The answer is a resounding, "No!" That dusty old story, handed down through the centuries, loved by millions, is more than just a story to be told to your child. It's an anchor for his soul. It puts meaning into all the chaos. It whispers in your child's ear at night that Jesus was born as a baby just like he was. It makes Jesus someone your child can relate to. Your son or daughter can imagine Him as a baby, then as a child growing up. Telling the biblical Christmas story allows the Christ-child to be his Jesus, not just his parents' or pastor's.
So how do you get across this all-important story to a child? Here are some ideas for teaching the true meaning of Christmas:
- Purchase a kid-friendly nativity scene. It can be made of plastic, fabric, or anything else that won't break. Encourage your child to hold the baby and move the characters around. There is no "right" place for each one to be. Help him to understand this isn't just another toy. It's special and should be treated with love and respect, just like the Bible is more special than any other book.
- "Tell" the Christmas story with the nativity scene. Put only Joseph and Mary in the stable at first. On Christmas Eve, let your kids put the baby in the manger. Then let them arrange the angel and the shepherds. Wait to put the wise men in the scene until after Christmas since they didn't likely arrive until later, perhaps even as much as three or four years later! Or let your children act out the story with the nativity characters as you read it from an easy-to-understand Bible version or a children's storybook.
- Provide simple costumes and props (bathrobes, scarves, towels, baby doll, stuffed animals) and have your children put on a play of the first Christmas.
- Have your children create their own storybooks telling the Christmas story using their own words and illustrations.
- Make a birthday cake for Jesus and decorate the house for a birthday party.
- Talk to your children about what gifts they can give Jesus for His birthday, then place them under the Christmas tree. What would make Jesus happy?
- Go outside at night and look at the stars. Talk about how the wise men followed a special star to find Jesus after He was born.
Another way to teach your children the true meaning of Christmas is to hold a shepherd's dinner. I'll explain how to do this in next week's post. In the meantime, keep looking for teachable moments and ways to point your children to Jesus at this hectic time of year. As the angels told the shepherds that night, "Fear not!" Your kids will get the important message of Jesus' birth if the message is important to you!