Christmas

Have Yourself an Awesome Little Advent 2018: 12 (Mostly FREE) Advent Devotionals, Activities, and Resources

Is your family getting ready for Advent? Loosely defined, Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas when we commemorate Christ’s first coming and anticipate His second coming. And what better way to do so than by making Bible study and worship part of your family tradition? Here are some awesome Advent resources for young and old alike. Most of them are free, but the ones that aren’t, I’ve marked with a  💰.

Please note, I tried to vet these resources and writers as best I could for sound doctrine, but not all of these folks are thoroughly familiar to me, nor have I read all of these materials. Be discerning, and always make sure every teaching you embrace matches up with what God’s word says.

P_20131113_122041-296x300

December Advent!– Here’s an advent calendar, craft, and devotional all rolled into one! Naomi’s Table is a women’s Bible study resource that I highly recommend for sound doctrine and right handling of God’s word. Have a listen to their daily Advent podcasts and make the Advent calendar that goes with them!

 

coverLet Every Heart Prepare Him Room– This is a family Advent devotional from Bible teacher and mom Nancy Guthrie. Along with devotions for every day in December, this resource includes explanations of some hard-to-understand aspects of popular Christmas carols and discussion questions to draw in your elementary through high school-aged kids. 💰

 

close up of a candle on a christmas tree

Joyous Expectation– Lynnae McCoy offers a weekly Advent devotional. The first week she helps us remember that “The King is on the way!” with a free printable. (Click on “Tagged With: Advent” at the end of the article for remaining devotionals.)

 

Lutheran Public Radio– Looking for sacred music to listen to during Advent? According to my reader who recommended this resource, “They play church music appropriate to the season of the church year,” so you might want to keep LPR handy all year long! Listen online at the LPR website or on the LPR app.

 

Worship Ideas for Family Time at Christmas– Jerry Vogel and his wife “always plan a dedicated time for family worship.” Here’s how they did it. Maybe it would be a fit for your family, too.

 

9780805444193

The Christ of Christmas Advent Devotionals– These weekly devotional readings are excerpted from Calvin Miller’s book, The Christ of Christmas.

 

 

 

2009-11-18_0909aNames of Jesus Advent Chain– Paper chains are a fun and easy craft for families with little ones, and this one even comes with a printable template. Count down to Christmas with the Names of Jesus Advent Chain from Spell Outloud.

 

Know Him by Name– There are enough red flags with Focus on the Family that it’s not a ministry I proactively recommend, but they’re generally doctrinally OK enough that I’m comfortable sharing this Advent devotional with you to use as a template for your own family time. Use the Scriptures they’ve provided, tweak or beef up the teaching portion, and select some of the fun activities (advent wreath instructions and free printables) to do with the kids.

 

Love Came Down at Christmas– “Over the course of December, this devotional [by Sinclair Ferguson] walks through 1 Corinthians 13 phrase-by-phrase, showing us that “love is” the Lord Jesus himself…Each day’s reading finishes with a question for reflection and a prayer.” 💰

 

 

Christmas Messages– Maybe sermons are more to your Advent listening liking than music. “In this set of Christmas sermons, Dr. R.C. Sproul examines the account of the Magi in the gospel according to Matthew and the relationship of David and Saul in order to unfold the significance of Christmas and the incarnation of Christ.”

 

Advent Crafts for Kids–  “Scripture-based crafts from Gail Schoonmaker’s book, Big Picture Bible Crafts, can provide an opportunity to do something with kids that will help you explain the Christmas story in a simple and interactive way.” Download two free crafts.

 

Come, Let Us Adore Him– “This book of daily readings for the month of December by best-selling author Paul David Tripp will help you slow down, prepare your heart, and focus on what matters most: adoring our Savior, Jesus.” Download a free excerpt of the book (readings for December 1-4). 💰

 

 

What’s your favorite Advent resource?

Christmas, Mailbag, Parenting

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

‘Tis the season for Christmas-themed Mailbag questions! Got a question about something related to Christmas? Leave a comment below or e-mail me at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com.

Originally published December 4, 2017

 

As Christian parents, is it OK for us to tell our children about Santa Claus?

Christmastime can be so much fun when you have children. Many of us remember the excitement of Santa, the Christmas tree, and presents from our own childhood. They’re happy memories, and we want to recreate those for our children.

But as Christian parents, our first priority isn’t fun, it’s obedience to Scripture. Yet is there a way to make Christmas merry for our children while still upholding God’s Word? Is Santa patently unbiblical?

No, he doesn’t have to be, as long as he keeps his sleigh parked inside the parameters of Scripture. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Santa can be unscripturally naughty, and how godly parents can keep him nice and biblical.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.

Don’t lie to your children about Santa Claus. Tell them the truth: he’s a fun, fictional character that we can enjoy reading stories and singing songs about, just like Goldilocks or Superman or Old MacDonald. As for the presents, maybe you’d like to handle it similarly to the way my husband and I did with our children. When they were very small, my husband or I would don a Santa hat on Christmas Eve and say something like: “You know how you like to play pretend? Well, mommies and daddies like to play pretend, too, especially at Christmas! Now it’s time for you to go to bed so we can pretend to be Santa Claus.”

Santa Claus isn’t omniscient. 

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good, for goodness’ sake!¹

Uh uh. No way. Omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God. He is the only One who has the power to see and know all things, and it is an insult and an affront to Him to even suggest that a mere mortal – let alone a fictional character – has the same power and knowledge that He has. In reverence and awe for God’s preeminence, we should never ascribe to others the things that belong to God alone.

Teach your children about the attributes of God. When you read your children stories about Santa Claus or hear Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town on the radio, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them about God’s omniscience and power. “Did y’all just hear that? That song said Santa Claus can see you and knows how you’re behaving. Is that true? Who is the only One who always sees you, cares for you, and knows what you’re doing and thinking? Can anybody else besides God do that?”

Santa Claus teaches works righteousness. In St. Nick’s economy, good behavior earns a reward (presents). Bad behavior earns punishment (coal). If you’ve ever shared the gospel with anybody, that will probably sound familiar. Most lost people think that’s what Christianity is. If you’re a “good person” God is happy with you and you’ll go to Heaven. Hell is the punishment for “bad people”: Hitler, murderers, and rapists. This is not what the Bible teaches, either about salvation, or about why children should obey their parents.

Teach your children the gospel. Again, this whole “naughty or nice” part of the Santa Claus narrative is a perfect gospel-teaching opportunity. Take advantage of it! Ask your child to be “nice” for one whole day. At bed time, take a few minutes to talk about the times she messed up and was “naughty” when she was supposed to be trying to be “nice.” Nobody can be nice and obedient all the time, no matter how hard we try. We are all naughty, coal black sinners deserving the punishment of Hell. Jesus came and lived a life of perfect “niceness,” died on the cross to take the punishment for our naughtiness, was buried, and rose again. He did that, not because we earned it with good behavior, but because of His mercy and grace. And then He gave us the greatest gift ever. A gift we naughty people don’t deserve: salvation and eternal life in Heaven. And it is because of our love and gratitude to Christ for saving us that we obey Him, not so that He will give us what we want. Indeed, the Bible tells us that the more obedient to Christ we are, the more persecution we will face.

Santa Claus doesn’t automatically have to be on the Christian parent’s naughty list. There are lots of ways to enjoy the fun of Santa and even turn him into an opportunity to teach your child biblical truth, all while being obedient to Scripture. But if Santa makes you biblically uncomfortable in some way, then by all means, don’t go against your conscience. Whichever way you decide – after prayer, study of the Scriptures, and discussing it with your spouse – do not judge other Christian parents by your personal convictions about Santa Claus. And have a Merry Christmas!

¹Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Biblical Womanhood Bible Study

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 8- Beautiful Biblical Obedience

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Read These Selected Scriptures

In lesson 7, we examined the concepts of loving God’s Word and being good students of God’s Word as important parts of biblical womanhood. But being a godly woman doesn’t stop there. We also have to obey God’s Word.

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 7 and consider the significance to biblical womanhood of knowing and loving God’s Word. How does knowing and loving God’s Word lead to and impact obeying God’s Word? Is it necessary to know and love all parts of God’s Word before obeying any part of God’s Word? Why or why not?

2. Study the Luke, Philippians, and Hebrews passages. Who is our ultimate example of obedience to God? To what extent did Jesus obey God (until it was inconvenient, costly, etc.)? How would you describe Jesus’ obedience to God and His written Word during His life on earth? In what ways does Jesus’ obedience set an example for your obedience to God’s Word? To what extent do you obey God? Has there ever been an instance in your life in which you disobeyed God because obeying Him would have been too costly? Considering Jesus’ example, is it ever OK with God for you to disobey Him because it’s too difficult?

3. Examine the James passage. Make a two-column chart displaying the differences between hearers of the Word and doers of the Word. What does James mean when he says that mere hearers of the Word deceive themselves? How does being a doer of the Word grow your understanding of the Word and your trust in God? What is the “perfect…law of liberty”? How do we “persevere” in that law, and why/how does persevering in that law bring blessing?

4. According to the 1 John 2&5 passages, loving obedience to God’s commands indicates two things about Christians: that we ____ God (2:3) and that we ____ God (5:3). In what ways does obeying God’s commands indicate that we truly know God (i.e. we’re saved)? In what ways does obeying God’s commands indicate that we love God? Why are God’s commands not burdensome (5:3) for the Christian?

5. Contrast the 1 John 2&5 passages with the chapter 3 passage. Is John saying that committing a single sin means you aren’t saved, or is he comparing a generally obedient lifestyle with a generally sinful lifestyle as an indicator of a saved person vs. a lost person?

6. Read the story of Saul’s disobedience to God’s Word in 1 Samuel 15. What did God tell Saul to do? (2-3) How did Saul disobey God? (8-9) When Samuel came to confront Saul in his disobedience, how did Saul respond? (13,20) Why, in Saul’s mind, did he think, or try to justify, that He had obeyed God? (15,21) What was the consequence to Saul for disobeying God’s clear instruction? (23,26,28)

What is/are the key verse(s) in this chapter? Explain how verses 22-23a summarize the main point God is teaching us by including this story in the Bible. Is “doing great things for God” that you’ve dreamed up ever an excuse for disobeying His clear written Word?

Describe the blame-shifting Saul engaged in (15,21,24), and compare/contrast Saul’s use of the personal pronoun “I” (13,20) in connection with obedience with “they/the people” (15,21,24) in connection with disobedience. Considering that disobeying the king’s orders was punishable by death, describe how flimsy this excuse was. Does God allow us to blame others for our disobedience?

7. Why does God require that we obey Him? Explain how our obedience a) glorifies God, b) is a testimony of the gospel to the lost, and c) is best for us, personally. Why is obeying God an important component of biblical womanhood?


Homework

Jesus was our perfect example of obedience, but we can’t and shouldn’t obey every part of God’s Word He obeyed. Even though we read about Jesus in the New Testament, He lived His entire earthly life as an Old Testament Jew. (This is because, during His earthly life, He had not yet instituted the new covenant of grace {by His death, burial, and resurrection} that Christians are under today.) In order to live a perfect life of obedience as Israel’s Messiah, Jesus had to obey the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws of the Old Testament. Do you understand the differences between these types of biblical law and why Christians are no longer bound by the civil and ceremonial types? Give this article a read and explain why, for example, Christians may wear garments of mixed fabrics but may not commit adultery.


Suggested Memory Verse

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 
James 1:22

Christmas, Evangelism, Movies

Movie Tuesday: Christmas Gone Viral

Originally published November 28, 2017

One third of the world celebrates Christmas. That makes this the perfect time of year to carry out the Great Commission. What could be a more natural transition from chit chat to the gospel than talking about Christmas – the birth of Christ? Watch as Ray Comfort and ordinary folks from all over the world share the good news of Jesus with those they encounter.

If you’re looking for other easy ways to share the gospel in the coming weeks, check out my article, 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays. You can also order some awesome Christmas-themed tracts to tuck inside your Christmas cards or share as you’re shopping at Living Waters or Bezeugen.

Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should Christians opt out of Christmas due to its supposedly pagan origins?

‘Tis the season for Christmas-themed Mailbag questions! Got a question about something related to Christmas? Leave a comment below or e-mail me at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com.

Originally published December 11, 2017

 

I’ve been hearing a lot of things about Christmas having pagan origins, from Santa’s elves starting out as demons to the Roman winter solstice celebration of Saturnalia morphing into Christmas. Are these things true, and, if so, should Christians be celebrating Christmas?

There’s an old story about a woman who made a ham every year for Christmas dinner. As she was preparing it one year, her daughter asked, “Mom, why do you cut off the end of the ham before you put it in the oven?” The woman answered, “That’s the way my mom taught me to do it.” The woman thought about her daughter’s question all day long, and finally decided to call her own mother to ask about it. When the woman got her mother on the phone, she asked, “Mom, why did you teach me to cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven?” The woman’s mother said, “That’s the way my mom taught me to do it.” Intrigued, the woman called her grandmother and asked once again, “Grandma, why did you cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven?”. Her grandmother replied, “Because I didn’t have a roasting pan large enough for a whole ham.”

Human beings are creatures of habit and tradition, so it’s always important to examine why we do the things we do. As Christians, whether it’s putting up a tree every year, a beloved hymn we’ve been singing since we could talk, or the annual church picnic, our brains should never be on autopilot, unquestioningly taking part in activities by rote.

Do some aspects of the celebration of Christmas find their origin in millennia-old paganism? Possibly. But are you participating in that paganism if you put up a tree or give gifts at Christmas? Probably not. The “Christmas is pagan” lore is so ancient and uncertain that most people aren’t even aware of it. How could you possibly be participating in paganism if a) you’re not even aware of its existence, b) you have no intention of participating in it, and c) it has nothing to do with your reasons for celebrating? Did you know that many of our days of the week and months of the year were originally named for pagan idols and gods? “Sun”day was originally a pagan Roman holiday, and the sun was an object of worship for many ancient peoples. Should we stop having church on Sunday because of that? Are we somehow participating in paganism by holding the Christian day of worship on an ancient pagan feast day? Of course not. Ancient pagans don’t own certain days on the calendar or any particular object or symbol. The Bible tells us, “The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof.” When godless people take a day or an object God has created and use it for evil, they are the ones in the wrong, not godly people who come after them and want to use that same day or object for a godly purpose. To say that Christians can’t use a certain day or object for celebrating Christmas because pagans used that day or object for pagan purposes is to give those ancient pagans power over Christians. Power they have no business holding.

Furthermore, just because pagans used a day, an object, or a symbol for their wicked practices hundreds or thousands of years ago does not mean those days, objects, or symbols carry the same meaning today. Think about the way a mere word can change meanings in such a short time. The 1890’s were known as the “Gay Nineties.” The song, “Deck the Halls” contains the phrase “don we now our gay apparel.” The primary meaning of the word “gay” – just 100-150 years ago in our own country – was “happy, merry, or festive.” Now it means “homosexual.” But the “Christmas is pagan” folks would have us believe we’re supposed to attach centuries old definitions and foreign cultural practices surrounding Christmas and other winter observances to our 21st century American celebrations? Santa may have had demon elves hundreds of years ago in another country and culture, but in our culture today, they’re just his happy little helpers – no demonic strings attached. The meanings of cultural practices and symbols change over time.

Certainly, there’s no biblical requirement for Christians to observe Christmas in any way, so if you don’t want to celebrate, you don’t have to. Conversely, there’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t celebrate Christmas, so Christians are free to do so as long as we aren’t violating any of the clear commands and principles of Scripture. But whatever conclusion you come to, make sure it’s based on God’s Word correctly applied to your actions and motivations, not supposed connections between Christmas and paganism. There are probably dozens of objects in your home, traditions you observe, and days on the calendar that can, if you go back far enough and look hard enough, be traced back to one pagan religion or another. Don’t be ruled by that. Christians are ruled by God’s Word, not fears and superstitions.

So take some time and examine your Christmastime traditions. Why do you put up a Christmas tree every year? What do you tell your children about Santa Claus? What do the words of those Christmas carols mean? Are you doing anything that conflicts with Scripture? If so, stop, repent, and make sure “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Because it’s not about what pagans did centuries ago a world away, it’s about what you’re doing today, why you’re doing it, and whether or not it glorifies God.

Scriptures to Consider:

Romans 14

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

Colossians 2:16-23

Additional Resources:

Myths on the Myths of Santa Claus at When We Understand the Text

Other Christmas Myths at When We Understand the Text

Can Christians Celebrate Christmas? at CARM

Christmas at Got Questions

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? at Ligonier

Pastor Mike Fabarez explains why you can celebrate this Christmas season/Did Jesus celebrate man-made holidays? on Wretched Radio

The Bible reveals Xmas day on the 25th-not from paganism by Agustin Astacio

Christmas Is Not Pagan at Christian Answers for the New Age


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.