It’s that wonderful time of the year again when our home are filled with the scents of cinnamon and pine and the twinkly lights give off a familiar, joyful glow. For the redeemed children of God, this season is marked by more than warm feelings and family get togethers–it is a time to celebrate our Heavenly Father sending his Holy Son, so that we could be adopted into his family! More than anything I want to take advantage of Christmastime and share the wonderful truth of the incarnation of Christ with my little boys. I want for them to be caught up in this magical (and praise God real) event rather than the imaginary and at times frivolous stories of Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
One of the practical and oh-so-fun ways we try to direct their attention to the miraculous birth of Christ during this season is by filling our home and their imaginations with special Christmas picture books that make an appearance only once a year. As I unpack all of our Christmas decorations and prepare for the month of December I also pull out a (growing) collection of story books that focus–in various ways–on our Savior and the true reason we celebrate Christmas.
Before December 1st I will individually wrap each of these books and place them in a basket to be opened throughout the days leading up to Christmas. It is a sort of “Advent Book” tradition, except that we don’t have 25 books yet, so we just open them until they are all gone. Each day the boys excitedly run to the basket to see what book they will unwrap. It doesn’t matter that most of the books are repeats from previous years; what matters is that they love revealing the surprise underneath the beautiful paper and then sitting with Mommy and Daddy to indulge in some storybook time! As the days in December grow, we have more books to read from and I make sure not to turn them down when they ask to read the same book multiple times in one day–after all, it will only be out this one time of the year! Each year I try to add to our collection so that there are one or two new books to look forward to, but part of the fun is to revisit old friends that have been tucked away for the past 11 months!
So why is this a tradition that is Christ-centered and how does it help our children cultivate a Christ-centered Christmas? It wouldn’t if the books we chose to wrap up were simply winter books. If each new book they unwrapped was about snow or Christmas bells or jolly old Saint Nick it would be a fun tradition that we all enjoyed and looked forward to every year, but it wouldn’t be of real spiritual benefit to them. On the other hand, if we fill this time of the year with beautifully illustrated retellings of the Savior’s birth, of the gift he is to the nations, of the way that his coming into the world transformed it and transforms his people, then we create a marvelous opportunity to direct their hearts and minds to the Christ whom we celebrate at Christmas! The books we choose to incorporate into this celebration are not necessarily all nativity books, but they are all books that focus on Jesus in some way or another. In this way we purposefully and repetitively remind them of the God we are seeking to worship through all our Christmas traditions. In this way our family celebrates a distinctively Christian Christmas.
There are many ways you can begin this tradition with your children and not “break the bank” so to speak. If you have absolutely no Christmas books, then consider investing in four good books this first year and opening one book a week during the month of December. In the months leading up to next Christmas add a few “new” books to your collection by shopping at Half-Priced Books or by ordering used ones through Amazon.com. Also, make use of the books in your local library–just make sure to unwrap them early enough to be able to enjoy before their due date! If, like us your collection is growing, but you still don’t have 25 books, you can either open books toward the beginning of the month or use them to count down until the 25th. If you open them beginning on the 1st you will have more time to enjoy each book, <em>but</em> if you use them to count down the days until Christmas, you can use them in a more typical advent fashion and perhaps open a new book every year on Christmas day. If you don’t know where to start or are looking for some new books to add to your collection, be sure to stop by Desiring Virtue to see five of our family’s favorites!
I pray that your family will have a joyful Christmas celebration this year and that the Savior will be glorified through our purposefully Christ-centered traditions! Merry Christmas!