Mamas, can you believe that we’re in the Christmas season already?! If your kiddos are like mine, they are counting down the minutes ‘til Christmas break allows them to sleep in and shlump around all day in pajama pants.
As much as I love the baking and the bustle of holiday shopping, each year I struggle with letting the busyness of the holidays crowd out the joy of Jesus. Perhaps this is why I decided one year to mimic how the Victorians used to celebrate. With twelve days of fun, parties, and plum pudding!
Oh yes, I totally made plum pudding one year. (I lit that sucker on fire and everything!) Though the pudding was a bit too…unique…for our family (but if you want to try it, here’s a recipe), spreading out the celebration helped us remember that Christmas isn’t a twenty-minute unwrapping frenzy on the morning of the 25th. Rather, it’s a way to slow down and appreciate the moments leading up to the birth of our blessed Savior – which is our hope for you, too.
If you’d like some help slowing down the season, Mama Bear has got you covered! Below you’ll encounter twelve people, one for each day of the season, who will help you keep the Christ in Christmas. Each entry comes with a passage to read, a song, and a suggested activity for you and your children to celebrate your way to the manger this holiday season. Participate in all twelve or only one or two. It’s truly up to you. I promise it’ll be less work than finding room for eight maids a-milking, and quieter than a twelve-man drum corps, too!
1. The Prophets: Mark 1:1-13
Talking Point: As we read to account of Jesus’ birth, it’s important that our kiddos understand prophecy. A prophecy is a divine act of knowledge that a person could not otherwise have known outside of the will of God. It isn’t a lucky guess, like when your hubby picks the winning fantasy team. Click To TweetNor is it an act of trickery, like how a street magician can pick the card only you saw. Prophecy is a specific piece of knowledge that is consistent with the nature of God that always, always, always comes true.
Activity: Gather as a family and discuss what makes for a prophecy. No, it isn’t quite the same as when Aunt Betty somehow ‘knew’ your child would be a great artist or have a natural talent for sports but feel free to share if anyone had a hunch that would later prove true in your kiddo.
Next, check out this list of some of the prophecies Jesus fulfilled here. There are hundreds of prophecies made about His virgin birth, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus fulfilled over 300! And some were made close to a thousand years before He was born!
Did you know that the chances for Jesus fulfilling just eight of these is 1 in 10 to the 17th power?1https://bible.org/illustration/probability-prophecies-fulfilled That’s 1 in one hundred quadrillions! How could one man fulfill so many prophecies? The answer: He couldn’t….unless He was God Incarnate. Click To Tweet
Song: Christ is Come by Big Daddy Weave and/or Light of the World by Chris Tomlin
Prayer: Thank you, God, for your divine provision. For knowing the beginning from the end, for giving your people the hope of a Savior hundreds of years before He was laid in a manger. We thank you for still working in our lives today. We are grateful that in a world of chaos we know you are in control. We know that our hope rests in you and praise you this wonderful Christmas season. Amen.
2. Zechariah: Luke 1:8-25, 57-80
Talking Point: Gabriel’s punishment of Zechariah can seem a bit harsh at first glance. Especially when we notice that Mary didn’t get muted when she expressed her doubts at a similar message. But there’s an important difference kids should know.
Zechariah was a believer who didn’t think God was powerful enough to enable him and his wife, Elizabeth, to have a child. He scoffed at Gabriel and even demanded proof that their old selves could still make a baby. Boy, did he get it! Nine months of forced silence.
Mary, on the other hand, knew that God could make her conceive, she just didn’t understand how. Whereas Zechariah doubted God’s omnipotence (power), Mary just wanted more details. As we ladies usually do 🙂
Activity: In honor of Zechariah, do a doubt-friendly check-in with your kiddos.
- What’s something about God or the Christian faith that has them scratching their heads?
- What challenges have their friends raised that they don’t know the answer to?
- Is there anything going on in the world today that has them feeling in need of reassurance of God’s power, wisdom, and sovereignty?
Once you’ve discussed the questions, share a time when you were struggling with a particular doubt and how you came to understand God’s will through that time of wondering. Then, Remind your children that doubts are just questions waiting for an answer. Thankfully, we have a mighty God who can handle any question we have. Click To Tweet
Next, pick a time to play Zechariah. During a car ride, a trip to the grocery store, or a dinner out, play the quiet game while you (mom) pretend to be Elizabeth or his priestly friends. Let your kiddos figure out how to communicate without words. Who was able to be Zechariah the longest? How would they feel if they had to play this game for nine months straight? Then, enjoy the temporary silence as my gift to you! 😉
Song: This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong Worship.
Prayer: God, you are the maker of heaven and earth. You set the planets in motion, you told the seas where to stop. You are the author of the universe, and we are so grateful that no question is too big for you. Thank you that we can worship you with our minds. For making us capable of wrestling with the big questions in life. Please give us wisdom as we learn about you, peace as we wait on your guidance, and the boldness to speak the truth in grace to those around us. Amen.
3. Elizabeth: Luke 1:8-23, 39-66
Talking Point: Can you remember a time when you got something that you had been hoping for for a long time? Perhaps it was getting a part in the play, making the team, or even a fun vacation. It probably didn’t take long for you to share the good news with those around you. But oddly, Elizabeth was different.
Perhaps she, too, struggled with Gabriel’s message. After all, a post-menopausal woman wouldn’t have had any evidence of conception until her growing belly made God’s miraculous work obvious. Maybe she wanted to spend those first months in private worship. Or maybe she was empathizing with her suddenly silent hubby, Zechariah. Regardless of the reason, Elizabeth is a great reminder to spend quiet moments each day with God giving thanks for the blessings He has given.
Activity: Elizabeth may have hidden her news from her friends and neighbors at the beginning of her pregnancy, but there is joy and fellowship when we come together! In honor of Elizabeth, make a point to reach out to the neighbors on your street.
Bake a batch of cookies or make a homemade Christmas card and introduce yourselves when it’s delivered. Be safe, of course, but don’t cop out of your local mission field just because it might require you to get out of your comfort zone…your front door. God put you on that street for a reason. Not to idolize privacy, but to make disciples. Perhaps right on your block.
Song: Elizabeth by Keith & Kristyn Getty, Ellie Holcomb
Prayer: Lord, we are called to shout for joy at the works of your hands, and we do so gladly! Praise you for your miraculous work in the world. For making the barren conceive, the orphan find a home, and comfort to the needy. Thank you for equipping us with the ability to see the need in our own community. Help us be bold as we minister to those around us and open their eyes so that they see you in the process. Amen.
4. John the Baptist: Luke 1:39-41
Talking Point: What a sweet truth found within the early days of Jesus’ mountain-man-of a cousin: that all of creation cries out to the glory of God, from the rocks to the unborn. His joyful little kicks joined his mother’s gratefulness that spilled out into a beautiful song of praise. Amen!
Cuddle your little ones close and share how excited you were when you felt those first movements. Did they wiggle when music was played? When a cold bowl of ice cream was balanced on your growing belly? Did one of their left hooks send you running for the bathroom? (Been there!) Take time to marvel in the precious blessings of an unborn child as you acquaint your kiddo with the gospel’s youngest worshiper.
Activity: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of presents and visiting relatives, but the real joy of the season is celebrating the joyous arrival of the newborn King. Click To TweetMake a paper chain garland of your favorite Christmas colors with a loop for each day leading up to Christmas. Then before your kiddo goes to bed, rip off a loop as you count down the days to Jesus’ birth. They’ll love seeing the chain get smaller while keeping the focus on Christ during this wonderful season. And this can remind kids that Jesus is the one who breaks the chains that bind us!
Song: Joy to the World by For King and Country
Prayer: Oh, how precious are you, Lord. How amazing that from the rocks and trees to the smallest of babies, all of creation cries out to the glory of your handiwork. Our excitement for Christmas morning is nothing compared to the joy we will have when we get to run into the arms of our Savior. Until then we thank you that each little baby we see reminds us of the gentle way you came to us. Amen.
5. Joseph: Matthew 1:18-25, 2:13-23
Talking Point: Joseph’s story is one of the best displays of godly manhood. Instead of bending to the status quo, he submitted to God’s direction even when it wasn’t easy.
Think about it. Gossip would have followed Joseph and Mary’s every move. And I’m willing to bet a stack of Christmas cookies that he had more than one nosey relative telling him he should take a wife with less ‘baggage.’ But Joseph loved God more than the praise of his community.
He took Mary as his wife and adopted Jesus as his earthly son, nurturing and protecting them for all of his days. What a beautiful picture of the love God has for us as His adopted children!
Activity: In honor of Joseph’s loving adoption of Jesus, consider sponsoring a child overseas through organizations like Compassion International. If you already have a sponsored child, have each member of the family create something to send over to him or her. You could also reach out to your church to see if they have any ties to adoption ministries that help offset adoption fees for Christian parents. As my pastorJosh Howerton said, your family may not be called to adopt yourselves, but you can help others fulfill that calling by making an offering. Click To Tweet. Another fun activity might be to create bags or do a fundraiser for foster kids in your local community through an organization like Together We Rise.
Song: Joseph’s Lullaby by MercyMe
Prayer: Thank you, God, for fathers. Thank you for men who defend the weak and the small. Who stand firm against the waves of culture to protect and nurture little ones. You, Lord, are a good Father. Despite the brokenness of this world, you are faithful, loving, and gracious. And we are your children. We pray for the fathers and grandfathers in our family to be bold, loving, and faithful defenders within our community. Submissive to you and fearless before culture. Amen.
6. Mary: Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-7
Talking Point: How would you respond when your faith is put to the test? It sounds dramatic but Mary’s divine message wasn’t an easy one to hear. As an unwed mother, she was in a dangerous position. If her parents or Joseph didn’t believe her, they could have shunned her or worse! Even with the quiet divorce that Joseph was planning, she would have been a pariah in her community with little hope of acceptance, let alone a future marriage. But Mary knew God was in control.Today, it’s more common to cave to culture than stand firm in the faith. Encourage your kids to be rooted in God’s will, like Mary, by recognizing that God’s nature makes Him worthy of our trust and confidence – especially when… Click To Tweet
Activity: Being an expectant mother is one thing, but going on a long journey while pregnant only to find that there’s no place to sleep?! Talk about stress! Since Mary and Joseph were without a proper room for their stay in Bethlehem, seek to bless a local ministry that reaches out to the homeless.
For families with older teens, you could volunteer at a soup kitchen and food pantry. For littles, perhaps make a hot chocolate stand with payments accepted as cash or canned goods. Then, donate the proceeds.
As the Bombas commercial states: the most needed items at shelters are socks, t-shirts, and underwear. So celebrate the season by covering someone’s back (and backside)…literally!
Song: You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli
Prayer: Thank you, God, for mothers. For women who do the hard thing and sacrifice for their children. Whose faith in you makes them fearless before culture. Thank you for placing a picture of your care and gentleness in the women in our family. We lift up the mothers and grandmothers this Christmas season, so that they will find their peace, hope, joy, and trust in you, who never fails. Amen.
7. Jesus: Luke 2:1-21
Talking Point: Most of us would gladly exchange our middle-class life for high-class living. Maids, mansions, and no discomfort in sight? Sign me up! But how many would choose to give up those marble floors for ones made of dirt? Or trade a life of comfort for cold nights and uncertainty? Yeah, me neither. Yet that’s exactly what Christ did for me and you.Christ gave up the glory of heaven to be born in a weak vulnerable human body. Dependent on others for protection and life, only to sacrifice it all for the least of us. Not because we deserved it, but because He says we’re worth… Click To Tweet
Activity: There’s nothing more vulnerable than an infant. In gratitude to the King who came as a baby in a manger, involve your children in donating to a local crisis pregnancy center or pro-life ministry. These organizations accept donations of diapers, wipes, clothes, money, and baby gear to be given to mothers in need. This will show them how Christians aren’t just pro-life in words, but pro-life in deed, as well. Another option is to “adopt” a family with a newborn in your church. Offer to DoorDash a meal their way or give them a gift card to Starbucks. Write notes of encouragement telling them that they’re doing great and they’re not alone.
Song: Sing Lullaby (The Infant King) by Libera
Prayer: Lord, how wonderful you are! You gave up the riches of heaven for a broken world. All to save us while we were yet sinners. You gave us the only gift that matters, which cannot be bought or earned. You gave us eternal life. So that everyone who believes in You will never be lost but saved and adopted in You forever! We lift up our friends and family that do not yet know you as Savior. Help us be a loving witness to them not just this Christmas but all year long. Amen.
8. Angels: Luke 2:8-20
Talking Point: Movies and artwork love to portray angels as pretty winged ladies with golden curls, but the truth is way more interesting. Angels are about as diverse as you can get. Some give worship to God (Revelation 5:11-12). Others, like Gabriel, deliver messages. And then there are the celestial bouncers of the group, who come down to kick some butt like Lot’s heavenly visitors (Genesis 19)! And let’s not forget the fact that pretty much every time an angel appears to someone in Scripture, the person is terrified, and the angel has to tell them, “Do not be afraid.”
No, we won’t become angels when we die, but for fun, ask your kiddos which type of angel they like best and why. Then create their favorites through the activity below!
Activity: It’s no wonder that angels top the majority of Christmas trees. Who better to celebrate the arrival of the King of Kings? With wooden clothespins and coffee filters, kids big and small can cover the boughs of your Christmas tree with these heavenly homemade beings. Craft stores have feathers, glitter, and even scraps of fabric can make beautiful wings and fun memories for your family. Bonus points if your tree has a fighting angel or two! Be as detailed as you’d like and make sure you tag us on Instagram with your creations!
Song: Angels We Have Heard on High by Libera
Prayer: Thank you, God, for sending angels to aid your people, deliver messages, defend the weak, and sing praises to the newborn king! You have given them power to do mighty things, but it is you who is all-powerful. We’re grateful that every time we see an angel this season it reminds us of the wonderful message Gabriel brought: that a Savior would be born who would come to save the world. Truly the best news the world has ever received. Amen.
9. Shepherds: Luke 2:8-20
Talking Point: I’ve heard more than a few sermons describing shepherds as the outcasts of ancient East communities. This, however, isn’t entirely accurate. Shepherds were a vital part of the economy. Manage your flocks like Jacob and you won’t just have a big herd, you’ll earn wealth and power ta-boot!
True, the shepherds who first heard the news of Jesus’ birth probably wouldn’t have been on Bethlehem’s Forbes list, but their inclusion wasn’t random. By including the shepherds in Christ's birth, God not only foreshadowed the purpose of Jesus’ life but His death as the perfect and final sacrifice for the repayment of our sins. Click To Tweet
And us? There’s a reason why we are compared to sheep throughout scripture. Just like sheep we’re often stubborn, helpless, cling to groups, and aren’t the brightest. Yet we all are in desperate need of a Savior. Praise Jesus for being the Good Shepherd!
Activity: To foster an appreciation for the shepherds, try visiting a petting zoo or a local farm, or watch a herding video on the YouTubes to see what it takes to tend these animals.
If it’s too snowy to go outside, host a front room campout so your little shepherds can keep watch of their “sheep” (or the family cat) by night. How would they have felt if all of a sudden they were surrounded by a chorus of heavenly hosts singing praises to God? What would they do next?
Song: The Shepherd’s Song (God with Us) by Hearts of Saints
Prayer: Lord, you are the Good Shepherd. Oh, how we need you! We are so good at getting ourselves into trouble, but you are faithful. You will come find us. You will rescue us from our sins and lead us in truth. Thank you for wanting us. As we grow, help us become like shepherds., watching over the believers around us. Tending to them and defending them when wolves try to divide and take them away. For you didn’t give us a spirit of weakness, but of boldness. Amen.
10. Wisemen: Matthew 2:1-12
Talking Point: Little is truly known about these ancient visitors. We know they came from the East and because of the number of gifts given it’s generally assumed that there were only three men present (though that cannot be said with certainty).
What we do know is these wise men (or magi) were studiers of the cosmos and nature. They interpreted dreams, and possibly even dabbled in magic. They were most likely men of wealth and status, which would help explain why Herod took their claims of the newborn king seriously.
Regardless of their background, they were united in their mission: to find the baby foretold in the prophecy and worship Him as Lord.
Activity: Just like the wise men brought gifts to Jesus, your children can play the wise men by making an offering to help someone in need. Allow them to purchase a toy to donate at a local toy drive. If you’d like a more global outreach, you can use ministries like World Vision or Samaritans Purse and purchase livestock or poultry for an overseas family in need. Whatever you choose, allow your kids to be front and center during the process so they can experience the joy of using God’s care for them to bless someone in need.
For littles, play Follow the Star. Cut stars out of construction paper and have one child tape them up around the house to lead the others to a doll or family pup posing as the baby Jesus. Take turns and use fewer stars to up the challenge level. If an infant sibling is playing Jesus make sure you, mama, place the pint-sized savior at the end-point. Otherwise, you might be following the star to find your own little one!
For older kiddos, check out Lee Strobel’s film, A Case for the Creator (Pure Flix), which shows how cosmology (the study of the universe) cries out for a divine Creator.
Song: Song of the Magi by Good Lovelies.
Prayer: Father God, we are grateful for the wise men. They remind us that faith in you is reasonable and accessible for everyone of all nations. Thank you that the evidence of your power is found in your creation. We love that the study of nature points back to you. Help us see that science can be an act of worship to you and draw us closer as we look at your creation. Amen.
11. Simeon: Luke 2:22-35
Talking Point: Do your children know what a bucket list is? For most of us it’s a list of life goals and things to do before we die. Simeon’s bucket list had only one thing on it: to see the Savior face-to-face. And he had assurance from God that he wouldn’t be called home until his bucket list was complete. Talk about going out with a bang!
As you read Simeon’s story, ask: Would it be easier or harder to wait for something if you knew that it was going to happen? As Christians, our goal is to love God and make disciples around us. In what ways are we living that out well? In what ways could we improve? It’s not a competition, but the right mindset to make the most of the time we’re given.
Activity: It isn’t just the young that need to meet Christ, but the elderly too. Take time to help your children appreciate the wisdom of the grandparents of your community. If there is an elderly neighbor, see if your family can help them in any way.
Pull the trash cans to the end of the street, rake the leaves, or share a cup of cider as you swap stories. You and older kiddos can even volunteer at a local retirement home and have a visit with someone who would be spending the holidays alone. Even thanking an older member of the church or those friendly folks at the entrance of Wal-Mart is a wonderful way to make someone’s day.
Song: While I’m Waiting by John Walker
Prayer: Thank you, God, for answered prayers. Sometimes the answer is no or wait, but how wonderful it is knowing that you always keep your promises. Father, we are like Simeon, only we are waiting for the return of the Savior. In our wait, help us make the most of every opportunity to share with others about our faith. Remind us of the grace that you have given us so that we extend grace toward others. Amen.
12. Anna: Luke 2:36-40
Talking Point: Anna was amazing. This gal ate, slept, and breathed the church. She lived at the temple as if she was one of the Levite priests and was blessed to be one of two witnesses to the dedication of the infant Christ.
She was recognized as a prophetess and, according to Ellicott’s Commentary, was a member of the tribe of Asher, which had been carried off into exile back in 2 Kings 17:6. Yet, here she was in the temple praising God as she beheld the promised Savior, a symbol that even the lost can be found through Christ.
Activity: Anna was the first woman to truly grasp who Jesus was and His purpose on earth, and she told err’body! Mamas, we need to have and nurture that same excitement and understanding! Click To Tweet
Pick up a box of mini candy canes (or big ones if you like) and help your kiddos color a label that says “Jesus is the reason for the Season!” and your fav Bible verse (John 3:16 is a great go-to) on the back. Then, when your child sees another child at the store, they can pass along the fun Christmas treat. With the parent’s permission, of course!
For older teens, challenge them to be bold before Christmas. We’re talking about the boldness Paul asks for in Ephesians 6:18-19: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Have your teen pick a friend or a classmate and pray for a divine appointment, the wisdom to see it, and the boldness to share how Christ has made a difference in their life. It may not be an alter-call conversation, but it might just open the door for great fellowship.
Song: Jesus My Redeemer by Chris Tomlin
Prayer: Praise God that no one is lost in you! Thank you for sending your Son to save the world. Thank you for the prophets who spoke of His coming and ministry. Praise you for giving Him an earthly family, one of your greatest institutions. God, your wisdom and glory is seen through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Because of you, we live, and we are in awe of you! May our reverence never grow tired as we enter into 2023 knowing that you, God, are in control. Amen.
Ways to Celebrate
For Victorians, the twelve days of Christmas started on Christmas Day (sometimes Christmas Eve) and went ‘til the Epiphany on January 6. Here are a few ideas for your family.
- Fun Old Fashioned Family Christmas: Start December 20. This would have Jesus land on December 25 and carry you right up until New Year’s Day.
- Buddy the Elf’s Christmas Countdown: Start December 13. You’ll have almost two weeks of fun daily activities leading right up to Christmas Eve. Then eat a whole roll of cookie dough and snuggle.
- The Cousin Eddie Surprise: Ambush your family with a start date and cherry-pick your favorites. Be random, wear an ear-flap cap, but please don’t kidnap anyone’s boss.
Final Christmas Wishes
If you participated in any of these activities, be sure to tag us on Instagram so we can celebrate along with you! From all of us at Mama Bear to all of our Mamas, Papas, Grandmamas, and Grandpapas out there, Merry Christmas! Glory to the King of Kings!
Amy Davison is a former Air Force veteran turned Mama Bear Apologist. She is currently a grad student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary studying apologetics and philosophy. She and her husband Michael (also former Air Force) have been married for over 15 years and have 3 kids. Amy is the Mama Bear resident expert on sex and sexuality, and she’s especially hoping to have that listed on her Mama Bear business card.