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Christmas Is About Jesus

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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November 22, 2021 1:00 am

Christmas Is About Jesus

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 22, 2021 1:00 am

How do we get our kids to care about the real meaning of Christmas? Clayton Greene offers a creative and personal idea.

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The Masculine Journey
Sam Main
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Our Daily Bread Ministries
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I really love Christmas. You are the biggest Christmas woman in the world. I think you're related to Santa Claus. And I might have married Scrooge, because we're a little opposite on this. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson, and I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today.

Describe Christmas morning at our house. I don't even want to talk about this. I don't get excited.

Because you already have a pit in your stomach. I mean, all I know is the night before, actually months before, I start seeing gifts come into our house. It's the best. Amazon's dropping stuff on the front porch. And I'm like, every year we talk about the budget. We do talk about it. And somehow, somebody doesn't keep the budget.

We may not live it, but I try. All I know is this. I don't think anybody in the world has more gifts under the tree than we do. That is not true at all. It is stacked up. You can't even see the tree by the time we walk down there. No, none of that is true.

Yes, it is. But I love Christmas. I love giving gifts to our kids. You tell them what I'm like sitting on the couch Christmas morning. And it's terrible because Dave is so depressed. And then his depression goes into anger. And as our kids start opening gifts, he's like, are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?

Like, they don't need that. What? What?

How much did you spend? And this has been the last, what, 35 Christmases? Am I wrong here? I'm better. Yes, you are much better. Oh, good.

I thought you were going to say that. But I will agree. Wait, let's land on the I'm better for a minute. You went right to but. I want to know you are better.

Yeah, because we were doing better with the budget. Oh, I thought you were just like giving me more leeway. No, I mean, I do. I've matured.

But I mean, that was the Wilson. I think we both Christmas morning, but I do like gifts. But here's the struggle that I've had with even having small kids is I like that gift giving and Christmas to me really is about Jesus. But once our kids were born, it became more commercialized in their eyes and in, I think, our culture's eyes. And so instead of being about Jesus and I always wanted to be about Jesus and the gift of his life and birth and what that really means. But man, the kids were totally into Nerf guns, you know, and they're into remote control cars. And instead of being about the birth of Jesus, it became what am I getting for Christmas?

Yeah. And the reason we're talking about this is it can be very easy to lose the real meaning of Christmas. I mean, we've done our best to instill that in our family and our kids. But it's so easy to get caught up in things that really Christmas isn't really about. And I think we as parents and let me say this as a woman, I get lost in the cooking, the cookies, the movies, the gifts, the wrapping presents. And so even for adults, it's easy to get lost in that. And I think as families, we're always looking for ways.

How can we bring Jesus back into Christmas and the importance of that? And we have discovered a way to do that. And we've got Clayton Green in the studio with us today. Clayton, welcome to Family Life Today. Thank you for having me. And this is precisely the problem that our family was trying to solve whenever we came up with Advent Blogs.

Yeah. And it's pretty interesting what we discovered about what you've discovered about, you know, Christmas. But first of all, you live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Tell us a little bit about your job, your family, you know, why you live in Raleigh. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to help plan a church in Wilmington, North Carolina. Our family is back in Raleigh-Durham now because of some needs that my daughter has with being a little bit closer to the Duke and UNC medical system. But so I now have the great privilege of having what I call my dream job, which is I'm the director of the Summit Collaborative. I attend the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. And as the director of Summit Collaborative, I have the opportunity to help forty-nine churches that we've planted, continue to be able to work together so that those leadership teams flourish, those churches are flourishing, and so that we can continue to plant more churches.

My wife is an attorney at a clinical research company. I have a nine-year-old, Kara, and a seven-year-old, Susan. And if they were here, you'd be more interested in them. Ooh, that's a good intro to your kids. But, Clayton, you just said, like, this has been an issue for you guys, too. Talk about that a little bit. So what you were describing, three years ago, our daughter, Kara, who is the truth teller of our family, she's nine now, she sat across from my wife and I, and she said, Mommy and Daddy, you say that Christmas is all about Jesus, but it feels like Christmas is all about presents.

It was about December 22nd. See, that's what I was trying to say to my wife. That's what you were saying the whole time. That's what I was trying to say. It was not about the budget, it was all about Jesus. It was like a knife in the back, and we couldn't do anything about it.

Like, how are you going to turn that around in three days? Talk about convicting. Wow. So when you heard that, were you like, she's right? Yeah. She, I mean, it does feel like that. I mean, the beautiful thing about Christmas time is that there's so many things that help us anticipate December 25th.

Yeah. Lights, movies, like you said, cookies. Music. Parties, music, the carols, we sing carols every night. The Hallmark movies. There, I mean, there's so many things that create this anticipation, but all the anticipation, unfortunately, the most tangible theme in the home that is in everybody's anticipating is what Dave doesn't like is the building around the tree.

The things that are being wrapped. And so that ends up being a driving force of what we're looking forward to. So fast forward 11 months later in November of I guess it was 2018, maybe I sat across from my wife, Kristin. I was 2019 sat across from Kristin and I said, all right, we need to find something that builds an anticipation all throughout December.

That is something that reminds the girls of Jesus, of the reason of the season. If we want to say the rhyming way in order to do this. And so I looked for a long, long time online and just didn't find something that quite fit for our family. So I started sketching and drawing. I love doing woodworking.

And so I started considering different tangible objects that we could create and put in our home. I put three different options on paper in front of Kristin, and she very quickly picked the one that we now know as Advent blocks. That afternoon, I emailed my friend Chris Parpolotto, who is a author. He's the editor at the Summit Church. And I said, if you write stories, I'll make these blocks.

And let's do this Advent thing together for these 25 days. That first year, he was literally writing the stories the same night that we were doing them. And he would write them. We would read them to our kids who would write them. We would read them to our kids.

And so that's how it happened. We were thrilled and amazed at how when we got to the 24th and 25th that year, that certainly there was an anticipation. Lights and cookies and presents. But there also was an anticipation where our girls really wanted to read the story.

Something had been built. Something about how we were doing this was making them excited about December 25th for something more than just presents. And namely, being excited about Jesus is coming. Well, we've got the blocks sitting here in the studio. But before we talk about the actual blocks, talk about Advent. Because I think a lot of people never even understood what – because there is an anticipation built into the Advent season that most of us don't even understand. So explain to us what is Advent and then the blocks. Advent is its meaning like an anticipation.

Something new is coming. And so historically, the church has done – some churches will have done different days, mostly Sundays. People will have an Advent wreath with candles that they're lighting. Some people, they'll have Advent in terms of an anticipation they're creating. And it's chocolates. Love the chocolates.

Love the candles, right? So these things that the church has used, that families have used, is meant to create an anticipation. And much to what you were saying before, it's that some of the anticipation that our culture kind of pushes on us, right? Christmas commercials and things that begin coming on in November as soon as Halloween is over. Those types of things end up kind of covering sometimes what the family and what the church is doing as it relates to Advent and the church. The chocolate calendars are good and the candles are good as well. But in the home, we wanted something that was tangible in the home for us to do. And so the blocks, how they work is you line them up on a mantel or on a bed or on the floor.

We've seen people do. You line them up one through 25. And every day, you're turning the block and it reveals an image that corresponds to the stories.

The stories are written to be the entire story of Scripture relating to God's presence and the Incarnation. But the really neat part is on top of every day, there's a star that moves across. And so on day one, it's on top of one.

On day two, it's on top of the two, three and four and so forth. And on the other end, the far end on the top of the 25 is a globe. So what you get to see is all throughout the month of December, this star representing God and his presence is getting closer and closer to the world.

And so on the 24th, on the 25th, they've reached each other and we get to celebrate this fact that God has come to Earth to stay, to be with us. The fact that your daughter would say to you, Christmas is all about presents instead of Jesus. The fact that she even said that to you says that you have been pouring into her about this meaning of Christmas and what it's really about. How did you guys do that even before she turned, she was six when she said that?

Yeah, she was six. Yeah, like as we anticipate Christmas, how do we get our kids to care about the real meaning of Christmas when, you know, they're little? So, I mean, daily Bible reading is one thing that we've done since they were very young, nightly Bible reading, nightly prayer. Of course, like everyone, there are times when we're more consistent, there are times when we're less consistent.

But an attempt to be consistent over a long period of time I think is what got us there. Kara has always been exceptionally engaged with any story we read her and the consistency with which we've told her and read her the stories of the Bible has created an amount of engagement with her that we are thrilled and thankful to God that she's responding in that way. And I also think being a part of our church that consistently is reminding us and our kids team is giving us resources in order to be able to do with them seasonally as well. So I'm imagining back to that conversation, what did you say to her when, hey, you guys, parents, you guys are all about the presence and not about Jesus. What did you, how did you respond?

I think I was probably quiet for a few minutes and I didn't immediately jump out with an answer. And I'm sure we probably reminded her of the truths that we believe. But this is one of the things I love about family life and what you all are trying to do is that our kids more than anyone notice the difference in how we live and what we say we believe. And more than anything, that's what Kara was pointing out in that moment is you're saying you believe one thing and the honesty of kids.

She just said, but we're living something else. And I'm really thankful that she told us about that because that's something that we have become increasingly aware of that we have to live in front of them. The same thing that we believe the proverb, trim off a child and the way he should go and he will not depart from it. A pastor one time listening to a sermon on that text talked about how that is definitely teaching. But training is more about practice. Training is more about living. And so it's the things that they learn from you by watching us. It's the things that they learn from us by doing it with us that actually stick with them forever and the truths that we teach them.

And we want to bring those two things into congruence. So then you create these blocks where your girls excited as you introduce your family. I mean, was it like you guys were the guinea pigs?

You tried it at your house first. Absolutely. And I don't know that everybody wants to do what we did that first year. Our girls love it, but our blocks are about three and a half inches by three and a half inches and they paint them on every story. And there's actually been a couple of families who find out that we did that and we just give them the guide. We tell them, go make your own blocks and have them paint. It like became arts and crafts time. Yeah, right. Yeah, so they definitely were the guinea pigs.

And there was a few tweaks that we made for the sets that we have today. So at your house, do you put them on a mantle? I mean, how do you do it? Well, because they're so large, they're actually on the floor. Oh. Do you still use the big ones? We still, last year.

Yeah. I'm going to, honestly, I'm going to try to convince them to use the ones where we don't have to paint this year. Because, you know, we do it, the last two years we've done it in the living room. It's close to the couch.

We got to watch out for some of those things. You know, it's a good experience for our family. We don't need to be laundering a whole couch because we were doing our advent calendar. And there's two sets because they both wanted to paint them.

So there's one on one side of the hallway, there's one on the other side of the hallway. This past year we did have this set on our mantle as well. Yeah, and as I'm looking at really the books that come with the blocks. I mean, the blocks are sitting here and they're beautiful.

But here's what I was shocked at as I opened up because I hadn't seen what, you know, each block represents. Day one, day two. You start literally with Adam and Eve. Yeah. So, I mean, you talk about Advent, you know, creating an expectation up to Christmas. You're starting on the beginning of creation of the world and mankind and then next 24 days, right?

Yeah. So talk about the journey. I mean, that's a beautiful place to start, especially thinking as a parent, I really want to teach my kids the story of God. This is a great way to do it, right?

Absolutely. It's telling the whole story about God's incarnational presence with his people. And you have to start with Adam and Eve because that's where he walked in the garden with them. And you see all throughout the rest of the scripture this longing. Sometimes the longing is stronger, sometimes the running is more evident of God's people. But there are these times where they call out and they say, are you here? Do you hear us?

Are you with us? But you also see this thread throughout all of scripture that God is pursuing his people. Now, we do give you seven full days of New Testament stuff. So you get like the Christmas carols and you kind of get into the Christmas story, right?

I want to know here actually the Christmas story as well, but we actually think that that Christmas story makes the most sense within the context of the whole Bible. Now, can you take us through what it's been like for your kids? Do you feel like they grasp it? Were there questions? Were there anticipation? Were they look forward to it?

Of course, I can't promise everybody's family will have the same experience, but Kara this year. So there's a refrain at the end of each chapter as well. And it is something that the kids begin to learn day after day, they start saying it with you by day five. There were actually parts of what we were learning in the guide that Kara, when she actually began to pray that longing prayer that's at the end of each chapter saying, God, are you going to come back?

When are you going to come back? So it actually builds this anticipation for Christmas, but also builds an anticipation for being with God forever in eternity as well. Yeah, and I love that, you know, we are called as parents, as followers of Christ to impart our faith down.

I mean, I think of Deuteronomy 6, you know, teach them to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and do this as you walk along the way, as you sit at the table. I mean, this is sort of, do you do it at night? Do you do it in the morning? Is it all day?

Is it different? Our family does it at night. We've talked to a couple of families that do it in the morning, but most of the time that's younger kids. They just can't wait to read the story. They can't wait to turn the block. And so some of them will do it a little bit earlier in the day.

We usually do hours in the evening. I think one of the things that we maybe didn't know in the very beginning that ends up being a neat feature as well is when you turn it every day and you see those images that represent, you know, David, the image that represents Joseph. And the kids begin to, they can recognize those images and they begin to know those stories. Many, many families, they'll start memorizing it and they'll start every day, they're on day 17 and they'll tell you what the stories were one through 16.

So it does end up kind of bleeding into the rest of the day as well. But we also are trying to be really intentional with making sure that it remains simple enough that families who may not be as engaged in their faith as I am or as engaged with their church as I am can do it. We had some people give this away to nonbelievers last year because it's something simple. It tells them the story. It doesn't take a lot of time, but it definitely roots the family and builds an anticipation for December 25th about Jesus. So, I mean, I think there's something powerful there about the fact that some families take it and it is something that they talk about all day and some families, it's something that they do and it's very brief.

One of the things that for me was neat is how the kids love it so much that sometimes, and this is unfortunate, I think you would agree, but we recognize it's very much true. There's one parent that is more engaged in their faith than the other. And I think that one of the beautiful things of this is with 25 days of that first parent who maybe makes the purchase and is actually beginning to lead their children in it, that at some point in those 25 days, that other parent who is a little bit less engaged is one, going to be hearing the stories. And they're actually going to begin to understand the story of the Bible because they're just hearing the stories, but I bet they also get asked to read. So I think they were actually going to pull some people into engagement there that may not be engaged in the real meaning of Christmas were it not for something like this the family was doing.

Talk to families that maybe haven't done anything like this before. You know, Christmas is a family and it's all the things that we talk about that have become commercialized, but Jesus is important to them and maybe they have teenagers. Like, how would you coach parents like, hey, kids, this is what they're doing.

And they're like, what are we doing? You know, we heard this year that teenagers were engaging almost as much as the younger children, the children, maybe our kids age were Chris is his writing is we heard so many times it is fun. So there's some things in there that's there for the five year old.

It also is exceptionally rich. One of his philosophies of writing, I think maybe he says, C.S. Lewis said, a book needs to be good enough for an adult if it's good enough for a kid. Which would explain Narnia. Exactly. Right. Clearly, that was his philosophy.

And I think Chris has done that a little bit as well. So we say that the kind of primary age range is three to 13. Everything is included. If you've never done anything before, everything you need in order to create a meaningful moment in your home this Christmas centered around Jesus.

It will come with it. And so I think that creates the simplicity of it. We found that adults, teenagers alike were responding to the content of the guide.

We also do have an adult guide that if you want to go a little bit deeper, that would be an option for a teenager or an adult as well. It is interesting to think about Christmas. And and of course, I love to give gifts, but we've also had those discussion with our kids.

Even the night of Christmas, all the packages have been opened. And already those gifts are beginning to not meet the expectations, you know, that they had. And so we've talked about, like, isn't it interesting that you think this gift that you've been anticipating is going to fill you up?

And yet it doesn't. And I think that's the beauty of the gospel. It's the beauty of the real meaning of Christmas, of the resurrection, of the birth of Jesus, of he continues to fill us up because he is the meaning of Christmas.

Yeah. And I think, you know, the beautiful thing and I, you know, I sit here as a now a grandfather of six grandkids. I'm confessing we never I don't think I let our family well in in seizing Advent season, grabbing that moment starting end of November, you know, beginning December and making it about the real meaning of Christmas. I mean, as a pastor, I'm writing my Christmas sermon, you know, 30 years in a row and, you know, getting ready to preach that to a congregation, because it's a big deal at a church, you know, Christmas and Easter.

There's a lot more people coming. But thinking, man, I didn't do a great job. I have been waiting for this confession for 35 years. Well, you know, I'm thinking if I had the Advent blocks, you know, maybe I'd been better. But I do think in some ways there's a lot of dads like me.

They're like, man, if I had a tool, a vehicle to help me, that would be something I could bring into our family and say, OK. Hey, I don't know how it's going to go, but we have a tool here. Let's start December 1st and let's utilize this Advent season to really. And I think I'm betcha.

Clayton, you tell me. Have you heard stories from parents who said, yeah, I was sort of doing this for my family, but it helped me understand and get ready for the real meaning of Christmas. Have you heard that? Absolutely. The guide and the blocks, it is simple enough for your kids to understand and to celebrate. But it is also rich in a way that I teared up this year. It was my second year. I think it was on day seven. I specifically remember reading it. And I remember beginning to cry because of the the meaning, because of the orientation to life that the story of the Bible and the gospel gives to me. And I was sitting there with my family and we're reading. And I just remember that day and I don't know which day it will be this year, but it definitely does have an impact on the whole family.

And here's what I know as a grandpa. Your kids are going to remember your tears, probably more than what you read that day, that this story impacted dad emotionally, because it's true. All of us as parents head into the holiday season wanting to make the birth of Jesus and the celebration of his birth the center point of what we do as a family.

And yet the holiday season has a way of distracting us, getting our minds on other things. And I really love the perspective that David and have talked with Clayton Green about today, how we can be more purposeful and intentional as parents to put Jesus at the center of our holiday celebration. If you'd like to find out more about the advent blocks that Clayton was talking about today, you can go to our website, You can order it from us online at or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY.

That's 1-800-358-6329. 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. I know this is a busy week for many of us and then the holidays right behind that. Some of you are already thinking about your plans for Black Friday or Cyber Monday or some of you already thinking about Giving Tuesday. Next Tuesday is Giving Tuesday, a day when many people will make a donation to support ministries like Family Life Today. If that's been your practice in the past or if you've been thinking about a Giving Tuesday donation next week, you can actually do your Giving Tuesday giving today at Family Life. We have a year-end matching gift that's been made available to us here at Family Life so that your donation to this ministry will be matched dollar for dollar. And when you donate today, your donation counts toward our Giving Tuesday total. So you can do your Giving Tuesday giving in advance by going online at or calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Your donation will be doubled dollar for dollar. What you give is going to be matched from the matching gift fund. And we'd like to say thank you for your donation by sending you a copy of Dane Ortlund's new devotional from the Book of Psalms, 150 daily devotions.

The book is called In the Lord I Take Refuge, a great devotional to use through the Christmas season and into the new year. And we're going to send you a unique set of playing cards that include conversation starters on each card so that as you're playing cards during the holidays, you can spark some meaningful conversations as well. Again, go to our website to make a Giving Tuesday donation today or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate online and help us take advantage of the matching gift that's been made available to us by giving to Family Life today. And we hope you can join us again tomorrow. Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk about how important it is for honor to be at the center of our homes, how important it is for us to honor one another in our marriages and in our families. We'll hear from them tomorrow. Hope you can be with us. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-19 15:03:38 / 2023-07-19 15:15:05 / 11

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