Many years ago, at Christmas time, I remember my parents taking me to a toy store for children.
It looked like they were buying toys as gifts for someone—particularly a white Hot Wheels sports car. “But for whom?” I thought.
They did not ask me what I wanted or tell me what they were doing. I was confused but remained quiet.
On Christmas Day, we opened gifts that “Santa brought us.” Suddenly, the mystery was revealed and it all made sense.
Clearly, Santa told my parents what I wanted and where to get it.
Not so. But Christmas memories can be vivid and powerful. They can stick to your soul for a lifetime.
I can still remember the aisles of the store, the shape and colour of the dinky car, and the strange feeling of watching my parents buy gifts for “someone else.”
Making Advent Meaningful
Last year, my wife and I wanted to make Christmas as special as we could for our delightful 3-year old daughter.
When she grows up, we want her to remember Christmas as magical, meaningful, and immensely memorable.
We decided to make the most of the season of advent to immerse our daughter into the unfolding story of the gospel.
Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival.”
Advent is a season of giving voice to our rejoicing at the first coming of Christ and to our longing for his second coming.
We wanted to stir up our daughter’s imagination (and our own) by creating engaging ways for us to actively rejoice in Christ and remember his return.
My wife talked to her friends for ideas, searched for things to do online, and put up Christmas decorations all around the home with our daughter eagerly helping her.
Our daughter felt invested in the preparation, so it was easy to get her involved in the process.
We prepared something to do every day for 25 days, from the first of December to Christmas day.
Making Meaningful Memories
We told her about the birth of Christ and described our desire to celebrate the season with special things to do until Christmas Day. She was excited to get started.
We decorated the house with Christmassy things—a little nativity scene, a Christmas tree, and decorations.
Little did we know, we were imitating the reformer Martin Luther. According to tradition, he used the beauty of a decorated Christmas tree to express and teach theology to his family.
We kept 25 candles of different sizes on a desk and helped her light a candle after dinner every night.
Lighting candles is a simple way of remembering the beauty and power of the true light who shines in the darkness (John 1:5).
A good friend of ours gifted us 25 advent cards which we hung on a string in the house.
Every evening, we took one down and read from it. Each card had a Bible verse and a mediation on the names of Jesus—Redeemer, Bread of life, Good Shepherd, and the like.
We read to her every night from an advent story book for children with 24 stories before Christmas.
Each night, we prayed and thanked God for Jesus and the gift of a beautiful King who gives us strength when we are weak, forgives us when we make mistakes, and loves us all the time.
We kept stockings and filled them with simple little gifts for one another. I helped her choose something for her mother, who helped her choose something for me.
On Christmas Day we opened and unwrapped our gifts, mindful and grateful for how “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
She loved every day of it. So did we.
Making Christ Memorable
Remembrance is one of the most biblical and beautiful things we can do as disciples of Jesus. Investing in our memories is like storing up treasures in our hearts that yield great dividends over a long period of time.
God’s word is full of rituals for remembrance that bring joy and peace.
Christians can sometimes be suspicious of rituals. But it must be clear that God does not hate rituals. He hates empty rituals (Isa. 1:11-15; Amos 5:21-24).
When rituals are rich in relationship and reverence they help us to rejoice, remember, and rest in Christ.
I am so grateful my wife thought to make Christmas memorable for our daughter. In doing that, she made it memorable for us too.
While we may not remember everything we did last year, we will never forget how it made us feel to be together.
Every night our daughter was excited to light the next candle. She sat between us and listened attentively to the advent stories and learned the names of Christ.
Each night, she counted the advent cards and counted down to Christmas Day with growing anticipation. These are precious, priceless memories.
This year, she is excited to celebrate advent again with old and new things to do. She will also be an angel in a Christmas play at school and in our church.
We know we cannot control what our children will believe. The Lord alone holds authority over their hearts. But we can influence what they remember, how they feel, and what their hearts learn from how we make Christ memorable.
Advent is a beautiful season of longing.
As parents, our deepest longing is to love our children into the love of Christ. May the Light of the World shine brightly in the hearts of our children, both now and forevermore.