Thursday, November 18, 2010
- Gather your children and present a large wrapped box with a removable lid (keep the lid on for today, unless you want to show them wrapped gifts inside the box).
- Explain that each day in December you will get a present out of this "Christmas Adventure Box" and talk about how that present reminds us of Jesus.
- Tell them that this large wrapped present reminds you of the Greatest Gift ever given.
- Read John 3:16.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
- Talk about the biggest gift in the history of time, God's gift to us in Jesus.
- Tell about when you received Jesus as a gift and made him Lord of your life.
- Share the gospel story with your children, giving them a chance to receive this Greatest Gift.
- Pray with your children, thanking God for the gift of Jesus. Thank God for the season of Advent and the anticipation of the celebration of Jesus. Ask Him to bless each day as you experience this Christmas Adventure Box!
- Read Luke 2:1-4.
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David."
- Let your children unwrap the Skittles.
- Divide the candy so that each child has a handful. Make extra groupings if you are working with one or two children.
- Explain that Caesar Augustus, in the time of Jesus, wanted to have a "census" to simply count the people.
- Have each child count the pieces of candy in their own pile(s).
- Label your piles with names of cities if you like...giving one the name of "Bethlehem."
- Label each color of Skittles a city name as well, using the same city names given to the piles.
- Instruct all the green colored Skittles to travel to the city designated as "home" to the green candies. Separate all the colors, having them "travel" to their own cities until the candies are all separated into piles or "cities" of the same color.
- Now, count each pile again, noting how many more or less each "city" has.
- Explain that the census was Caesar Augustus' way of counting the people in his country. Also explain that this census played an important role in orchestrating the birth of Christ to take place in Bethlehem, as promised.
- Thank God for making special plans to keep His promise. Thank God for Joseph and Mary's safe trip to Bethlehem. Ask God to keep you safe as you travel over the holidays.
*Wrap the stable and animals (except the sheep...save those for December 6) for today's gift.
- Read Luke 2: 5-7.
"He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them."
- Pass out the gifts to be unwrapped and let the children open them.
- Remind your children why Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem (The census discussion from December 2nd should help.)
- Ask your children, "Where would we have to travel if we were told to go to the hometown of our dad?"
- Talk about how busy the town would be today if you actually had to travel back with everyone else from that same town. (Equate it to a festival there, or a time when many go back to visit.)
- Ask your children where everyone would stay if that were to happen. We don't have stables today, but would Joseph and Mary's situation today mean they would have stayed in their car in a hotel parking lot or in someone's garage?
- Discuss that Joseph and Mary were back in Joseph's hometown and it was very crowded.
- Talk about their situation and the open stable that was offered to them. Discuss the sights, sounds and smells of such a place.
- Pray with your family. Thank God for giving Joseph and Mary a place to stay. Thank God for Christmas and ask God to teach you more about Him this season.
*Today's gifts are the unbreakable nativity figurines of Joseph and Mary.
- Read Luke 1: 30-33.
"But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.'"
- Give your children the gifts to open.
- Explain how God's people were given promises about a king who would "reign in the house of Jacob forever." (This phrase is also found in Isaiah 9:7)
- Explain also how Old Testament prophets told of the birth of this King through special circumstances (by a virgin, Isaiah 7:14).
- Talk about the way God kept promises through the birth of Jesus. He kept his promise with Mary too.
- Think of a time when you knew God kept a promise to you (Duet. 31:6 will help).
- Pray with your family, thanking God for always keeping His promises.
- Read Luke 2:6-7.
"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them."
- Choose a child to unwrap the figurine of baby Jesus.
- Remind your children about the activity surrounding the stable from a few days ago. Talk again about the sights, sounds and smells of a stable.
- Ask the children how Joseph and Mary must have felt, knowing that the promised King would be born in a stable.
- Share the stories of the births of each of your children and how they were different from the birth of Jesus.
- Pray with your family. Thank God for the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised King. Thank God for the birth of each child in your family.
*For today's gift, wrap the shepherds, sheep and angels from your unbreakable nativity set.
- Give the children the figurines to unwrap.
- Read Luke 2:8-20 and let the children use the figurines as puppets to "act out" the events of this passage.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people
13 Suddenly a great company of
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread
- Afterward, talk about the excitement the shepherds felt about this big news they were able to share.
- Think of a time in your family when you were excited to share some big news (perhaps the news of a new baby).
- Use the example of your excitement to share "big news" to help understand how excited the shepherds were to share the news of Jesus' birth.
- Pray with your family. Thank God for the shepherds and the angels and all the excitement surrounding the birth of baby Jesus. Thank God for the feelings of excitement your family has experienced. Ask God to give your family excitement to share the story of Jesus with others.
- Read Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11.
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him...'10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."
- Allow your children to open the figurines of the magi.
- Point out that the Magi were not from Jerusalem and had probably never heard about a promised Messiah.
- Ask your children why they think God gave the Magi a star to follow that led right to Jesus.
- Think aloud with your children about how God shows Himself to people all over the world, even people who don't know about Him.
- Pray with your family. Ask God to show Himself boldly to someone in the world who does not know about Him. Pray that many would respond to Jesus just like the Magi did in the story of Jesus' birth.
- Let your children open the "costumes."
- Assign parts to conduct your very own rendition of Christ's birth. You'll need characters (or stand-ins) for Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, shepherds and at least one angel.
- Narrate the story by reading the Scriptures while the children act it out. The story is found in Luke 2:1-20.
- At the conclusion of your skit, pray with your family. Thank God for this unpredictable and miraculous story about the birth of the Messiah.
- Read Luke 18:15-17.
"People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17
- Explain that when Jesus grew to be a man, he began to teach people how to live a life pleasing to God. This story is about one of those times, when Jesus was teaching people about God.
- Allow the children to open their gifts.
- Spend time sharing with each child about their birth and your decision to "bring them to Jesus," just as the parents in this passage did. Perhaps this was in the form of a child dedication, or simply a prayer around the time of their birth.
- Emphasize that Jesus thinks children have remarkable faith and encourages them to come to him.
- Ask each child to share something they would have said to Jesus if they would have been a child in this Bible story.
- Encourage your children to pray at the conclusion of your time, saying the very things they would have told Jesus if they were part of this story in Scripture.
- Read Matthew 5:14-16
- Give your children a chance to open the "Surprise Ride!" certificate.
- Explain that you'll all be driving to a surprise destination.
- Drive to a location where there are lots of Christmas lights on display.
- Remind the children about the verse for today and point out how brightly the Christmas lights shine against the dark night. Explain that we can shine our lights in a dark world to make a big difference for people here.
Feel free to use the Christmas lights to further this lesson by pointing out dark spots and missing bulbs and how that can demonstrate a dark place needing light. Lots of lights in one space could further the analogy by emphasizing the power of lots of "lights" working together...range far and wide on this discussion if you have the time/attention span with your children.
- Pray with your family. Ask God to give your family the boldness to "let your light shine before others" by sharing the hope of Christ with a dark world.
- Read I Timothy 6:18
"Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."
- Give the gift to one child to open.
- Ask that child how it feels to open such a treat.
- Talk with all the children about special gifts your family has received in the past.
- Point out the gifts God gives us all the time (food, a smile, talents, a house, etc.).
- Use the verse to explain that God instructs us to share what we have.
- Use the M&M's to show your children how you will use the gift from one child to share with lots of people.
- Combine the M&M's to make a treat for your postal carrier, bus driver and/or Sunday school teacher.
- Package the treats to give away and thank your children for being willing to share.
- Pray with your family. Ask God to give you a heart that is always generous and willing to share.
- Read Isaiah 53:5 (NKJ).
"But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed."
- Let the children open the candy canes.
- Talk about candy canes and wonder aloud why we only see them at Christmas.
- Share this legend:
- Use the candy canes as a treat, or hang them on the Christmas tree for decoration.
- Pray with your family. Thank God for candy canes and how they can remind us about Jesus.
- Read Luke 2:14
“'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'”
- Give your children today's gift to unwrap.
- Ask your children what they think the angels meant when they sang, "and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
- Discuss what it means to have favor with God and how that gives us peace. (For my children, I've discussed this as blessing God with the way we live our lives. One result of blessing God with our lives is living in peace with Him.)
- Pray with your family. Give "glory to God in the highest." Pray that His favor will rest with each one in your family and he will grant you peace.
- Read Luke 2:7.
"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them."
- Give your children the gift for today to unwrap.
- Tell the children that you'll use the board/book to celebrate the Mexican tradition of "Posadas."
The tradition looks a little like this:
In Mexico, from December 16-24, children and adults celebrate by reenacting Joseph and Mary's search for an inn (las posadas). On each night of the festival, children take a board or book with figures of Mary and Joseph carefully perched on them (we use our Mary and Joseph from the nativity set opened earlier in the month). They take Mary and Joseph to a home where someone acts as the innkeeper and others act as Joseph and Mary. The innkeeper goes to a room and closes the door. The children take Joseph and Mary around the house, searching for the inn keeper. When Joseph and Mary find the room of the innkeeper, they knock and beg for a place to stay. The innkeeper refuses until Joseph tells of Mary's pregnancy and the need of a room to birth the coming Messiah. The innkeeper grows excited about playing a part in the birth of the Messiah and rejoices by throwing a party!
- Have your children carry out your family's rendition of this Mexican celebration. A "hide-and-seek" of sorts with a baby Jesus theme:)
- Feel free to conclude your time with a party or mini-celebration.
- Pray with your family. Thank God for giving Jesus a special birth-place. Thank God for His creativity and for the celebrations happening around the world because of Jesus and His birth.
- Read Philemon 1:6
"I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ."
- Allow your children to open the "Surprise Ride" certificate and load them up in the car.
- Travel to the home of a family member or friend prepared to share with your children their "Christ story." They could share about when the accepted Christ as Lord, a time when Christ was very near to them, or a childhood Christmas tradition they remember.
- Thank your host and remind your children with today's verse that telling our stories is an important part of our faith.
- Pray with your children. Ask God to give you boldness to share your own experiences of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in your lives.
- Read Philippians 2:14-16
- Have your children look at the verse for today to answer this question: "How can we shine like stars?"
- Give the children an opportunity to open their gift(s) for today.
- Explain how an interest in "shining like stars" is the legendary basis for today's Christmas tree.
Martin Luther (a key figure in the Reformation of the church) was preparing for a sermon, pacing back and forth in his living room. He watched the stars shining through the pine trees outside his window and got a "bright" idea. He brought an evergreen from outside and stood it up in his living room, adding candles to simulate the stars shining through the branches. This legend gave way to the modern lighted evergreens that adorn our living rooms today.
- Let the children place their ornaments on the Christmas tree.
- Stand across the room from the tree and have everyone squint as they look at your lighted tree.
- Marvel at the "stars" dancing on the branches of your evergreen and remind the children that as Christians, we are like beautiful shining stars in our world.
- Pray with your family. Ask God to make you blameless and pure so that you can shine like stars in the universe. Thank God for each child and the specific way they shine.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
*Gather supplies for a "countdown" calender. We use strips of construction paper to make a "countdown to Christmas" chain.
- Read Isaiah 40:31.
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
- Let your children open the countdown to Christmas supplies that you've wrapped.
- Explain the meaning of "advent." (Which is simply the anticipation of the coming of Christ.)
- Talk about what it means to "hope in the Lord" and "soar like eagles."
- Share about a time when you experienced hope in the Lord.
- Ask the kids if they love Christmastime...talk about the eager anticipation we have to celebrate the birth of Christ.
- If your children are old enough and you feel you have time, share about living life with eagerness for Christ's second coming.
- Show the children how you will use the supplies to make your own countdown to Christmas.
- Create your countdown and explain how it works.
- Pray, thanking God for Christmastime. Ask God to give your family a hope at all times.
- Read Galations 2:10.
- Give your children a chance to open their "stockings."
- Explain to your children the history and legends surrounding Saint Nicholas. A summary of the legend is:
- Talk about the generosity of Saint Nicholas.
- Encourage your children to think of how they can help the helpless and needy this holiday season. Brainstorm ideas with your children and make an effort to follow through.
- Ask your children if they would like to hang their stockings, just as the boys and girls in the legend did. Be sure to add a piece of candy to the stockings once the children are asleep!
- Thank God for the things he has blessed your family with. Thank Him for the example of Saint Nicholas and ask God to help your family be generous with what you have.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
*Wrap an empty photo journal for today's gift.
- Read James 5:16.
- Talk about prayer: when, why and how you pray.
- Describe a time when you saw God answer a specific prayer. Reinforce the Scripture by emphasizing the power of prayer.
- Let the children unwrap the gift (an empty photo album).
- Explain that the photos received through Christmas greetings will be cut to size and placed in the album.
- Tell the children that the pictures will then be used at prayer time.
- Pray with your children. Ask God to show you His power as you pray for your family and friends through the coming year.
- Read Hebrews 10:9-10.
- Give your children the wrapped cross to open.
- Talk about why Jesus was born as a baby (found in today's verse: "to do your will").
- Ask your children what God's will was for Jesus' life.
- Share the gospel with your children again.
- Look at the cross with your children and discuss the importance of this symbol to us today.
- Place the cross in a place where your family will see it for the next several days. (Ours gets placed on the Christmas tree because it is a cross ornament.)
- Pray, thanking God for His perfect will. Thank Jesus for carrying out the will of God. Ask God to remind you of the sacrifice given on the cross.
- Read Revelation 5:12.
'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!'”
- Give your children the gift and let them open their "Surprise Ride" certificate.
- Load up the family in the car and as you drive make a list of your favorite Christmas songs.
- Stop at a nursing home, or make several stops at the homes of family and friends to sing your favorite Christmas songs.
- After you're finished, pray with your children. Thank God for Christmas music and ask Him to bless your hearts continually through the gift of music.
*I always plan this advent activity to go along with our church calender's annual caroling night. If Christmas caroling is out of your family's comfort zone, try a variation of this activity. Your family could also choose to sing at home (turn out all the lights except your shimmering tree...that will help set the mood!). You could also opt for uploading your favorite Christmas carols to a CD that you can listen to on Christmas morning.
- Read Phillipians 1:3
- Ask your children, "Who are you thankful for?"
- Talk about Christmas and the tradition of giving gifts. Give a few examples of how your family will show thankfulness to someone you love by giving them a gift at Christmas.
- Explain how others may give gifts to members of your family because they also want to show you love. Discuss what it might look like to receive a gift with thanks.
- Give the children your gift of markers and card making supplies and let them open it.
- Explain that you will make cards for grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for whom you are thankful. You can use the verse as the text for the cards (if your children are old enough).
- Pray, thanking God for each person mentioned.
- Send the cards, save them as a Christmas gift, or keep them to use as thank-you cards after the holidays are over.
Monday, November 15, 2010
*You'll need to wrap one or more cookie cutters for today's gift if you start at the beginning of today's instructions. If you prefer to pre-bake (or buy!) cut-out cookies, the verse is applicable to simply decorating the cookies. In the past, I have wrapped up a bottle of cookie sprinkles or decorations instead of cookie cutters to demonstrate God's craftsmanship.
- Read Isaiah 64:8.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand."
- Give the children time to open the cookie cutter(s).
- Explain to your children how God takes great care in forming each one of us for His purpose.
- Pass out small amounts of cookie dough to each child.
If you have a favorite cut-out recipe that you'd be willing to share, post it in a comment below!
- Allow the children to play with the dough, shaping it and forming it as you talk.
- Use the verse in Isaiah to talk about the way God made us, choosing specific features unique to each one. Expound on the unique features of each child.
- Continue cutting/forming the cookies and then bake them.
- Use the decorations as an analogy as well. Describe how God adds just the right touches to our personalities to make us all unique and beautiful.
- Give your children an opportunity to decorate their own cookies.
- Pray with your children, thanking God for each one for specific qualities.
*Today's gift is a movie about the Nativity or Christmas Story.
- Read II Thessalonians 2:15-16.
"So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."
- Remind your children what you've learned during the month of December through the Adventure Box.
- Let the children unwrap the gift.
- Tell them that your family will "review" some of the things you've learned by watching a movie that depicts the Christmas story.
- Pray that God will keep this story close to your hearts and thank him again for the gift of Jesus.
- Start the movie!
Our movie night has become a beloved tradition for the kids. They watch the movie with the lights out and sleep in the living room.
Movie suggestion for younger children:
The Christmas Story Keepers
Movie suggestion for older children:
The Nativity Story
*Today's gift is a Bible...but I don't always wrap ours.
- Let your children unwrap the Bible as the last gift of the season from the Adventure Box.
- Tell the children that you will read the story again to recap all that you've discussed during the month of December.
- Read Luke 2:1-20
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
- Pray, thanking God for his perfect plan and his perfect gift for us. Thank God for his word and what your family has learned during December with the Adventure Box. Ask God to help you remember Jesus Christ throughout Christmas day and each day in the coming year.