Christmas is almost here, and amidst the hustle and bustle, all of us Christian parents are concerned with one thing — making sure our kids remember that Christmas is about Jesus!
I know I can’t be the only one who sometimes feels like this is an uphill battle. With the shine of new toys and the sparkle of all the Christmas festivities, how can we help our children keep at the forefront of their minds that all this celebrating is really for Jesus?
My kids are still young, and I think it can be both easier and harder to impress these truths on them in the preschool years. Easier, because they are so eager to soak up everything parents say. Harder, because explaining that God became a human baby, born in Bethlehem, so that one day He could die on the cross to save us from our sins and then rise again – that is a daunting concept to explain to a young child who only remembers that at Christmas we get presents.
So where should we start as we try to teach our kids about the true meaning of Christmas in a way that a young child can understand? I think we need to understand one thing first:
Learning about Christmas is a year-round activity.
Don’t reserve the explanations about Christmas for December. Teaching our children about Jesus is something we can do every day of the year! We can start laying the foundation for the truth for our kids from the time they are able to speak and understand. And, as we begin to lay that foundation, it forms a framework for the truth of Christmas when we bring out the nativity scenes in December.
We may think our children are too young to understand the mystery of God becoming a man, and surely that is partially true that it will be years before they can fully grasp the magnitude of such profound theology, but they are never too young to start learning about it.
There are a few things that I try to remind my kids of throughout the year.
- I tell them that Jesus is God.
- I explain that Jesus came to die in our place for our sins and then He came back to life.
- I emphasize that Jesus came because He loves us and wants to save us.
- And during this season I especially remind them that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday.Even very young kids understand the concept of birthdays, and hopefully by Christmas time they have already heard enough about Jesus during the year that celebrating His birthday is a natural concept. That leads to the next task.
Make Jesus’s birthday the focus of your Christmas celebration!
Amidst presents, feasts, parties, and Santa, it takes a little extra effort to remind our young kids that all this is for Jesus’s birthday. Even as an adult I need the reminder sometimes! I think kids at this young age really respond well to concrete symbols that they can see and touch. Here are a couple ideas:
1. Buy a Nativity scene that they can play with.
Find a Nativity scene meant for kids, or one that is hard to break, and let your kids hold the pieces or play out the story. There are several options in the marketplace that are great for little ones — wood, plastic, cardboard. Better yet, play out the story with them in addition to reading it from a book!
2. Actually celebrate Christmas as a birthday.
I know some families who bake Jesus a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Him as a way to remind their kids that Christmas is about His birth. We haven’t done this in our family yet because I haven’t been able to get my act together enough to bake a cake, but I love this idea and can’t wait to introduce birthday cake into our family tradition!
3. Read the story of Jesus’ birth before the flurry of presents.
We try to do this many times during December, but telling the story of Christ’s birth one more time before presents is a great opportunity to remind our little ones that Jesus and our salvation by grace through faith in Him is our greatest gift. If you can’t do this on Christmas morning, try to make time on Christmas Eve! You can read the story directly out of the Bible, and you can add in a picture book that tells the story of Christ’s birth in a creative way too. Itsy Bitsy Christmas by Max Lucado is an adorable book that will appeal to little ones. It tells the story of two mice who search all over Bethlehem for the King and then finally find Him in the manger. This book would be a great jumping off point to explain to kids that Jesus came in order to save anyone who asks Him to forgive their sins and puts their faith in Him.
It takes intentional effort to keep the focus on Jesus’ birth when the world of Christmas festivities seems bound and determined to take our attention away from Him. Kids and adults alike struggle with this! But I think the hearts of young kids especially are so open to the truth of the Gospel at Christmas time. A little effort to make Jesus’ birthday more real to them goes a long way.
What other ideas do you have for explaining Jesus’s birth in a way young kids can understand? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!