Teaching Your Kids to Keep Christ in Christmas

Written by Sherri Bergmann

According to the internet, Christmas is ranked as the #1 most popular and biggest holiday celebrated nationally, and around the world.

Towns, cities, shopping plazas, and homes are lit ablaze with twinkling lights and decorations as soon as Thanksgiving is over, heralding in the busiest shopping time of the year and a merriment of festivities.

For some, Christmas isn’t about Christ, but for others, Christ is the reason for the season. Even Christians get caught up in the stress of gift shopping, decorating, baking, and attending gatherings, and the children get distracted with Santa Claus, presents, and the excitement radiating everywhere. It is easy to lose the true focus of the excitement – the birth of Christ our King.

To help our children refocus on the true meaning of Christmas, Foothills Church pastors share how they keep Christ real with their family now, and as their children were growing up.

Tips to keeping Christ in Christmas:

Sam & Britt Parsons

  • Rather than doing Elf on a Shelf, we are going to do something based off that concept, and call it “follow the star”. Each day we’ll move the star to a new place and each day the kids each take their nativity scene wise man and find the star then put the wise men there. Then on Christmas morning, we’ll put the star above the manger scene. All the while, reviewing the Christmas story. We put the nativity scene under the Christmas tree because Jesus is our real everlasting gift!
  • We walk through the Christmas story using the Nativity scene.
  • We do an advent calendar each year.
  • We have also done a "Birthday for Jesus" where we blew out birthday candles for Jesus. 
  • Kids Christmas Choir is also great because we get to talk about what the words mean.

Brian & Cindy Long

  • We read the Christmas story from the Bible. When the kids were younger, we had a Children’s Bible Story book and we’d read the Christmas story passages from that, which the kids loved. 
  • We had some other Christmas story kids’ books that we would read during the season. 
  • Every year we did an advent calendar that had a scripture tied to each day of the month leading up to Christmas. The kids loved this and took turns each day reading the scripture. This allowed for natural conversations about the miracle of what God did when He sent his son to earth for us! This helped focus on Jesus’ birthday at Christmas and downplay the gifts aspect that culture pushes.
  • We watched some Christmas movies that pointed to the Christmas story, like Charlie Brown Christmas. My kids were a little older when The Nativity Story movie came out, but we watched that as a family when it did.
  • We always referred to to Santa as “Daddy Santa” and “Mommy Santa” so the kids knew from the beginning that we were the gift buyers and not a mythical Santa Claus. We watched every Santa movie, though, and the kids never felt like they missed out on the magic of Santa. We would hide most of their gifts leading up to Christmas and would then bring them all out after they went to bed on Christmas Eve. The kids still left milk and cookies out for Daddy and Mommy Santa .

Dillon & Kristin Barber

  • Over the years we have used different advent calendars and readings of scripture to prepare our hearts, and our kids, for Christmas. 
  • The storybook Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide has become one of my favorites. This was given to me by some of our Missionary Partners in Spain and was a real treat for our kids when they were in the ages of 6-10. Jotham is a fictional character, a shepherd boy who goes on a perilous journey that ends on Christmas in Bethlehem when Jesus is born. Along the way he meets many friends and allies that are part of the New Testament story, and each character points him toward faith in God and hope for the coming Messiah. It is well written, full of scripture passages and includes some guided discussions. We love it and recommend it for any family with young (but not too young) kids.  

Phil & Nancy Christiansen

  • Deliberate focus on the birth of Jesus as the reason for Christmas.
  • We invited our children into the “Santa Club” (knowing all the details of Santa (wink)) so they could understand Santa’s popularity in our culture without making Christmas all about Santa. The sweet part about the “Santa Club” is that only parents can invite their children into the club. So, our kids were not responsible to tell all the other kids what they had learned.
  • Gifts are thoughtful and modest, and are intended to be reminders of the Greatest Gift – Jesus, the One we are celebrating. We would remind the kids that at most birthday parties, gifts were given to one being celebrated. And, at Christmas, we exchange gifts as reminders of the ‘Wise Guys’ who brought gifts to Jesus.
  • We still read The Real 12 Days of Christmas by Helen Haidle. It’s the story behind the song. Most people don’t cherish singing “The 12 Days of Christmas," but the book helps reframe the repetition and brings clarity to each of the gifts “My true love” gave on the different days.
  • We read the Christmas narrative from Luke.
  • When the kids were smaller, we read Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wangerin Jr. and Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado.
  • As part of Advent, at dinner each night we read one (short) chapter from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Each chapter is kind of a daily devotion, and each has a unique paper cut-out that is a reminder of the chapter’s focus. We hang each little cut-out on a tiny, tabletop Christmas tree. As the nights go by, the tree becomes more and more full of reminders of the Greatest Gift.

Doug & Katie McNett

  • We start Christmas morning with Luke 2 (the birth story) before doing anything else. As the kids got older, we let them read it, and began talking more about what Christ’s birth means. 
  • We now also jump into Revelation and talk about the significance of the return and what it means to be secure in Christ because of His birth, and what he came and did for us. 

As you get caught up in the excitement of the season of gathering with friends and loved ones, of gift-giving because giving gifts is giving love, the natural beauty winter brings, and the holiday decorations, remember who it is you are really excited about – the gift of God himself who came to earth to be with us.

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