earnings in hand, we’d head out as a family, generally to Big Lots, with opaque shopping bags in hand to hide what they found as they wandered through the store. We’d split up into groups with daddy walking around with a couple of kiddos, and mama walking around with the other 2.
We’d hide from the other group as we sneaked up and down the aisles, searching for the perfect gift for siblings and parents alike. We’d mix up the groups a few times as we shopped, so everyone was able to shop for the others without being discovered.
Once they each checked out and we headed home, they’d all scatter to 4 corners of our house and wrap their treasures to put under the tree. (some with a little more care in the wrapping than others 😂.)
We were taken aback the first year we did this as the discussion on Christmas morning turned from who would GET the first present to who got to GIVE the first present. They discovered early on the joy that comes from finding a perfect gift for someone you love and seeing their delight as they open it. They were learning first-hand how it’s “better to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35.) That heart of giving continues even now, even though out family shopping trips have stopped. Their generosity is often a great rebuke to me. (If you’re a TTD365 member, I went into a lot more detail about this tradition and the way we used it to teach our children in this video if you’d like to check it out.)
I’ve seen the Lord use their giving hearts to impact people in so many ways through the years, and I’m so thankful for the little idea God gave us to take the focus off “self” and put it on giving to others during Christmas all those years ago.
The Names of Jesus Tree
In addition to thinking of others more highly than themselves, we wanted our children to love Jesus wholeheartedly and to serve Him without reservation. We tried to take advantage of every opportunity we could find to turn their hearts and minds towards the One Who had given so much to them.
During Christmas, when there are so many distractions vying for our attention, we wanted to make sure that we focused squarely on why we were celebrating in the first place—that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, had come to earth and this was the time of year that we focused on that even more than we did during other seasons. In fact, the whole world was singing His praises in the stores and on the street corners during this time, and we wanted to make sure our children truly absorbed the wonders of His birth.
So, we set aside a special tree in our home that was only for the names of Jesus. Each night during our family devotions time, we would discuss a name of Jesus and put that ornament on the tree as a reminder. We’ve done this with homemade ornaments and now we have two beautiful sets of ornaments that I found several years ago.
We’d take time during the Christmas season to focus deeply on Who Jesus really is and how His names impact us today. We got a richer sense of the reason we celebrate as we took the time to investigate what the Bible has to say about His names—Jesus, Savior, Christ the Lord, Emmanuel, Wonderful Counselor, and so many more. We’d use passages of scripture and hymns to dive even deeper into our time of worshipping Him and praising Him for the gift He gave us all those years ago as He left the splendors of Heaven to be born of a virgin, live a sinless life, and die to save us from our sins.
I created a names of Jesus devotional for TTD families that I would love to share with you. It gives you some ideas of scriptures to read and things to discuss as you talk about some of the various names of Jesus throughout this season. Click here to download that now.
Those two very simple traditions have truly shaped the atmosphere in our home through this season and all year long. These opened the door for countless conversations through the years where we were able to pass on our faith very easily and transparently to our children, and I’d love for you to join us in making them part of your family’s celebration as well.