Every year we get bombarded with Seasons Greeting messages starting on November 1 if not earlier. The rush to shop for Christmas presents is upon us, with its expectations to shop for more people than our budget can handle, and to attend many Christmas parties that we struggle to fit into our tight schedules. Do you establish priorities before the season is in full swing, or simply struggle to stay on top as people make demands on your energy, finances, and time?
I don’t claim to be qualified to spell out answers to all of these issues. Rather I urge parents and grandparents to prayerfully establish priorities and set boundaries that will protect what is most precious to you and your family. This will in turn strengthen your family relationships as well as preserve Christ Jesus’ place of importance, not only at Christmastime but in all of life. But this won’t just happen unless you are intentional about making it so.
My book, The First Christmas is a picture book written with family sharing in mind. It re-tells the account of the birth of Christ Jesus including the events leading up to and following it so that the reader/listeners will have a solid grasp of our Christian heritage in Jesus’ birth. The First Christmas is more complete than most Bible storybooks, yet it is written in easy to understand language for young children.
How can I use The First Christmas with my family?
The First Christmas includes thirteen illustrations with mini-stories and discussion questions. A family could use these for thirteen days of family devotions. Plan ahead to decide which day to start the Christmas devotions. It seems most appropriate to me to plan for day 9 to fall on Christmas Eve to maximize the birth of Jesus and introducing the shepherds on Christmas Day.
The First Christmas is more suited for children above age 4 or 5. If your children are younger I encourage you to modify or skip the first two sections in the book and begin with Gabriel visiting Mary. Try showing the pictures and only lightly cover those pages in your own words keeping them very simple and then go on to Day 3. The content on Day 4 might also be over the heads of the youngest children – touch on it lightly then save it for another year. Days 5 & 6 might also be combined for younger children. The First Christmas includes a lot of information and will hold the attention of older children very well.
There are coloring pages available (click here) so children can color the pictures in the book on paper or on fabric to make a quilt. Other activities that can help your family focus on Jesus might include setting up a nativity set piece by piece to correspond with the pages you read for that day. Or you might purchase or make your own felt nativity set for a flannel board. Click here to find a free pattern for a felt nativity set.
Below is a breakdown of the mini-stories in The First Christmas. I spent a little time collecting Bible passages, hymns, and YouTube videos for this blog post to supplement the 13 days of devotions. You will want to pick and choose from them based on your children’s ages and interests.
Day 1 Background information – waiting for the promised Messiah. A brief description of the Jewish nation under Roman rule, and longing for the Messiah to come and rescue them.
- Hymn: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
- Music Video: How Should a King Come? with lyrics or How Should a King Come? Bible scenes from movie You could sing this song every day, but stop before the verse with Mary and Joseph until you reach the day for that part of the story. In the same way, stop before the shepherds, and before the wise men. Let it build day by day.
Day 2 Gabriel visits Zachariah in the temple.
- Bible reading: Luke 1:5-23
- Canticle of Zechariah – This is a chant from Luke 1:68-79 that Zechariah sang following the birth of John.
- More about Zachariah: Luke 1:57-80
- There’s a Voice in the Wilderness Crying
Day 3 Gabriel visits Mary to tell her she would become the mother of Jesus
Day 4 Mary visits Elizabeth
Day 5 Joseph learn’s Mary is pregnant (Days 5 & 6 might be combined for younger children)
- Bible reading: Matthew 1:18-19
Day 6 An angel appears to Joseph
Day 7 Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem
- Bible reading: Luke 2:1-5
- Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem – Video reenactment
- Breath of Heaven – sung by Amy Grant This video could be played only until you reach the part that you are focusing on for each day. Note that the visual part includes Mary giving birth to Jesus – something to consider before deciding whether to show it to very young children.
Day 8 No room in the Inn
- Bible reading: Luke 2:7 (I have realized after writing The First Christmas that the role of the Innkeeper has been exaggerated in many Bible storybooks including my own. The innkeeper isn’t actually mentioned in the Bible, only assumed from the verse that there was no room at the inn. The innkeeper may or may not have offered the stable – Joseph may have simply found it and the family took shelter there.)
- Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem with lyrics – sung by Megan Smith
- Sweet Little Jesus Boy – sung by Marquis Jarrell Ruff
Day 9 The birth of Jesus
- Bible reading: Luke 2:6-7
- O Holy Night – sung by Martina McBride with lyrics
- Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Joy to the World
Day 10 Angels appear to the shepherds
- Bible reading: Luke 2:8-14
- It Was on a Starry Night with lyrics
- Angels We Have Heard on High, Hark the Herald Angels Sing,
Day 11 Shepherds go to see baby Jesus
Day 12 Wise men see star and follow it hoping to find Jesus
- Bible reading: Matthew 2:1-8
- The Wise Men Seek Jesus – video reenactment – includes finding Jesus and worshiping him, also Mary, Joseph, & Jesus fleeing to Egypt
- We Three Kings (Note: The Bible doesn’t say how many wise men – or kings – came. There were three gifts – perhaps the reason tradition says there were three wise men.)
Day 13 Wise men find Jesus and worship him
- Bible reading: Matthew 2:9-12
- What Child is This? – sung by Martina McBride with lyrics
- Go Tell it on the Mountain
Older children might want to learn about the following events which were not included in the book, The First Christmas.
- Circumcision & purification of baby Jesus. Luke 2:21-24
- Simeon prophesies over baby Jesus. Luke 2:25-35
- Anna prophesies over Jesus. Luke 36-40
- Herod’s scheme to kill Jesus, kills all baby boys under age 2 in Bethlehem. Matthew 2:7-8 and 12-18. I omitted these verses because young children might become overly upset by them. Consider the ages of your children before sharing these verses.
The First Christmas has been receiving great reviews on several blogs the past few weeks. Here are links to a few of them: