I love Christmas traditions, especially ones that point to Christ, so I created a Christmas tradition for our family that I’m thrilled to pass along to you! You can tweak it any way that you like, but here’s how my family does it:
At the beginning of December, set up the background to a nativity set. We purchased a children’s set for each of our kids (the eldest has the Melissa and Doug set pictured here and the youngest has the Fisher-Price Little People set). The idea is that each child will then have their own nativity set to take with them someday and perhaps start the tradition with their own children! But you can also use one family nativity set. As you set up the background, tell your children:
“Every week leading up to Christmas, you’ll receive a part of this set along with a story, and at the end, we’ll be able to see the whole picture of the beautiful story of why we celebrate Christmas!”
Over the course of December, gift pieces of the nativity to your children and read them the corresponding story about the character they’re receiving. You can structure this any way that you like, but here’s the breakdown of how we do it:
There was once a young girl named Mary who loved the Lord her God with all her heart. And God? Well, He loved her, too. In fact, He chose her out of all the girls in all of Israel to be the one to give birth to the Messiah, and He sent an angel to tell her the good news. What a sweet and very big gift young Mary was given! But it was also a hard gift, because this baby would come from God and not from man. “How can this be?” Mary asked. “I’m not married yet!” The angel smiled and said, “Is anything too hard for God? Nope! He will do the impossible, and this baby will be called the very Son of God.” And Mary? She loved God so much that right away she answered, “Yes.” Even though it would be scary and hard, Mary wanted to do what God told her to do and, as a result, the best thing to ever happen to the world would soon come true.
There was once a young man named Joseph who loved the Lord his God with all his heart. He loved Mary too, and he was going to marry her soon! Together they would have children and work hard to raise them to love the Lord. But one day, Mary came to him with some big news. “I’m going to have a baby!” Joseph was sad and confused. Wasn’t he going to have children with Mary? Where did this baby come from? Just as an angel came to Mary, an angel came to Joseph, too. “Don’t be sad,” the angel said. “This baby is coming straight from God Himself! You will be his daddy here on earth while He is away from His true Daddy in heaven, and you will call Him Jesus. Do you know why? Because He is going to save people from their sins!” Wow! This was surprising and very good news. Even though it would be scary and hard, Joseph wanted to do what God told him to do and, as a result, the best thing to ever happen to the world would soon come true.
Time passed and then Mary and Joseph had to travel back home to Bethlehem. While they were there, it came time for Mary to have her special baby boy. And where do you think He was born? In a palace? In a snuggly, warm bed? Nope! He was born where people kept animals. And who do you think found out first about his birth? Mighty kings? Famous people? Nope! Shepherds were the first to know. Now, in those days, people didn’t think much of shepherds. They seemed stinky and dirty and not real great to be around, maybe because they spent all their time taking care of stinky and dirty sheep! But that’s not fair, is it? We should be kind and loving toward everyone, not just those people who make us feel comfortable. Well, God loved these shepherds, and He chose them out of all the people in all of Israel to be the first ones to find out about the birth of baby Jesus!
An angel told Mary she would have the baby Jesus. An angel told Joseph that this was no ordinary boy but was, in fact, the Son of God. Can you guess who announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the field? You got it! An angel! But not just one angel. No, a whole bunch of them filled the sky, shouting out the great, big, happy news that the Messiah, the longed-for One, was finally here! Hurry, hurry, hurry—come and see the sweet baby who would grow up to save the world!
The birth of Baby Jesus was such great news that God put a huge star in the sky to announce it. Some Wise Men who lived far far away saw this bright star in the sky and knew right away what it meant. “Come, let’s go find the One who is born king of the Jews!” They traveled for a long long time to get to Him, but finally they arrived. They fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him, giving Him three huge gifts befitting a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Mary was so surprised! God loved these Wise Men, and when it came time for them to return home, God protected them from a man named Herod who wanted to use them to hurt Baby Jesus. God talked to the Wise Men in a dream telling them to stay far far away from Herod. They left secretly and safely, their hearts full of joy.
All the world was broken and hurting, waiting for someone to make it right, and Jesus was God’s big gift and answer. All of the Bible points to Him; all of God’s promises find their YES in Him. Jesus would mend broken hearts and comfort those who were sad, but the biggest thing He would do would be to save people from their sins. He would make a way for people to be in a good relationship with God once again. Who can possibly do all that? Not an ordinary person, right? That’s why an extraordinary person was needed. You see, Jesus was not just human, He was also God Himself in the flesh. Remember? The angel told Mary this was the very Son of God! What a great and huge mystery! Like Mary and Joseph, you and me get to say a big “Yes” to this gift. We receive it, like the shepherds and the Wise Men, with wide-open arms. The gift of Jesus Christ is for all people across all time. It’s for you. And it’s for me. It is the very best thing to ever happen to the world!
A Christmas Promise
This certainly is not a comprehensive story, so you’ll most likely want to expand on it (or simplify it depending on the age of your child!), but my hope is that this gives you a base to work from and that you’ll enjoy doing this tradition with your own children!
You can download a PDF of the story here: