I’m Dreaming of a Thankful Christmas

Ed Drew | November 23rd 2021

It was like a wrapping-paper blizzard. It already covered the floor. It didn’t stop. There was more and more of it. Tearing, ripping, throwing and moving on. It was in that moment that I knew our family Christmas had taken a wrong turn. 

Every family does Christmas differently. My wife’s family would open their presents at the kitchen table, each opening one gift at a time with a few words of surprise and comment from others. I found it a bit intense (and the moment her mom held up her new knickers will live with me forever). We grew up with all of us opening our presents at the same time. It worked for us. Until the wrapping-paper blizzard. In that moment, it felt like my family was ripping through each present without gratitude or any sense that someone had generously given it to them.

I want our Christmas to be about the birth of Christ. I want our thankfulness and joy to linger beyond the end of our Christmas Day church service. I want our celebration to feel more like the first Christmas.

"The first Christmas was a great adventure full of worship, wonder and gratitude. But what about my family Christmas?"

A Precedent for Praise

Mary had her world tipped upside down, but she still sang, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart is happy because God is my Savior. I am not important, but God has shown his care for me, his servant girl” (Luke 1:46-48 ICB).

The wise men had traveled for weeks and even turned their back on a king’s palace, only for the star to take them to a toddler in a backwater town. Did they choose to take their presents back with them, disappointed with their final destination? No. They threw themselves to the floor, worshipped and laid their gifts at his little grubby feet (Matthew 2:11). They left certain that their hard journey had been worthwhile.

The Adventure of Christmas

The Adventure of Christmas

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Easy-to-use Advent devotional that the whole family can enjoy together.

I feel like I can hear the laughter of the bemused, gritty shepherds, in their excitement: “Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything that they had seen and heard” (Luke 2:20).

And there is so much more. Hear the reactions of Zechariah (Luke 1: 67-69), Simeon (Luke 2:28-32) and Anna (Luke 2:38). Each of them speaks as though their whole life had pointed to these experiences.

Moving Towards Thankfulness

The first Christmas was a great adventure full of worship, wonder and gratitude. But what about my family Christmas? The dream is that our Christmas will be a blizzard of prayer and worship, with hearts full of the joy of “God with us.” I will pray for that. How can I push our family just a little closer to it?

I am so grateful to my parents for how they made sure we remembered more than our presents. I now understand why Mom’s lonely cousin was always invited to join us for the day. We always gave him a present, but he took far more pleasure in watching us open ours. I am proud of my Dad that he took us with him to deliver Christmas lunch to the elderly Christian couple up the road. They were so grateful! And I thank God that Dad always finished Christmas Day by praying with me before I collapsed in a heap at bedtime.

"Even at Christmas, we are still the sinners Christ came to save. Yet we are also still the parents our children need."

I wrote The Adventure of Christmas to help families feel part of that first Christmas. In a ten-minute family Bible time each day from December 1st-25th, we can discuss, wonder and imagine our way through Luke and Matthew’s brilliant accounts. If we can stand in fear with Mary as Gabriel appears, if we can join with the shepherds as they peer into the manger, and if we can finish Christmas worshipping Immanuel with the wise men, then we will have served our children very well indeed. There will still be moments of great frustration, huge anti-climax and perhaps total despair. That is because, even at Christmas, we are still the sinners Christ came to save. Yet we are also still the parents our children need. 

Think creatively, start traditions and join the adventure. When the children jump on your bed on Christmas Day morning, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus or pray thanking God for his Son’s birth. Before you finish eating your Christmas meal, ask each person around the table to thank God for their favorite part of the Christmas story. After you’ve ripped open every present and as the wrapping-paper blizzard starts to settle, thank God for one person who has shown you love by celebrating Jesus' birth with a present.

Before you get lost in the panic, excitement, shopping and vegetable peelings, just check that there will be a few fixed points in your Christmas that encourage your children—and the whole family—to live the adventure of Christmas with thankful hearts.

Ed Drew is the author of The Adventure of Christmas. He is the Director of Faith in Kids which exists to support parents and churches in raising children to trust in Jesus Christ eternally. He is the presenter of the Faith in Kids podcast streams—one for parents and one for whole families.

Ed Drew

Ed Drew is the Director of Faith in Kids, resourcing children's ministry in the local church. Before that for twelve years he was the Children’s Worker at Dundonald Church, South West London. He’s married to Mary and they have three children. Previously Ed was an Engineer and he is still happiest building and fixing things.

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