Redeeming the Chaos
5 Christmas Devotionals for Families
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Christmas in the Chaos
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The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas can often be some of the busiest days of the year. But I want to encourage you to slow down and be intentional with your kids this season, even in the midst of the chaos of raising boys.
A few years ago, I published a podcast episode called “Christmas in the Chaos” and I’m going to share with you the introduction from that episode because I think it’s still very relevant today!
“I don’t know about your house, but my kids have been extra chaotic lately. It’s so easy to get discouraged with all the fighting and bickering and whining and complaining. It’s tempting to feel like I’ve failed to convey what Christmas is really all about.
How many of you have actually threatened your kids with statements like, “Well, I’m not sure you deserve any presents this year,” or “If you don’t stop fighting with your brother, I’m going to take away all the presents.” In a moment of craziness earlier this week, I actually told my kids that we might just have to cancel Christmas.
But then the Lord spoke to my heart, and reminded me of something. We don’t give presents to our kids because they deserve them or because they’ve been extra good this year. (We’re not keeping track if they’ve been naughty or nice). We give gifts because we love our children and we want to bless them.
I sat down with my kids and had a little chat: “You know guys, Daddy and I give you gifts at Christmas because we love you. You haven’t earned presents with your good behavior and you can’t lose presents for bad behavior. There’s nothing you can do to make us love you anymore, and there’s nothing you can do to make us love you any less. That’s just not how Christmas works.”
And the beauty of it all is that this is how God sees Christmas as well. He didn’t send Jesus because we deserved it. He didn’t send Jesus because we had earned it with all our good behavior. In fact, he gave us the greatest gift right in the middle of the chaos, right in the middle of our messy, sinful lives. He gave us Jesus because of his overflowing, overwhelming, un-ending love for us. There’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you any less.
That is the true message of Christmas.
Mommas, I want to remind you again that parenting is a long-term investment. Don’t get discouraged when your kids are complaining yet again that there aren’t enough presents under the tree. Or when they roll their eyes when you tell them it’s time to read the Christmas story from the Bible. Don’t give up.
Each year you are building on the foundation of the year before. Don’t feel like you’ve failed or that your kids have totally missed the whole point of Christmas. God is working. One hug, one story, one moment at a time, God is opening the hearts of your kids to know Him and love Him and embrace His greatest gift.
Continue to be faithful to the work God has given you. Continue to celebrate Christmas in the chaos.
Christmas Devotionals for Families
In today’s post, I am going to share with you some of my favorite Christmas devotionals for families to help you be intentional about focusing on Jesus this Christmas season.
I know we’re already a few days into December, and you may already have plans for a family Christmas devotional or Advent Celebration. But if not, I’d love to tell you about a few of my favorites books.
You can listen to the the episode on Redeeming the Chaos here:
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus
by Asheritah Ciuciu
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is a wonderful way to focus on who Jesus is and what he means to us. The book includes four weeks of advent devotionals – a celebration reading for each Sunday of Advent, and then 5 days each week that focus on one of the names of Jesus used in the Bible.
Each day includes one name of Jesus, a scripture passage, a short devotional reading, a challenge and a prayer.
Asheritah also wrote a children’s version – Unwrapping the Names of Jesus for Kids – which includes illustrated stories from the perspective of a young girl in Bethlehem. This book only includes 9 names for Jesus, so it can’t be used in the same way as the Advent devotional, but this children’s edition would be great for younger kids.
Age Recommendation: Written for adults, but I plan to read together as a family (My boys are 6, 8, 10 and 12).
I’ve created a set of printable 4×5 cards to go along with the book Unwrapping the Names of Jesus. You can print a set of cards HERE.
Jotham’s Journey – A Storybook Series for Advent
by Arnold Ytreeide
This four-book series includes fictional accounts of the birth of Jesus, each from the perspective of a 10 year old child. Jotham is a shepherd boy, Bartholomew is the son of a fisherman, Tabitha is a young shepherdess, and Ishtar is the son of a magi.
The book titles are: Jotham’s Journey, Bartholomew’s Passage, Tabitha’s Travels, and Ishtar’s Odyssey. (See book descriptions below).
Each story takes the main character through an action packed adventure, before encountering the Christ child. At some point in each book, the main character of the story meets one or more of the main characters in the other books, so that all the stories are intertwined.
The books include 25 chapters, each one building on the one before. Each chapter includes the next part of the adventure, plus a short devotional reading. Last year, I read Ishtar’s Odyssey with my boys and they were captivated by the storytelling and adventure.
Below is short blurb about each of the books, as described on the author’s website:
A ten-year-old shepherd boy gets mad at his father and runs away from home. Getting back again can be deadly, but along the way he learns the story of the Messiah and ends up in Bethlehem.
Separated from his family when Roman soldiers ransack the town, Bartholomew soon finds himself sold into slavery. Here he must reconcile his belief in Jehovah with the cruelty of men.
Always one for adventures beyond what a girl is supposed to enjoy, Tabitha goes with her father to rescue a boy named Jotham. She finds herself lost and alone when Romans arrest her father.
Perfectly happy with the pampered and spoiled life he lives as a Prince of Persia, Ishtar doesn’t realize all that will change when he sees a strange star. Suddenly he’s on a rough and smelly caravan led by his father, the Chief Magi of the Sheik.
Age recommendation: 6-12 years old
The Action Bible Christmas
Published by David C Cook
I love every book in the Action Bible series, so I was excited to see they had recently published a Christmas book!
This book includes 25 Stories about Jesus’ Arrival, each from the first person perspective of a character in the Christmas narrative. In addition to the traditional characters like Mary, Joseph, shepherds and wisemen, many of the characters are much more obscure! Stories are told from the perspective of the Town of Bethlehem, Jesus’ blanket, the Angel Gabriel, the Manger, the Donkey, and even the Star of Bethlehem.
Each daily reading includes a one-page story, plus a full page illustration in the typical style of the Action Bible, illustrated by Sergio Cariello. If you’re not familiar with the Action Bible publications, (you definitely need to check them out…) the illustrations resemble graphic novels or comic book artwork.
After the short story, there are a few questions to help your child think more deeply about the story.
Age Recommendation: 4-8 years old
By Shauna Lettelier
Remarkable Advent is one part fictional story and one part advent devotional. There are 25 chapters, one for each day leading up to Christmas.
Blurb from Back Cover:
Rediscover the wonder of the first Christmas in this Advent devotional.
Do you want to experience the Christmas story in a new way?
What if we peered through history’s frosted window and felt astonished by Jesus’ birth once again? In Remarkable Advent, Shauna Letellier drapes the fabric of imagination over the framework of Scripture, bringing the Christmas story to life through twenty-five devotional readings.
To retrace the story of Jesus’ birth, each devotional includes:
- A daily plan for Advent Scripture reading.
- Captivating storytelling that will engage the whole family.
- Relevant reflections that connect Jesus’ birth to your extraordinary place in his family.
- Guided prayer to help you focus on the wonder of Christ.
With breathtaking imagery and a fresh take on Scripture, this Christmas devotional will prepare your heart to celebrate God’s greatest gift.
While this book is written for adults, you could definitely read the story together as a family, especially if you have kids ages 8 and up.
I love the way Shauna makes the Scriptures come alive in her storytelling, by taking us into the hearts and minds of biblical characters. Through the eyes of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, you’ll experience firsthand the events leading up to the birth of Christ.
I interviewed Shauna Lettelier on my podcast a few years ago and we discussed ways to keep Christ at the center of Christmas.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
If you like Ann Voskamp, you will love this advent storybook for kids. This book follows the tradition of the Jesse Tree (more on that below). I love how the author traces the promise of the Messiah throughout the Bible, beginning all the way back in Genesis.
The wording is a bit “flowery,” in typical Ann Voskamp style, and when my kids were younger it was sometimes difficult for them to follow along. We sometimes would just read the Bible passage for the day, and then I “summarize” the devotional story for my kids. I would recommend this book for elementary kids, ages 6-10.
The illustrations are just lovely. I’m a sucker for beautifully illustrated books.
Ann Voskamp has added printable, full-color ornaments that can be downloaded from her website! The 3″ round ones fit perfectly on a wide-mouth mason jar lid. A few years ago I printed the ornaments, glued them to mason jar lids, and hung them in our living room.
Each daily reading includes a Scripture passage, a Bible story, a few short discussion questions, and suggestions for practical, family activities to help you connect the story with real life.
What is a Jesse Tree?
If you’re not familiar with the Jesse Tree concept, it comes from the Bible passage found in Isaiah 11:1, which says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
Jesse was the father of King David, and Jesus was a descendant of King David.
Isaiah 11:2 continues to describe this branch and says: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
The branch in this passage is referring to Jesus, who would come from the family of Jesse.
A Jesse tree is a fun, visual way of preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ’s birth. Each day leading up to Christmas focuses on one of the people in Jesus’ family tree… beginning back in the garden of eden with Adam and Eve, then tracing God’s plan of redemption through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, … all the way up to Jesus’ birth.
You may wonder… why start way back in Genesis? Isn’t this supposed to be a Christmas devotional? Well, in order to understand the reason Jesus came to earth in the first place, we need to start back in Genesis, with the very first sin of Adam and Eve. If it weren’t for that sin, if it weren’t for the fact that our relationship with God has been broken from the very beginning, we wouldn’t need a savior and God would not have needed to send Jesus in the first place.
When we understand that God’s people waited and hoped for the Messiah to come for thousands of years, the birth of Jesus really is good news.
How Will You Focus on Jesus this Christmas?
I’ve given you a lot of Christmas devotionals for families to choose from today and you certainly don’t need to read them all! I would recommend choosing one or two advent traditions you want to implement this year.
As a family, we plan to read through Asheritah Ciuciu’s devotional book, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, along with the printable cards I created to go along with it. Don’t forget, you can find a link to download those cards HERE.
Another fun tradition we have in my family is to wrap up 25 children’s Christmas books for the kids to unwrap each day leading up to Christmas. Unfortunately I think my kids are starting to outgrow this tradition. Last year, they all fought over who was going to open the book, but then nobody wanted to sit and listen to me read it. I asked if they wanted me to do it again this year and they all replied with a resounding YES. So we’ll see how it goes.
If you would like some suggestions for some of my favorite Christmas picture books for younger kids, (toddlers, early elementary) I have a list of recommendations HERE.
Join me again in my next episode where we’re going to continue a discussion about contentment. This time of year, it’s hard for kids to be content with what they have… always wanting something bigger or better. Join me in my interview with Dr. Scott Turansky, Founder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting, as we talk about “how to teach your kids to take No for an answer.”
Just a reminder, if you’ve finished reading my newest book, Rise of the Enemy, the first book in my Dragon Slayer Bible stories, I would love to get your feedback. Just go to DragonSlayerBible.com and click the link to the survey at the top of the page. And if you haven’t yet read the book, you can download a free copy at DragonSlayerBible.com.
How to Make Christmas More Meaningful for Your Kids
Keep Christ at the Center of Christmas with Shauna Lettelier
Family Christmas Devotional
A Fresh Perspective on Christmas
Christmas in the Chaos
The Promised Child – 25 Scripture Readings About the Coming of Jesus
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