By Dennis Rainey
I know you are busy with all the activities and commitments which swirl around during the Christmas season. I remember. Usually December is a wall-to-wall overload of shopping for THE gift; Christmas parties … at the office, school and neighborhoods; Christmas plays, church gatherings, concerts, and more.
Not this year, at least for Barbara and me.
With one exception, a great number of important things have been edited out of our schedules by Covid. That one exception just happens to be the most important thing: Celebrating the real reason of Christmas with your family … at home.
Here’s what I want you to contemplate and grasp: You and your family have been given an incredible gift: simplicity … a time to refocus … to truly celebrate the One who made Christmas famous … WITH YOUR FAMILY AT HOME.
I’m going to give you a smorgasbord of 10 very simple ideas you can do together to connect as a family and make much of Jesus this year.
What follows are ideas you could do once a week as a couple or family. One evening or a portion of your Sunday you could gather together with a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate, and engage with one another. If your family isn’t local or can’t come to your home, set up a Zoom call which will work for most of the following ideas.
Before we get started, a challenge is in order: Pick just one of these to execute … that’s right, just one. Don’t try to do everything. Pick one and execute it well. Don’t worry if you fall a little short of expectation. We never lit all five of our Advent celebration candles in a single December season. Three out of five was our best effort!
1. Beginning with Mom and Dad, each family member share the story of how they came to faith in Jesus. If the grandparents are still living, set up a time for them to come and share, or schedule a Zoom call with them and let them go first. Psalm 78:5-8 tells us to teach our children to put their hope in God and not forget His works and commandments. Don’t minimize this: Do your children and adult children know the details of your conversion to Christ?
An outline for your conversation story could be as simple as this:
Explain your religious (or lack of) background growing up and what your life was like before Christ.
Recall the circumstances God used in your life for how you came to faith in Christ.
Tell how your life has changed and is still changing as you now follow Christ.
Decide ahead of time whether you want family members to share the Twitter version of their testimony (five minutes) or a lengthy blog version (15-20 minutes). Give them the freedom to pass if they don’t want to share. If a family member hasn’t made a commitment to Christ, this can be a safe time to hear how others have encountered the King of kings, the Savior of the world.
2. Create a “hide and seek” game called “Follow the Star.” Tell the story of the Wise Men who followed the star and found Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).
Here’s the game: For three days, hide a star somewhere in the house and encourage family members to find it. The person who finds the star that day gets to share why they follow the Star (Jesus). This game is like Elf on a Shelf but better because an elf can’t help you like Jesus can.
Rather than creating your own stars, I suggest using three stars in the His Eternal Names set from Everthinehome.com. A free download with instructions for this game is available with the purchase of the beautiful set my wife Barbara created and thousands have enjoyed.
3. Take turns reading the story of Jesus’ birth and first years of life (Matthew 1:18-2:23 or Luke 2) from a different translation or paraphrase: The Living Bible, The Message, or The Good News Bible. There’s also a great paraphrase in a book, The Jesus Story, which is a harmony of all Gospels—a compilation of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (You may want to continue reading it after Christmas is.)
Ask each family member to listen to the story with fresh ears and be ready to share what impressed them as the story is read. Questions can include: If you were God, how would you have made your entrance to planet Earth? Discuss why you think God chose to show up as a baby in a stable?
4. Look up five Old Testament passages that foretell of Jesus’ coming. There are over 300 prophecies of His first advent in the Old Testament. You can find great lists by going to clarifyingchristianity.com or jewsforjesus.org. You may want to assign this as a weeklong project and discuss the results on a Sunday or “Family Night.” Talk about your findings, why they are important and how these prophecies set Jesus Christ apart from all religious leaders.
5. As a family, declare a “global holiday” for the One who made Christmas famous. Brainstorm how to celebrate His arrival and craft a press release from your family. Keep it simple or make it elaborate … your call, but after you complete the announcement, post it on social media and consider sending out an email to extended family and friends.
Optional: Get the kids involved in shooting a video, record it like a “Breaking News Alert.” Post it on social media and YouTube.
Another option: organize and videotape a “Quiz Show: Who Made Christmas Famous?” Have some fun with it, but in the end disclose the One who is the founder and introduce Him (and the gospel) to your audience.
6. Make a list of the Names of Jesus in Scripture from Isaiah and Luke:Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6), Eternal Father (Isaiah 9:6), Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7), Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23), Jesus (Matthew 1:20-21), Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11), and Savior (Luke 2:11). Discuss what each of those names mean then take turns making a personal application. If appropriate, ask each family member to pick their favorite name and explain why they chose it. Close your time in prayer with each person giving Jesus thanks for one of His Names.
7. Make your Christmas tree a “Jesus tree.” Only decorate your tree with ornaments that celebrate the names of Jesus … no Santas, reindeers, candy canes, snowflakes or snowmen, no Barbie doll or Spider-man or Harry Potter ornaments. Just ornaments that declare Jesus’ names. You can even make some homemade ornaments to add to ones you already have. If you wish, check out the Christmas Collection at EverThineHome.com for ornaments Barbara created for families to use.
8. Brainstorm seven new names for Jesus that are true of Him but are not named in Scripture. You may want to make this an assignment everyone does over two or three days, then create a list together.
Here’s my list:
Light of Life (John 8:12)
Lighthouse (Revelation 21:24)
Heaven’s Gate (John 14:6)
Path Finder (John 14:6)
Life Giver (John 3:16, 6:35)
Promise Keeper (2 Peter 3:8-10)
Gift Giver (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Have fun creating a list which everyone contributes to, anchoring each Name in Scripture if possible.
Ask each person to pick their fave and share why they selected it.
9. After church one Sunday or at dinner one evening, ask each family member to share an example of how Jesus has been at work in their life in 2020. This has been such a difficult year for so many people, and it’s good for us to remember that God blesses us even in the midst of hardship and challenges. You may want to give them the question earlier in the week … some family members may need time to process the question.
10. Pick a week in December to ask people outside your home the question: “Do you know the One who made Christmas famous?” They should be people you interact with … in stories, at school, in the neighborhood, at work, or online. Ask the question, then pause and let them answer. Have a copy of Josh McDowell’s book, More Than a Carpenter, to give them or share how you came to faith in Christ.
Ask family members to report back their person’s response.
Next week: A bonus idea!
Stay tuned … and don’t forget the One who made Christmas famous!
Special thanks to Mark Bailey, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, who helped sent me documents and links to online information on messianic prophecies. Mark also sent me a “Birth Certificate for Jesus” that he created. Click here to download it.
*Used by permission of Dr. Mark Bailey.
Jesus' Gospel Story Collection
3 sets of 4 ornaments. Each ornament is made of metal, individually packaged for easy gift giving and will last a lifetime.
Our twelve names of Jesus ornaments will help you tell your family the gospel story at Christmas. This year and every year!
His Advent Names - ON SALE!
Advent, means “His Coming”. Make it more meaningful as you hang our 4 globes and remember ‘for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’ (John 3:16). Place one each week of Advent or all at once when you decorate your tree. These messages, “Jesus is the Son”, “Jesus is the Messenger”, “Jesus is the Word” and “Jesus is the Light” with corresponding verses on each side of the globe remind us just how special the Christmas season is.
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