What Comes First

Posted on December 21, 2020

“I meditate on your precepts  and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” Psalm 119:15-16, NIV

One of our favorite traditions that we will miss this year is attending the Children’s Christmas Eve service at my parent’s church. Sometimes our kids are dressed in precious Christmas clothes… some years they wear their Christmas jammies. No one bats an eye either way.

The middle schoolers act out the nativity story, and we sing the first verse of all the familiar hymns. At the end they distribute glow sticks, and we hold them high in the air while singing Silent Night, Holy Night. If you have never attended a service like this, it can be just as moving as the traditional candlelit services. Finally on the way out the door they give each family an ornament to hang on the tree and remind you of the message of that year’s service.

It is a lovely, easy, meaningful, kid-friendly experience every year.

For me one of the highlights is Christy Todd, their Minister to Children, and the message she shares. Christy always comes to this service in her pajamas, shows the ornament to the congregation, and explains its significance. She shares how her own parents began a tradition of beginning Christmas morning not with the race to open presents or see what Santa brought-- but by reading Luke 2 together. She challenges us to consider what comes first for our family on Christmas morning. She encourages us to place the ornament on the tree together and read from scriptures first thing.

This idea struck me in such a profound way, we began this tradition with our own children, and I’m here to say… it works. While they were still babies and toddlers we used a children’s storybook Bible to read from. Now our two older kids grab their own Bibles and read the story to us. My three kids wait at the top of the stairs for us and know this is our family tradition. 

We read the Bible first and then we enjoy our presents. It is one of the few things in life we get no complaints about.

If you are interested in starting this tradition with your family, here are a few tips:

  • Set expectations- Kids do so much better when they know what to expect. Talk to the kids as you put them to bed on Christmas Eve. Let them know what will happen the next morning.

  • Lay out your Bible- Just as you may put out cookies for Santa, or get your phone/camera on the charger-- lay out the Bible you want to read with your family. Prepare.

  • Plan your location- We typically go to one of the kids rooms or we sit in the hallway upstairs. We purposefully sit where they cannot see the Christmas tree and their presents. I think that would just be too much to ask of little kids. 

  • Know your kids - Think about the ages and disposition of your children. Can they handle the whole scripture? Should you use a children’s Bible with lots of colorful pictures? Length does not increase significance. You can have a meaningful 2 minute devotion time.

  • Get your kids involved- My kids tend to be more attentive when they are active participants. If yours are still little and nonreaders, consider giving them the pieces to a nativity set to hold while you read the story. If your kids are old enough to read, ask them to read the Bible story to the family. Listening to your own children read the Bible will make your heart swell. 

Christmas is still four days away. Plan now how you want Christmas morning to look. Consider for your family-- what comes first?

Lord, we have been waiting for you. Come, thou long expected Jesus. Amen.