Thankful Christmas

It was like a wrapping paper blizzard. It already covered the floor. It didn’t stop. Tearing, ripping, throwing and moving on. In that moment I knew our family Christmas had taken a wrong turn. It felt like we were ripping through each present without gratitude or any sense that someone had generously given it to us.

Every family does Christmas differently. My wife’s family would open their presents at the kitchen table, each opening one gift at a time. I found it a bit intense (particularly the moment her Mum held up her new knickers!) We grew up with all of us opening our presents at the same time. It worked for us.

I am so grateful to my parents for how they made sure we remembered more than our presents - inviting Mum’s lonely cousin to join us for the day, taking lunch to the elderly Christian couple up the road, finishing Christmas Day by praying with me before I collapsed in a heap at bedtime. I want our Christmas to be about the birth of Christ.

I want our thankfulness and joy to linger beyond the end of our Christmas Day church service. I want our celebration to feel more like the first Christmas.

Mary had her world tipped upside down, but she still sang, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart is happy because God is my Saviour”. (Luke 1:46-47)

I feel like I can hear the laughter of the bemused yet excited shepherds, returning to their sheep, “praising God and thanking him for everything that they had seen and heard.” (Luke 2:20)

The Wise men had travelled for weeks, only for the star to take them to a toddler in a backwater town. Instead of taking their presents home with them, disappointed by their final destination, they threw themselves to the floor in worship, laying their gifts at his little grubby feet. (Matthew 2:11)

I wrote The Adventure of Christmas to help families feel part of that first Christmas. In a 10 minute family Bible time each day from 1st-25th December, we can discuss, wonder and imagine our way through Luke and Matthew’s brilliant accounts. If we can stand in fear with Mary as Gabriel appears, join with the shepherds peering into the manger and finish Christmas worshipping Immanuel with the wise men, then we will have served our children very well indeed. There will still be moments of frustration and anti-climax, because - even at Christmas - we are still the sinners Christ came to save. Yet we are also still the parents our children need.

Think creatively, start traditions and join the adventure. When the children jump on your bed on Christmas Day morning, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus or pray thanking God for his son’s birth. Before you finish eating the largest meal of the year ask each person to thank God for their favourite part of the Christmas story. After you’ve opened every package and the wrapping paper blizzard is starting to settle, thank God for one person who has shown you love by celebrating Jesus' birth with a present.

Before you get lost in the panic, excitement, shopping and vegetable peelings just check that there will be a few fixed points in your Christmas that encourage your children – and the whole family - to live the adventure of Christmas with thankful hearts. 

A longer version of this article appeared here.

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