Lead the Lessons

Leading the lessons is where all your hard work pays off. 

Now if you’ve never done this kind of thing in your family before it might be awkward at first.  Practice makes perfect.  Don’t give up.  Remember the goal:  A closer family, happy memories, spiritual growth–simply put, Nailing Christmas.  

Make it fun, not dull.  Include something special:  cookies & cocoa; or dad wears a Santa hat; or whoever is speaking in the meeting gets to hold a candy cane (for all you active listening advocates).  Whatever will work in your family to help everyone stay engaged.

SAMPLE LESSON AGENDA: 

  • Call the family meeting (announce everyone should bring a Bible) 

  • Begin with prayer.  Honestly ask God to accomplish what you hope to accomplish.  But keep it short so little ones don’t associate prayer with lectures or boredom. 

  • Explain you are doing something new.  Explain why.  Explain your Christmas theme for the year.   

  • Read the scripture.  Involve others. Allow them to read it.  Ask for input if anyone’s version says it differently.  Clarify anything people might have questions about.  Allow questions but don’t allow rabbit trails.  Pro Tip:  You don’t have to have all the answers.  If you don’t know or understand something yourself, just admit it.  Tell your kids you will ask one of your Bible teachers/pastors/mentors and get back to them. 

  • Optional: Lead the creative time.
  • Optional:  Set expectations.  
    • We had kids memorize the verses and recite them to us on Christmas Eve for a special present.  If you do this, then provide lots of opportunities to practice so that you set them up for success.
    • Another idea is set a kindness goal:  how many neighbors you want to give cookies; how many gifts you want to make for teachers/coaches; how many soldiers overseas you want to send a card; how many toys you want to donate to Toys for Tots, etc.  If you can think of a way to tie it to your theme—even better.
  • Optional:  Theme Ornaments.  I bought theme ornaments for each of our themes.  Each of the kids received one in turn and I usually got myself one too!  I imagine these will be lifelong reminders of the heritage of faith from their home.  I may be kidding myself but I imagine it!

Imagine Creative Ways To Teach

I understand that creativity is not everyone’s strength.  So when I say the next step is to imagine creative ways to teach the theme what I really mean is: Google. 

First, decide on a method that will work best for your family.  If the thought of a gallon of glitter spilled on your carpet makes your blood pressure soar, then your version of creativity shouldn’t include sparkly crafts.  

We were not always very imaginative.  Very often we simply talked together with no special activity at all. The important thing is that you get your family communicating about spiritual things.  But if you can plan ahead to do it in a way that they will be more likely to remember it later on–that is a definite plus.

There are so many resources for ideas online to creatively teach lessons to kids of all ages—even teenagers.   Use them!

  • Sunday School lesson plans
  • Homeschool Bible lesson plans
  • Crafts
  • Science Projects
  • Movie Clips
  • Family Ministry websites like Focus on the Family
  • Student Ministry websites like YouthMinistry.com
  • Make something up!

For our theme on LIGHT,  I wish we would have thought of something like this: 

Genesis 1:3  Have everyone sit around the table.  Ask everyone to close their eyes and/or rest their eyes on their arms so all the light is blocked out.  Talk about blindness and how for some people that is how everything appears. Darkness all the time.  Talk about things that would be missed if we couldn’t see them:  sunsets, flowers, snowflakes, Christmas lights.  For older kids: Obstacles that would cause danger.  Words on a page to read.  Musical notes on a score to play.  The television, our pets, our loved ones.   While they are still in the dark,  place a surprise of some sort in front of them:  a $1 coin,  a cupcake, a hot wheels car, or simply a phrase on a note like “Bowling tonight 🙂.” Talk about the Bible verse from Genesis.  Discuss how amazing it is that all God had to do was say the words and POOF! He gave us one of our greatest gifts—the gift of light by which we can see all the other good gifts.  One by one let everyone open their eyes and see the good gift in front of them. (Pro Tip for dads:  “Foot massage” or “I do dishes tonight” will definitely be considered a good gift if mom opens her eyes to something like that!) 

John 8:12  Sit in a dark room (make it as pitch dark as possible.)  Gather the kids around you and tell them there are _____ number of things hidden in the room (stuffed animals, cans of soda, candy bars, dollar bills etc.)  Tell them they are free to go looking for them (but make it too difficult even for older kids to find any—maybe they are up too high and wouldn’t be found with searching hands).  Little kids won’t even want to venture far from mom or dad.  Then call everyone back to the couch or table.  With the room still dark, give everyone a flashlight.  Allow them to search without even moving around and show how it is possible with the light but was impossible without it.  Discuss the ways that Jesus helps us see things more clearly (depending on the age and understanding of your kids you will talk about more concrete things (how to share with friends, how to obey) and move into more abstract concepts as your kids get older (how to put God first, how to serve).  Being able to follow Jesus is only possible because he brings the light to our path. 

The next and final step is also the most fun:  It’s when you get to actually lead your family through a Christmas Family Meeting.

Add Supporting Verses

After you choose a theme you are going to want to ADD Bible verses to help support your theme. If you are not already using a Bible app on your phone, download one today!  I recommend YouVersion or Blue Letter Bible.  These will help you in your search for verses containing a certain word.  Otherwise simply searching the internet for “Bible verses about…” should provide you with ample material.

You may also pick verses you already have memorized or that you would personally like to memorize.  Or you may want to offer an extra reward if your children memorize them. This is a great opportunity to hide more of God’s word in your heart.

Choose a Bible version that is suitable to your child’s reading level. Look at the following familiar Christmas verse. Notice the difference in wording between these two popular versions:

  • OKAY: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (KJV).
  • BETER: Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord (NET).

The year that our theme was LIGHT, we chose two very basic and simple verses (because our children were very small). We wanted to capitalize on the fact that one of the first things children learn about in the Bible is creation–and God first created light.  Secondly we wanted to make sure they understood that Jesus shines light in our world.

  • Genesis 1:3 “And God said, “Let there be light.”
  • John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.”

Next we get to do our homework as parents before the first meeting…

Nail Down a Theme

Our theme in 2017 was Peace.

Nailing Christmas first step is to NAIL down your family’s theme for this year.  This can be a word, a phrase, a Bible character. With young children, I recommend very simple, tangible, concrete themes.  As your kids get older, feel free to choose more abstract concepts.  

The simplest approach for beginning is to just think about traditional Christmas words and themes:

  • Lights
  • Angels
  • Shepherds
  • Wise Men
  • Stars

Does any idea jump out at you? What do you think would be fun to teach your children?  What are your interests? 

A second way to pick out a theme is to consider the State Of the Family.  Is there a particular truth they need to have reinforced this Christmas? 

For example, in 2017, there was a lot of strife in our household.  This was very unusual for us and we felt like it was important for our family to rally around the idea of Peace–not the subjective notion of heavenly peace–simply peace as in the absence of war!

What are some ways your family needs to be discipled this year?

  • Peace (we are fighting a lot…or worrying too much)
  • Love (we have just been selfish or mean lately)
  • Waiting (we need to learn how to be patient or focus on praying)
  • Generosity (we have been too greedy or discontent)

Finally, is there something about this year that is particularly unique that you would like to capture?  This could be anything from a major family change to a fun new movie you all want to see together.  There are spiritual truths that can be taught from every good story and from every major life event.  Maybe use your Christmas theme to capture exactly what your family was doing in this particular year.

  • Adoption (God adopts us into His family)
  • Moving (Several people in the Bible had to pick up and move–including Mary just before delivering Jesus)
  • The latest superhero movie (Talk about God’s power and spiritual gifts)

The first year we did this our children were very small (6, 4, 2 and 2). The first theme we chose was LIGHTS. Lights are everywhere at Christmas. And lights for little children are one of the best and most exciting parts of Christmas—making emphasizing the theme throughout the week really easy. Conveniently, light is a constant theme in the Bible especially in the Gospels so there are plenty of verses you can use. 

Deciding a Christmas theme does not need to stress you out.  The Bible is full of rich teaching on a multitude of topics.  Next we will build on the theme you’ve chosen.

https://lorettabushlack.wordpress.com/2018/12/17/add-supporting-verses/Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Please Don’t Ask Me to Simplify Christmas

I understand the ways that a busy Christmas season can bring fatigue and frustration to many people.  But I actually find joy in the:

 “presents! The ribbons! The wrappings! The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

First, a little background about me: well actually about me and my husband. We did not grow up celebrating Christmas. We were each raised in a church denomination that taught that since Christmas has pagan origins it should not be observed by true Christians.

What this means for me is that by the time I was pregnant with our firstborn and no longer under that church teaching I had pent-up a lifetime’s worth of Christmas love and emotion and affection and passion and…obsession! My husband—not so much—but he lets me be. He hauls my bins of decor in and out of our storage room for me with a smile. 

I don’t want to miss another moment of decorating, baking, sending cards, going to parties, shopping for friends and family. I love it all.  Although I am not interested in “Simplifying Christmas”–when it comes to worshiping Christ, I am interested in “Nailing Christmas.”

So as we raised our family amidst all the “trappings” that can be distractions, we knew we would have to be intentional about making Jesus the central focus of our annual Christmas season. As parents we are often not very consistent with many of our good intentions (maybe you can relate). But since this approach to Christmas is so simple and so meaningful we have been doing it consistently for 15 years. 

How have we nailed Christmas year after year?   

Every year, we choose a theme and use it as a framework for our Christmas celebration.  We always build on top of Jesus as our foundation but we create a new theme each year.  We then lead one “Christmas Family Meeting” a week for four weeks leading up to Christmas. 

Traditionally, the season of looking forward to Christmas coming, called Advent is a four-week celebration.  We had four kids so it worked well for us to have four meetings during those four weeks.  At the conclusion of each meeting, one of our kids would receive a small gift (we did an ornament).  Four is not a magic number, it just worked for us.  You could do this for two weeks or three weeks or ten weeks (but I don’t recommend that!).

Discipleship (teaching someone how to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus) is an overwhelming idea at first.  It never feels like you are ready to do the teaching.  But by concentrating on one central Christmas theme, it has made our practice of family discipleship during Advent clear and focused.  It has given us a simple framework to have conversations about spiritual truths any time, any place .

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

We want to share with you how we did these lessons, what some of our theme ideas were throughout the years, and ultimately what this has meant to our kids now that they are grown. 

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Family Assessment and Brainstorm

Before we get started on the specific steps in Nailing Christmas, use the following questions to assess how Christmas is currently going in your household.  This small step of preparation will help you be even more intentional in your Christmas focus.

Does your family have a Christmas fanatic?  If so, who is it? (You want to get this person’s buy in!)

What is your favorite thing about Christmas? (Build on this.)

Do you have a Christmas non-negotiable? (Don’’t mess with this.)

What frustrates you about Christmas? (Work on reducing or eliminating this.)

On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you with talking to your kids about Jesus?  (Do you need improvement?)

On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are you praying with your family? (Would you like to be stronger?)

As you look back over this year, is there a word or a phrase that comes to mind?  (Can you think of any Christmas-y spin on that?)

As you pray for discernment, can you think of any spiritual need your family might have this year?  (Can you create a Christmas theme around this?) 

What do you think has kept your family from NAILING CHRISTMAS?  (Be specific.)

What would NAILING CHRISTMAS look like in your family this year? (Be specific.)

Click here to continue with the next in the Nailing Christmas series.

Born to die

I wanted to blog weekly during the month of December so I could get the content of our Nailing Christmas class into the hands of interested parents.  But I just couldn’t.  There were dark days and hard truths to face first.

My nephew Samuel was born straight into the arms of Jesus on November 26, 2018.  It wasn’t unexpected. He was diagnosed early in the pregnancy with an extremely rare, fatal birth defect.  But still the loss of him hurts deeply and raises so many unanswerable questions. Why must a baby be destined to die?

Maybe it’s a leap but that makes me think of Christmas. The notion that an infant would be born to die is terrifying and incomprehensible–but that is exactly what Jesus came to do.  Isn’t it offensive and insensitive in the face of real grief to celebrate with joy the birth of another doomed innocent? This was God’s idea? How could that be the plan?  How could that possibly be for the best?

And are we even allowed to ask these questions?

God knew it was for the best because he understood our desperation. He knew we were utterly hopeless without Him. Destined to so much misery. Destined to die. All of us. 

Apart from God, we trudge on in this world, foolishly denying our sin and ignoring the unavoidable grave… Until someone we love meets their inevitable end.  Then we startle a bit and rage at God and the world for a while and then go back to our comfortable, willful blindness and charge headlong again toward the destiny of all mankind.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:2

I was surprised this week when I was reminded that even in the middle of our beloved Christmas scriptures we have a paragraph heading: “Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).” DEATH IS EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t discriminate: Rich or poor, young or old, it’s coming. It is our universally cruel, unquenchable, unstoppable enemy.

But there’s good news!  And it has to do with Baby Jesus, born to die–not only just like all of us–but for all of us.  The Enemy that has been swallowing up our loved ones for millennia needed to be defeated.  And only the perfect Creator of Life himself would be powerful enough to accomplish that. God–our loving Father–chose a terrible destiny for His Son in order to rescue us from ours.  Jesus overcame the grave. He conquered death for us. He is the way to life after death! He told us he was going to do it. He did it. And then he raised from the grave to prove it!  

That is something worth celebrating even in our darkest days. So Merry Christmas!

I apologize if this seems like too morbid a post for the holidays.  But I know many people find it difficult to have a holly jolly Christmas because they are deeply sad or grieving.  I hope it helped to discuss death, grief, and hope in the context of Christmas and the victory that Jesus won for us because he was willing to be born to die.  

(1) Did you know that just 100 years ago, ten percent of babies in the United States died before age one (100 per 1000 live births). In 2016 that rate had fallen to under 6 per 1000!  Thank God that this tragedy is befalling fewer and fewer families all the time.  (Source: cdc.gov).