How can we keep Jesus at the center of Christmas for our children?
For many of us Christmas time is a very busy time of the year. There seems to be more of a lot of good things. There are more gatherings of family and friends. There are more special programs at schools, the libraries, the cities, and our church. There is so much to celebrate it seems that the month can truly get away from us if we are not intentional.
If you’ve found your way to our little blog. I have the perfect idea for you. It is simple, easy to do, and requires something that you probably already have in your home.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This Christmas we are starting a new tradition. Instead of setting up the Nativity scene with all of our other Christmas decor, we are using it to illustrate the story of Christmas to our children.
Each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas, we are introducing one piece of the nativity at a time. We are using each piece / person to tell and retell the story of Jesus. This time is meant to be a time of engagement and allow us to explain the story to our children in a way that is age appropriate to them while remaining in biblical truths.
12 Days of Christmas with the Nativity:
Day 1: The Manger (Stable / Cave)
Set-up the stable or cave with your children and began telling them the story.
I am sharing the birth story of my children with my children. I am explaining how they were born in a hospital with the help with doctors and how it was cozy for mommy and baby. I am then sharing how Joseph and Mary left their home to go to a far away place to be counted. I am explaining how this place was filled with many people, some who lived there and some, like Joseph and Mary, who went to be counted. When Joseph and Mary arrived the town was full of people and all of the inns and homes were filled with people. There wasn’t any room in any place for them, except in a manger where the animals lived. Joseph and Mary needed a place to stay very soon because Jesus was coming.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn
We are doing crafts as a part of our 12 days of Christmas and for Day 1 we built a cave for our nativity. We used an old box, crumbled up some brown paper bags and glued them to the box. It was fun but this was not a quick craft, haha. Maybe next year, this post will include the crafts that we do for our 12 days of Christmas. 🙂
Day 2: The Star
Set-up the star with your children and began your story.
This night I will be focusing on the wonder of God and the beauty of the stars… It will go something like this …
Suddenly, a bright star appeared in the sky, the star of Bethlehem. Can you imagine living in Bethlehem and one day looking up to see the brightest star in the sky? It was a new star. Where did it come from and why was it shining so bright now? Let’s look outside and see some stars. I will bring them back into the house, turn off all of the lights and shine a flashlight on our new star. I will share how God sent a beautiful bright star to tell people, the King of Kings, Jesus, was here and it was time for a great celebration. I am going to play Christmas music and tell the kids, let’s do a celebration dance!! The star is telling us that King Jesus is coming!
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.”
9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Day 3: An Animal (Camel, Cow, Donkey, etc.)
Set-up an animal in your nativity.
Take some time tonight to share and remind your children that there was no place for Joseph and Mary in the inns or homes of the people of Bethlehem so they would share the cave with the animals. We have a dog, so I will talk a little about our big dog, and how she sleeps outside in the cold, how she is a little stinky and sometimes she makes a mess of her food. Then I will ask my children what they think it was like in the manger. I will encourage them to use their senses to attempt to explain what they think Joseph and Mary experienced. What would they see, feel, smell, hear.
Bible References: See Day 1
Day 4: Joseph
Set-up Joseph and tell his story.
Who was Joseph? Joseph was “engaged” to Mary. They planned to be married and I am sure that both of their families were really excited. (I will talk about the wedding of my husband and I and say how we were very excited and our family was happy for us too.) But then something happened that made Joseph not so excited. Joseph and Mary weren’t married yet and Mary was about to have a baby. Wait! How did that happen? Joseph was confused and sad. What do we do if we are confused or sad, we pray to God. That’s what Joseph did and God answered him. One night while Joseph was sleeping an angel appeared to him in his dream. The angel told Joseph not to worry that Mary was loved very much by God and that she was pregnant with Jesus, the son of God. Joseph woke up from his dream and knew that Mary was special and he promised to marry her.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[e] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[f] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Day 5: Mary
Set-up Mary and tell her story.
Who is Mary? Mary was a young lady who loved and trusted God very much. Mary had heard news that her aunt (who was very old) was about to have a baby. What a wonderful miracle that God had given her aunt and uncle. She was very excited for them, she probably didn’t have any idea that God would give her the most beautiful miracle of all. One night an angel appeared to Mary and told her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” A beautiful angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was special to God. This made her a little scared. I think angels are very big and bright because they make a lot of people a little scared. She listened to the angel with her very best listening ears because she wanted to hear everything the angel said and do you know what the angel told her? The angel told Mary to not be afraid because God was going to give her a son, a very special son. The son of God, who would save the world, JESUS. God trusted Mary to be the mom of Jesus. Just like God trusted me to be your mom. God sent the angel to tell Mary that He had a special plan for her life and do you know what? God has a special plan for your life too!
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[b] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[c] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[d]
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[e] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[f] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Click here to read all of Luke 1 for more details of Mary.
Day 6: Angel
Set-up the Angel and tell the story of the Angel.
What do you think an angel looks like? I think they are big and bright, they probably look like they glow. (I will turn off the lights and light our angel). Do you remember an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, then an angel appeared to Mary and do you know what an angel appeared again and again. One night some shepherds were in the field taking care of the sheep when all of a sudden an angel appeared. The angel told them that they had GOOD NEWS. Then more angels appeared, they sang beautiful songs and announced that a King was coming!!! They sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” It was a wonderful celebration of signing. Let’s pretend we are shepherd taking care of sheep and then let’s sing a Christmas song together.
(See also Joseph and Mary References)
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Luke 2: 8 – 21
Day 7: Shepherd
Set-up the Shepherd and share their story.
What do shepherds do? They take care of sheep. They watch over the sheep to make sure they are safe, they make sure that the sheep have enough food and water, and they even protect them from bad wolves or other animals that would want to hurt them. A shepherd may be watching a hundred sheep at one time but considers each sheep like his best pet and protects them all the same. The shepherd cares for the sheep all day and all night. Other people don’t always see the hard work of the shepherd but God sees everything we do. One night when the shepherd were taking care of their sheep something very exciting happened. An angel appeared to them. The angel told them that Jesus, the Christ was born. The angel even told them where to find Jesus. How exciting and how special for God to tell them the good news before everyone else. The Kings was here and it is time to rejoice and celebrate. Remember, God always sees us and our hard work, even when others might not.
Bible References: See Day 6
Day 8: An Animal (Camel, Cow, Donkey, Sheep)
Set-up an animal in your nativity.
Take some time tonight to share and remind your children that there was no place for Joseph and Mary in the inns or homes of the people of Bethlehem so they would share the cave with the animals. This night I will be creating a “sheep” craft activity with my children. It will allow us to take a sheep with the shepherd to the nativity.
Bible References: See Day 1 and Day 7
Day 9: Wiseman #1 (Magi / Kings)
Set-up one of the Wise men outside of the nativity as they make their way to Jesus
Who were the Wise men? Some times the wise men are called the three kings or the magi. They were men who studied God’s word and they were looking for a sign of the coming King of the Jews. When the star appeared in the sky (point to the star), they knew something special was taking place. They knew that God had given them a sign and they were so excited to meet and see King Jesus. They went to King Herod and told them of their plans to search out and find King Jesus. This started them on a long journey to meet Jesus. Tonight we will place a wise man far away from the nativity to show the journey ahead.
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Day 10: Wiseman #2 (Magi / Kings)
Set-up Wiseman #2 next to Wiseman #1
When the wise men saw the big, bright star in the sky they knew it was a sign from God. It was a special star telling them that King Jesus was born. They had been waiting for a sign from God for a long time and they were so happy when they seen it. They packed up what they needed and left their homes and families. Jesus was so important to them that they needed to go on a long journey to find him. A journey of hundreds and hundreds of miles across the desert on camels. That does not sound so comfortable but they were excited to meet Jesus and even packed gifts for him. Tonight we will place move our two wise men a little closer to the nativity but still afar off. We will also pretend we are riding on camels because I have toddlers and we do silly stuff together. 🙂
Bible References: See Day 9
Day 11: Wiseman #3 (Magi / Kings)
Set-up Wiseman #3 next to the others and move them a little closer to the nativity.
Do you remember who the wise men were? What did they see that told them to find Jesus? They saw a star. What did they ride to help them travel very far to find Jesus? They rode camels. What did they bring with them to give Jesus? They brough gifts. The wise men had 3 very special gifts with them. They had gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts seem small but they have great value. You may feel small sometimes but you have great value to God. We will be celebrating Christmas very soon and we celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus. We give gifts to remember that the wise men gave gifts to Jesus when He was a baby. It was a way to celebrate Jesus and show everyone that Jesus was very special. The best gift we can give Jesus is our heart. Let’s pray together.
Bible References: See Day 9
Day 12: Jesus
Set-up Jesus and celebrate
Jesus is here! The King is born! Rejoice! Sing! Dance! Spin! Twirl! Jump up and down! God is with us, today and forever. It is time to celebrate. He is the prince of peace. He helps us to be brave, to be strong, to be courageous, to be kind, to share love and hope. He helps us to feel calm when things are not going so good. Most importantly, Jesus gives us life and saves us from our sins. Jesus is our king and it is His birthday! Let’s celebrate by singing Him Happy Birthday and giving Him the best gift ever, our hearts.
Bible References: The entire bible 😉
I pray that whatever you do to celebrate this holiday season, that Jesus is at the center!