Ways to help your family focus on Christ this Christmas

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.

Front cover e (600)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.

Day 2 Gabriel visits Zachariah in the temple.

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)

Day 6 An angel appears to Joseph

Day 7 Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem

Day 8 No room in the Inn

Day 9 The birth of Jesus

Day 10 Angels appear to the shepherds

Day 11 Shepherds go to see baby Jesus

Day 12 Wise men see star and follow it hoping to find Jesus

Day 13 Wise men find Jesus and worship him

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:

The Proverbs 31 Mama blog

Tot Play blog

Classic Children’s Books blog

A review by a teen

Another review by a teen homeschooler

Goodreads reviews of The First Christmas

Amazon reviews

Smashwords ebook review

God’s Greatest Gift (book review) – engaging but disappointing

God's Greatest Gift - reviewGod’s Greatest Gift
Author: Deborah Burch
Picture Book: unpaged
Language: English
ISBN 13: 978-0-9796477-7-2
Publisher: God’s Greatest Gift, LLC
List price: $17.95

Reviewed By: Janice D. Green

Rating: :) :)

I am struggling to write a review for this book. It is lively, engaging, well written and tough enough to endure rough treatment at the hands of young children. Little ones will love this book as at the end they become the star. It will surely become a favorite to many. And it has received a bronze medal through the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

But I have a problem with the underlying theology of the book. According to this author, God’s greatest gift is the child reading the book. I cannot accept this and don’t feel it is good for children to be led to believe they are the center of the universe. God’s greatest gift is his Son, Jesus the Christ.

I value the need for good self-esteem, but this book carries it over the top. Children need honest feedback if they are to have healthy self-concepts, yet our children today are being fed such an inflated diet of high self-esteem that they have lost touch with reality and along with it their sense of responsibility.

Furthermore, from a spiritual perspective, if you tell children they are the center of the universe, how can you expect them to embrace the One who truly is the center of the universe.

Children are among God’s greatest gifts, but not THE greatest gift. There are those who will insist that using the superlative form of great needn’t be taken all this seriously. But somehow that doesn’t seem very professional for a writer either, nor does it value the need for helping a child to understand our language.

I normally opt out of reviewing books that I can’t give a positive review. However, in this situation I agreed to review it and am required to follow through with a review. I accepted the book with the understanding that it was a Christian book, published by a member of the Christian Small Publishers Association, so I must review it accordingly.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Great-Grandma’s Gifts by Marianne Jones

Great-Grandma's GiftsGreat Gandma’s Gifts
Author: Marianne Jones
Picture Book: unpaged
Language: English
ISBN 13: 978-0-9812516-9-1
List price: $10 paperback

Reviewed By: Janice D. Green

Rating: :) :) :) :)

Great-Grandma’s Gifts is a children’s book after my heart. My earliest memories of my mother are of her sewing clothes, and like Arlene’s mother, she gave me scraps to play with. So I quickly related to Arlene who learned to love to sew at a very early age. This gentle book begins with Arlene’s childhood and shows how she grew up using her love for sewing to give joy to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with gifts of stuffed toys, dolls, and quilts.

Author Marianne Jones describes the fabrics with word choices and repetition that children will love. The pictures have a soft nostalgic feel that will appeal to the very young, and especially to girls. The opening two-page spread seems a bit wordy for young children, and boys may not take to the story line as quickly as girls. But many will come to treasure Arlene’s spirit of giving home-sewn gifts to her family.

I give Great Gandma’s Gifts four :) s out of a possible five.

Purchase on Amazon.com.

Marianne Jones on Facebook

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Reviewed by Janice D. Green, author of The Creation and The First Christmas.

The Creation  Front-cover-e-600

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