My husband teases that I’m secretly Jewish—me, the preacher’s kid from Oklahoma. I must have some Hebrew roots, he says, considering the mezuzah by our door and the Jewish holidays I make our family celebrate.
It’s true. Over the years our family has probably celebrated more Jewish holidays than Christian. We observe Passover each year, and once we even built a “booth” in our living room. (It was made of branches from our backyard lemon tree, and we only stayed in it for an hour—not a week.)
Why celebrate these holidays? Because it was through these festivals that Israel learned who God is and what he’d done. Through their traditions, the Hebrews passed on to their children identity and faith and heritage—all while they thanked, praised, and worshiped God.
It’s been said that parenting is spelled T-I-M-E, but perhaps Jewish parents would spell it T-A-L-K. Parenting takes a lot of talking. I must’ve said more words in the years when my three kids were small than in the rest of my 42 years combined. In those days, my kids and I discussed everything: from what clouds are made of, to how “that boy looks just like a cat,” to why we don’t talk about how that boy looks like a cat (at least not when he can hear us). We talked about faith—about Bible heroes and missionaries. We talked about church, and most of all, we talked about Jesus. He was the topic of every conversation, the first and last Word on every subject.
Parenting is about talking. “Talk about [God’s commands] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road . . .” “When your son asks you” . . . tell him (Deuteronomy 6:7, 20). So as we enter a season where we reflect on Christ, let’s take a page from the Hebrew parenting manual. Let’s make this Christmas a season of family worship. Psalm 105 offers several ways: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” (vv. 1-3, English Standard Version).
Giving Thanks to the Lord
What better state of the heart to have at Christmas than thankfulness? I’ve lived long enough to know that gratitude makes all the difference. In marriage, in ministry, in seasons of health or illness, in plenty or not enough, gratitude changes everything.
When our family moved across the country, our home sold sooner than expected. We had to find a place to stay temporarily, and we ended up—all five of us—living in a friend’s RV for over a month. When we arrived at the campground, I pulled out a yellow legal pad and started a list: “100 Things We Love About the RV.”
Throughout our 40 days there (and believe me, the timing was not lost on me) our family wrote our reasons to be thankful. We thanked God for everything from foldout couches to the campground store. Today, we look back on that season with fondness and happy memories—not because we loved the close quarters, but because we determined to give thanks. We spent 40 days, not mad at the circumstances that put us there, but thankful for God’s provision through them. A change of focus changed our hearts.
This Christmas, what if your family decided to give thanks? What if you listed not the presents you want to receive, but all the gifts that are yours in Christ? What if you took time to talk about him, to “make known among the nations”—beginning with your family—” what he has done”? Maybe your family could make your own legal pad list, “100 Things We Love About Jesus,” and read it together on Christmas morning. Maybe you could make a paper chain: write something you’re thankful for on each link and string the chain around your Christmas tree. A change of focus will change your heart, so take time to give thanks.
Singing to Him
“Sing to him,” wrote the psalmist, “sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts” (Psalm 105:2). Praise is about God, and when we praise him in our homes, we talk about how great he is.
In our family, we sing Scripture. Sometimes we sing along with praise albums and sometimes we make up our own tunes. I often sang Numbers 6:24-26 over our young children at bedtime: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (NIV). Years later, when my youngest daughter was in middle school, she texted me a picture from a friend’s house. The picture showed a plaque of Numbers 6:24-26, hanging on her friend’s living room wall. I laughed when she followed the picture with these words: “Mom! I totally thought you made this song up!” (Maybe when you sing Scripture, make sure to mention that it’s God’s Word, not yours.)
Your family could also praise by singing Christmas carols together. It doesn’t have to be a Hallmark moment, with the whole family gathered around a piano to sing in perfect harmony—that’s not my family, either. Instead, play Christmas music on Spotify, and “sing praise to him” together as you decorate your tree. Discuss the words as you sing. Go caroling around your neighborhood. As you praise—Scripture or carols—you’ll talk about Jesus. You’ll tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glorying in His Holy Name
If our praise is about God, then our worship is to God. “Glory in his holy name,” sang the psalmist. “Glory to God in the highest!” announced the angels. If we don’t use the Christmas season to lead our families in worship, we’ve missed the point.
In worship, we “look to the Lord and . . . seek his face” (Psalm 105:4). We “remember the wonders he has done” (Psalm 105:5)—especially what he has done for us through Jesus Christ. The best place to look to the Lord and remember his faithfulness? Scripture. When we open up God’s Word in our homes and talk together about “the wonders he has done,” we give our children identity, faith, and heritage, just as the Hebrews did. Even more, we worship.
When my kids were younger, we had daily devotions together—sometimes at breakfast, sometimes at dinner, and sometimes at bedtime, depending on the season of life. We also memorized Scripture together, one verse at a time at first, then longer passages as the kids got older. (We loved the books Day by Day Kid’s Bible and Sword Fighting, both by Karyn Henley.) Around Christmas, we’ve followed advent calendars, held birthday parties for Jesus, and read Luke 2 on Christmas morning.
Want to make this Christmas a season of family worship? Then spell parenting T-A-L-K. Talk to your kids, pointing them to Jesus Christ as you give thanks to God, sing to him, and glory in his name . . . and let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Amy Storms serves as marketing and communications director at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri. She and her husband have three teenage children.