6 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Christmas

** The following article was copied from www.allprodad.com.

“Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.” – Linus

How many of us have felt like Charlie Brown about Christmas? Creator Charles Schultz was onto something long before it became the reality it is today. The birth of Jesus has become more about greed, consumerism, and a jolly fat man in red. Charlie’s sister, Sally, sums it up pretty nicely when she demands, “All I want is what I have coming to me…all I want is my fair share!” Christmas has turned into an entitlement.

The birth of Jesus represents the hope of mankind. “Born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” the Angel of the Lord proclaimed. This purpose of this article is not to say it is wrong to celebrate Christmas in the cultural way we do, but don’t miss the true meaning. To help with how to go about doing that, here are 6 meaningful ways to celebrate Christmas:

1. Advent Countdown

Ordinarily, we may give our children a small gift in the 24 days of December leading up to Christmas Day or perhaps small candies. You may want to craft an advent countdown of scripture verses that explain to the kids who Christ is and what he represents such as John 3:16. However, a little candy will probably go over well too.

2. Christ in the Center of the Family

The birth of Christ is our pathway to unification with the Creator. Without him, we are separated from God. This Christmas season begin the process of putting Christ in the center of your family or work to strengthen that reality. One way to do this is to hold a family bible discussion each day during the season. Pick a part of the Christmas story and create a dialogue with your children.  You may want to read to them about the journey of Joseph and Mary on the way to Bethlehem. Discuss how our own lives parallel that rocky and dangerous trek but, with the protection and  blessing of God in our lives, we will successfully fulfill our purpose.

3. Service Based on Scripture

In his words and actions, Jesus stressed over and over the importance of the body to serve. John 13:12-14 – “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Go serve people.

4. Silent Worship at the Altar

Before the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve service hits your church, ask for permission. Perhaps create a special night for a silent altar worship during the week before Christmas Day. Take with you a single candle to light, and kneel before God in prayer and humbleness. Give each member of your family their own candle and keep it completely silent.

5. Reconcile our Relationships

God came to us in human form to reconcile our relationship with him. His birth, death, and resurrection represent this reconciliation in the person of Jesus Christ. Consider doing the same in your own relationships this Christmas season. Reconcile with and forgive those that have hurt you and, for those that you have hurt, seek forgiveness by sincere apology. Nothing could be more Christ-like at Christmas.

6. Family Prayer

This is the easiest and most purposeful way to celebrate Christmas this year. Lead your family in prayer every night and end with the Lord’s Prayer as we were taught to do by Christ. Have your children recite it with you until they know it. Merry Christmas!

© 2014 All Pro Dad. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.

Christmas and the G-Word

** The following article was copied from www.theparentcue.org.

Hi. My name is Carey, and I’m greedy. (This is the point where you all say, “Hi Carey.”)

Gosh, I hate to say it. I mean no one goes around and says they’re greedy, right? We might think otherpeople are greedy (it’s just so easy to spot the sins of others, even from a distance), but it’s so difficult to see in ourselves.

But read this definition of greedy and tell me if at least a piece of it doesn’t own you—or your kids.

Greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

What makes this time of year difficult for greedy people is that we’re going to add to the pile of what we have that we arguably don’t need. There are things I want that I don’t need. And most of us are actually going to receive things that not only do we not need, but we do not want. In the incredibly affluent culture of North America, the problem of greed runs deep.

There’s a fine line we tread as parents in helping our kids celebrate Christmas. I still remember the almost delirious excitement I had as a child in being able to open gifts at Christmas. Let’s face it, what kid doesn’t love to get gifts at Christmas?

So, how do you make sure, as a parent, that you don’t inadvertently fuel greed in your family this Christmas?

I suppose there are a few options:

  • Don’t give presents.
  • Hand out coal.
  • Read from Deuteronomy and pretend its February.

But those are almost certain recipes to kill some of the joy that comes with Christmas.

In my experience, the very best antidote to greed I’ve discovered is generosity. The more I give, the deeper I cut into the greed that lives inside of me.

The more I am willing to take giving to a sacrificial level (to the point where we are not doing things as a family because we are giving income away), the more I am reminded that this life is not about me or about my wants and desire. By far, generous giving is the best antidote to the greed that lives inside of me.

As Christmas approaches, ask yourself this question: what am I doing to stifle greed in my family this Christmas? Maybe you could:

  • Sponsor a family in need.
  • Serve in a local mission over the holidays.
  • Talk to your kids about how you as a family have decided to give first, save second, and live on the rest.
  • Make sure giving is part of your full year—your weekly practice—rather than just a seasonal pursuit.
  • Work with your kids to incorporate giving as part of their regular rhythm.

All I know is this: I’m greedy. And the best way I know to tackle that in my life is to give away a noticeable portion of the things that God has given me.

What helps you wrestle down greed in your life and in your family?

Three Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Miss Christmas

** The following was copied from theparentcue.org.

Christmas is about 7 minutes long when you have kids.

One minute it’s Thanksgiving and the next you’re putting away your ornaments.

Nothing moves as fast as the holidays and it’s no wonder that so many people find this time of year stressful. How do you make sure you make the most of your Christmas?

Here are three simple ways.


I’m terrible at being still. On Saturdays, I often ask my wife, “What are we doing today?” She’ll look up from a book or knitting and say, “This, this is what we’re doing. The kids are playing. You’ve built a fire. This is enough.” Maybe you over stuff your calendar like me, especially during Christmas. Well this year, do one less thing. Don’t try to fit it all in. Look at your list of activities and remove one. Leave some room around the edges of your calendar and give the rest of what you’ll do some breathing room.


Your phone isn’t just a phone, it’s also an escape pod. Whenever you want, it offers you the chance to mentally disappear from a moment. Part of the reason we miss the holidays is that we’re stuck on our devices. This year, be deliberate about taking a break. Leave it in a drawer. Put it back in your bedroom during a dinner party. Throw it in the glove compartment when you drive to grandma’s house. Something that small can make a big difference.


Sometimes, we speed through the holidays because we don’t have any traditions. A good tradition is like a speed bump. It slows you down and reminds you of years gone by. It pauses you and quiets the moment. It doesn’t have to be massive. One of ours is that we let our kids get up early on Christmas morning, but they have to wait at the top of the stairs before they come down. They think it’s torture but also secretly love the anticipation. That’s our tradition. What new one can you start?

 It will be January before you know it. The new year will be here and you’ll have a million things to do. Until then though, slow down. Laugh more. Take a deep breath. Relax a little bit.

God didn’t give us Christmas to make us crazy.

Don’t Miss The True Story of Christmas

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

There are certain times in the year that just go by faster than others.
Christmas is one of them.
There is so much going on from the time we clean up the turkey to when we take down the tree that if we’re not intentional, the big day can come and go and we will have missed the true story of Christmas.

How is that possible? How can a person be surrounded by Christmas and yet miss Christmas? I’m not exactly sure, but I managed to pull it off several years ago. Yes, there was a year when I honestly could not remember if I had stopped long enough to talk with my kids about the true story of Christmas.

My three kids were preschool and young elementary age at the time and my husband and I had our hands full working in a church plant. It really is a blur as I remember back to those days.

I organized the school Christmas party.
Bought the gifts.
Wrapped the gifts.
Watched the movies.
Cleaned the house.
Decorated the house.
Volunteered at church.
Donated the toys.
Hung the stockings.
Cooked the ham.
Baked the cookies.
Played the music.

And before I knew it, it was December 26th and time to take it all down.

When I realized what I had done—or in this case what I had not done— my heart was broken. I had let all the things of Christmas keep me from the most important part of Christmas—the only part that actually matters—Jesus.

Jesus is the true story of Christmas, and I had missed the opportunity of sharing Him with the ones I love most.

Before I put another decoration in a box, I grabbed our wooden nativity set and my Bible and asked my three kids to sit with me around our coffee table. Then I used the nativity figures to tell them the true story of Christmas.

Sure, it was days after Christmas, all of us in our pajamas with messy hair and unbrushed teeth, but for those sweet moments, we paused to reflect on God’s perfect gift to us. It was not a new story to them, but one worthy of repeating over and over until it is hidden deep in their hearts.

Thanks to that Christmas, I began to tap into a few traditions that would help me not miss what is most important, no matter how busy things get. Here are a few ideas that you might also want to consider to keep the real Christmas story alive this season:


I have one child who really connected with a live nativity when she was younger so we made it a tradition to go to a local Christmas light show that ends with a live nativity. We still visit and imagine what that night was like as we watch.


Part of our family Christmas tradition now is to make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve. It’s just a box cake mix, but decorating it, lighting a candle, and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus helps us remember who we are celebrating.


I have an assortment of Christmas books that focus on the true story of Christmas that I put out as part of my décor. Just having them out all season makes them more accessible for people to pick up and read. These are a few of my favorites:

B Is for Bethlehem: A Christmas Alphabet by Isabel Wilner (preschool and up)
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann VosKamp (great for a family of all ages)
The Christmas Story Board Book by Autumn Ward (toddlers and preschoolers)

And of course there’s the Bible. There’s just something special about opening the Bible and reading the Christmas story together. It can be a children’s Bible with pictures or a Bible laid open to the side while you use nativity figures to act out the story like I did.


There are many different versions of countdown-to-Christmas calendars. You can make your own, buy one, or find one online. We’ve created a free one that you can download below to help you share the story of God’s perfect gift: Each day leading up to Christmas, you can read a small portion of the Christmas story and do an activity together that reflects God’s generosity.

There are so many great ways to share the true story of Christmas with both older and younger kids. What’s one way you will focus on telling it this year?

WARNING: Christmas is Coming!

** This article was copied from thegospelcoalition.com.

It’s coming. The signs are already appearing, and you should consider yourself warned. Your family is about to be attacked. No, it won’t be the physical attack of terrorism, a hurricane, or a forest fire. No, this attack is much more subtle, seductive, and attractive, but infinitely more dangerous.

Your family is about to be attacked by a holiday season.

Maybe you’re thinking, What in the world is Paul Tripp talking about? Let me explain.

The Advent season is upon us. It should be a gloriously peaceful time of remembering God’s ultimate response to his lost and rebellious image-bearers. That response wasn’t to condemn, but to give the ultimate gift of grace—the gift of himself—in the person of his Son. But instead of a peaceful season of worship and celebration, Advent has devolved into a spiritual war with your family at the center.

I have no problem with beautiful decorations, family feasting, or giving gifts. The Christmas season can be a time when families gather again, renew relationships, and express love for one another. But I’m concerned because there is a war for which story will define our children’s beliefs about who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about.

There is a war for which story will define our children’s beliefs about who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about.

Every human being lives out of the meaning of some defining story. The Advent season has become a battle between two stories—one seductive and attractive, but fundamentally untrue; and the other deeply humbling, but what every person everywhere needs.


The “Christmas story” the surrounding culture tells our children puts them at the center, the place for God and God alone. It looks to creation for fulfillment rather than worship of the Creator. It makes physical pleasure our primary need rather than the rescuing intervention of the Redeemer. It’s dominated by the comforts of the moment rather than eternal priorities.

In every way, the story your children will hear over and over again during this season is dangerously wrong when it comes to who they are and what they need. It calls them to find comfort where comfort can’t be found, to place their hope in things that will never deliver, to think they can accomplish what only the Messiah can do.


But unlike this false “Christmas story,” the true “Advent Story” is humbling and unattractive. It’s a sad story about a world terribly broken by sin, populated by self-centered rebels who are willing participants in their own destruction. It’s about beings created to live for God but who in every way live for themselves. This story is about the dethroning of the Creator and the enthroning of his creation. It’s about conditions so desperate that God did the unthinkable, sending his Son to be the sacrificial Lamb of redemption. And why did Jesus come? Because we were so lost, so enslaved, so self-deceived that there simply was no other way.

You see, until your children hear and understand the bad news, the good news won’t be attractive to them. The news that Jesus came on a glorious mission of grace to live, die, and rise in our place is only worth celebrating when you understand it’s your only hope.


The battle of Advent isn’t about whether we should sing silly seasonal tunes versus gospel carols, or have worship times versus big family feasts. No, this war is about what story of identity, need, meaning, and purpose your children will believe and give their hearts to pursue.

Life really is a battle of stories, and the battle rages most fiercely when the true story is meant to be told most loudly.

Enjoy the gifts, the decorations, and the delicacies, but start preparing your family early this year for the battle to come by telling them the true story.

So enjoy the gifts, the decorations, and the delicacies, but start preparing your family early this year for the battle to come by telling them the true story. Before you begin to get distracted by all the traditions of holiday fun, take up the battle for the hearts of your children.


Here are five ways to help your children focus on the true Advent story:

  1. Start early. You can’t start early enough or tell the true story often enough, since the false story is everywhere to be heard. Don’t wait until Christmas Day to point your family to God’s Word.
  2. Tell the bad news. Protect your family from fake news by telling them of the bad news: their sin and separation from God. Good news isn’t good unless it’s prefaced with bad news, and redemption becomes beautiful when we understand the depth of our need.
  3. Warn them about the false story. Enjoy traditions and fun, but take opportunities to point out how and why the false story your children will hear again and again isn’t true.
  4. Present Jesus as the gift of gifts. Express love by giving gifts, but remind your children that creation can’t satisfy, and that our only hope is found in one Gift—the person, presence, work, and grace of Jesus.
  5. Embed the Advent story everywhere. The Advent season gives you a wonderful opportunity to help your children understand themselves and everything in their lives from the vantage point of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Advent story tells them who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about. This story is the only reliable way they will ever make sense out of the story of their individual lives.

Nothing is more important than helping your children understand that the grace of Jesus shines brighter than any gift the world has to offer. It’s a light that will never go out and will never be put away.

Editors’ note: You can find advent devotionals from Paul Tripp that proclaim the true story in Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional (Crossway, 2017). This article is published in partnership with Crossway.

Low Expectations: A Key to Christmas Happiness

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org.

Expectations rarely run higher than they do at Christmas. From what to give to what to serve to the pressure to host well, expectations hover just beyond reach of achievability for most of us.

A few years ago I was listening to a speaker who was talking about something I can’t remember anymore, but I do remember this.  As a complete aside, he stopped his main talk and said to the audience: “You know what the secret to happiness is, right?”  — Pause.  —  “Low expectations.”

It’s all I remember about his talk.  It’s so simple, a bit disappointing, and so true.

The only reason you and I ever get disappointed is because we expected something better.  Expect nothing . . . you’ll never be disappointed.

Lowering our expectations could make Christmas so much more enjoyable.  Expecting the perfect gift from your spouse? Drop the expectation. Then you’d be happy with anything she gets you. Worried about Christmas dinner? Prepare well, but lose the picture of the perfect family dinner from your mind . . . then you’ll be happy even when the turkey you labored over for hours is overcooked and your third cousin twice removed is more than happy to point it out.

Lowering expectations also increases gratitude. In fact, I think it’s the key to gratitude. If your expectations are chronically high, you will never be thankful for anything that doesn’t exceed them. Gratitude is easy to experience when you realize that spiritually, we are in a position to demand nothing . . . that we’ve received is a gift from a Savior who is merciful . . . that what we’ve received is far greater than what we have deserved.

Lowered expectations might be a great conversation subject with your kids this week.  If their gift list this year consists of a long list of specific items with size, brand, design, and color all pre-determined, it’s going to be hard to be grateful Christmas morning. Why? Because anything short of their exact expectation is disappointment.  You might even want to have the conversation with your spouse. We can place unrealistic expectations on each other about so many things.

Why not think about lowering your expectations this week? You’ll take yourself less seriously, enjoy others more, and be profoundly grateful for things you might have even resented otherwise.

Start the conversation about expectations for yourself and with your family today.

In the meantime, what have you learned about expectations, gratitude and happiness?

4 Things to Remember When Coaching Your Kids

** This article was copied from allprodad.com

4 Things to Remember When Coaching Your Kids

A couple of years ago I was at a Little League game. I watched the coach’s son on the mound trying his hardest but walking batter after batter. The only “help” the coach (who I believe to be a good-hearted guy) could offer his son was a stern, “Throw strikes!” After throwing a wild pitch a runner was trying to score from third. The coach’s son was covering home and got slightly bumped by the runner. After he started crying another parent asked me why he was crying so much, it didn’t seem like a rough collision. I told him, “He’s clearly exhausted, having a rough time on the mound, and has been yelled at by his father for the past twenty minutes. It makes sense to me.”

I’ve watched a lot of fathers coach lately and it seems like the default behavior is to criticize their kid whenever they make a mistake on the field or court. I recently asked a kid at a little league practice, “What makes you the angriest?” Sadly he said, “My dad.” His dad is a wonderful guy, helps out during practice, but consistently criticizes his son. There’s a way to be a great youth sports coach. We just have to keep in mind the following 4 things.

First, don’t put pressure on your child.

Believe it or not, your child may not be the star or team leader. Let him find his own place on the team. Sometimes you’ll beam with pride and want to scream, “That’s my son.” Other times you may want to hide. I know your heart will be pounding every time he runs out there. But whether he succeeds or fails, do your best to treat him just like his teammates.

Second, make sure you have some practice time alone with your child.

Many of the other kids will go home and play catch with their dads. You may think that, as a coach, you’ve already done that. But your son or daughter also needs your time one-on-one.

Third, we’ve all heard Vince Lombardi’s words: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

I’ll agree with that only if we can redefine what winning is. Are you out to have a perfect win-loss record? Remember, Coach, little league wasn’t formed so middle-aged men could show off their coaching skills. The goals are fun, exercise, sportsmanship, and self-improvement for the kids. Make sure everyone participates to the best of their ability and contributes to the team. Give that struggling kid a few extra innings at second base; he may cost you a game, but he’ll also eventually throw somebody out. That’s really winning.

Finally, coaching can be a chance to reach out, not just to your kids, but to some of the other kids on the team.

These days, if you put fifteen kids on a ball field, at least two or three will come from broken homes and another few will have dads who just don’t have a clue. What a great chance this is for them to be encouraged by an adult male who cares for their well-being. As a coach, you can make a life-changing impression on your child and every other kid on that team.

©2001 National Center for Fathering

Eight Ideas to Help You Reclaim Gratitude This Season

** The following article was copied from www.fulleryouthinstitute.org

Eight Ideas to Help You Reclaim Gratitude This Season

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the weather. I love the food. I love spending four mellow days with my family.

Most of all, I love what Thanksgiving stands for.

In a culture that elevates entitlement and what’s-best-for-me, Thanksgiving invites us to be grateful, and to share that gratitude with both friends and strangers.

As followers of Jesus, gratitude takes on a special meaning. As Dave and I love sharing with our own three kids, we live gratefully because of Gods gracebecause of all God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

Grace is what separates Christianity from every other religion. And grace is the ultimate fuel for our gratitude.

If you asked me to share one insight at your church or your Thanksgiving family table with the young people you care about most, it would likely be this: Because of Gods grace, we live our lives as thank you notesback to God.

But maybe you’re a leader or parent wondering how to help teenagers and young adults marinate in this truth this month—especially because for some of us, this year has been punctuated with more heartbreak than joy.

Parents: How can we help our families reclaim a sense of gratitude that flows from God’s grace?

  1. Talk with your kids about what has happened in the last year that makes it hard to be grateful. Give your young people space to talk about events in our nation and in your family that may be disappointing or distressing. If it feels appropriate, talk about any glimpses of divine light you’ve seen in the midst of those dark moments.
  2. Every night at dinner or bedtime, ask your kids to share one thing they are grateful for that day. Our family has a bulletin board we pull out for the month of November. Almost every night, each of us writes one thing we’re grateful for on a construction paper leaf (that I cut out ahead of time; I’m not crafty at all so truth be told, the leaves look pretty terrible, but we love the conversations they provoke).
  3. Surprise our kids by not giving them a consequence theydeservefor a mistake or poor behavioral choice. While Dave and I believe in being consistent with our kids in our discipline, every once in a while, we don’t give them a consequence. Instead, we make it clear that just like our heavenly father shows us grace and mercy, we are trying to do the same.
  4. Involve your kids in figuring out one special way for your family to serve together. Don’t choose for your kids. Let your kids choose for your family. Before you serve, explain that we don’t serve because we hope God will love us more or like us more. And we don’t serve because it will look good on our college application. We serve out of gratitude for God’s grace.

Should You Make Your Kids Go To Church?

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org

I recently read an article about a family who loved to hike. Actually, not all of them loved it. One son shared how every weekend, rain or shine, he was forced to put on his hiking shoes (yes, forced) and he was loaded into the family car for what he described as a boring, wasted day of tramping in the woods. He said the numerous pre-hike conversations with his mom went like this.

“I don’t feel good.”
“The sunshine will make you feel better.”

“I’m tired. Can’t I stay home?”
“Put your shoes on. Let’s go.”

He did put his shoes on, but not without griping about it. As he hiked, he dreamed of the day when he could make his own decisions and told himself he’d never hike again.

He went on to tell how he’s out on his own now, and guess what? He loves to hike. He says hiking is one of his favorite things he gets to do on the weekend and he goes as often as he can.

This story makes me wonder if the words I told you so ever pop into his mom’s mind. It also makes me stop and consider the somewhat nebulous power of my influence as a parent. As my kids got older (and more opinionated), I often wondered what we should insist on versus what they got to decide. Things like brushing their teeth and going to school were easy (okay, easier) to insist on out of a healthy respect for cavities and detention. But what about things like going to church or participating in youth group? What about even deeper subjects like what they believed about God and faith?

It gets messy.

When our kids were young, it was easy to herd them in the car for church. “Time for kids’ church! Let’s go!”

But then our daughter turned thirteen.

“I don’t want to go to youth group. None of my friends are there.”

Geoff and I had some serious discussions. If we make her go, will she end up hating church? We’d both been brought up in church and could relate to not always wanting to go. We also knew families where they had forced their kids and now as young adults, they didn’t want anything to do with it.

It was hard to know the right path to take. Looking back, we can’t say we handled it perfectly (I bet our kids would chime in on that), but we do feel like we made a few good choices:


Geoff and I love great worship music and great preaching, and thankfully we were at a church with both. We often talked with our kids about the teaching we heard at church and how it stirred our hearts. We talked about how worship connected us to God. We told stories about the fun and friendships in our small group, and we often hosted group at our house. We wanted our kids to see what church meant to us and how it formed our relationship with God.


What mattered most to us about church was that our kids were exposed to adults who loved and worshipped God. This wasn’t something we were willing to let go of for our daughter, but we let her choose where these relationships would be. Would she rather go to the large mid-week group or be part of a girls’ small group? We let her decide.


Brittainy’s decision to go to small group turned out to be a game changer. She had a leader who remembered what it felt like to be in middle school and didn’t shy away from talking honestly about it. She shared how she remembered sometimes feeling lonely in middle school, but how she woke up every day and reminded herself of God’s love for her. She talked about how reading her Bible and what it meant to pray and know that God heard her. I wish I could say that my kids’ faith and character were because they had great parents. But I think it was because they had great small group leaders.

If you’re reading this and your kids are rolling their eyes or balking at church or faith, you’re not alone. We can’t force our kids to love God, but maybe we can inspire them. Whatever it feels like today, don’t give up.

Whatever it feels like today, don’t give up. Lean into other leaders and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Show your kids that while their opinions may change, your love and support for them won’t.