December 1 - Christmas Tree Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. Genesis 1:11-13 Trees have been on the earth since the third day of creation. The Christmas tree didn’t become popular until the late 1700’s. Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth. Activity: Go outside and find an evergreen tree. Touch it and smell it. Enjoy the crisp, green color in contrast to other trees that have lost their leaves. Dear God, thank You for the beauty of evergreen trees in the winter. Their green is present all through the snow and bareness of the other trees. Help me to find the joy and beauty in every tree I see and remember that You made them all. Amen.
December 2 - Christmas Ornaments Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. Matthew 13:34 Hanging ornaments on the tree is a favorite time for many families. It is a time to recall when and why that ornament came to hang on the family tree. For some, each ornament has a story. The telling of family stories is still a treasured part of life. For centuries, storytelling of God’s Word was how it was communicated. Jesus used storytelling to communicate earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. Activity: As you hang the ornaments on your tree, pause to tell the stories surrounding them. If your tree is already decorated, choose a few ornaments and tell their story. Dear God, thank You for the opportunity to share Your story through many special ways this Christmas season. Amen.
December 3 - Christmas Wreath I am the first and I am the last. Isaiah 48:12 A wreath is a circle, a visual reminder to us that God has no beginning and is without end. A Christmas wreath hung on a door or window tells the world that Christmas has come to this house. When you look at a wreath, consider this Christian message: The wreath is green. Green is the color of hope and new life. The wreath is a circle, reminding us we worship “the first and the last, the one and only God” (Isaiah 44:6) and that God holds us in His never ending circle of love. Activity: This year, as you light your Advent wreath, remember God who is from everlasting to everlasting. Talk about the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob, the One who is the first and the last. Dear God, at this time of year it’s easy to be grumpy. Encircle me in Your arms of hope and comfort. Amen.
December 4 - Christmas Card I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 Christmas cards became a popular way to send Christmas greetings about 150 years ago. Christmas cards are a way to extend “good news of great joy”. The angels proclaimed the message to the shepherds who went to find Jesus. Today we have cards that sing, make music, are multi layered, can be send electronically, even ones that we can record our own greeting onto. The message we send should convey our Christian faith, “behold, I bring you good news of great joy”, the message that our Savior Jesus has come to earth to be one of us. Activity: Make Christmas cards to send this year. Be creative and have fun! Dear God, help me to tell the good news of great joy to all people. We pray for the families we are sending cards to this year. May You protect them and watch over them and help them to have that great joy, too. Amen.
December 5 - Candles Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Isaiah 40:1 Candles can light a darkened room; they can bring a soft glow to an evening, and can even fill a room with scent. Candles have become a sign of comfort when lit. The people of the Old Testament waited for centuries for the Messiah to come. Isaiah prophesied: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2) and again later says “Comfort, comfort my people.” (Isaiah 40:1) Finally, the Gospel writer Luke tells of when Jesus was presented in the temple at 8 days old: “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:28-32 emphasis added) Jesus is the Light of the World. This year light a candle of hope and celebrate that the Messiah has come, He is the Light. Activity: Eat by candlelight tonight. Enjoy the quiet and calm the candle’s light gives, and enjoy the conversations and stories around the table. Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus, the Light of the World. Help me to shine Your light to others. Amen.
December 6 - Candy Cane He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 The legend of the Candy Cane is varied. Here is one version: its shape is like the letter “J” in Jesus’ name. It is also in the shape of the shepherds’ crook, symbolic of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd,” watches over His children like little lambs. It is a hard candy, solid like a “rock”, the foundation of the Church. The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament, hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice, and this is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice he made. Some say the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus and His virgin birth. The bold red stripe represents God’s love. The three fine stripes are said by some to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The legend may be just that, but it tells a great story. The baby born in Bethlehem grew up to suffer and die on the cross to win our salvation. Activity: Make a candy cane ornament or hang real ones on your tree. Eat a candy cane and talk about the legend. Dear God, sometimes I’d rather remember the sweetness of Jesus as a baby instead of His death and the sacrifice He made. Help me to tell others the rest of the story. Amen.
December 7 - Bells Praise God with cymbals, with clashing cymbals. Psalm 150:5 Did you know bells have voices? In a musician’s ear, each bell has its own voice. Jingle bells have a light, lively sound or voice; sleigh bells have a deeper, hushed, slurred voice. Hand bells have a noted voice; each bell is tuned to play a specific note. A church bell in a bell tower has a deep tone. Bells are made from metal with a striker inside. The striker hits the metal and creates a sound. The cymbals mentioned in Psalm 150 were thought to resemble the shape of our bells today. Bells were sewn on the hem of Aaron’s robe and would ring as he neared the Ark of the Covenant. This allowed people to hear the priest, even though they could not see him in the Holy of Holies. The sound of bells surrounds us today. The microwave rings when it is done, an alarm clock rings when it is time to get up, the door- bell rings when company has arrived. This season we’ll hear lots of bell ringing. Each of them is announcing, “Rejoice, Jesus is born!” Activity: As a family, volunteer to ring a Salvation Army bell for an hour. Make a jingle bell ornament to hang on your tree, or hang it on the door. Dear God, hearing bells during this Christmas season reminds me of (fill in the blank). Help me to ring out with my voice the good news that Jesus is born. Amen.
December 8 - Snow "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 The first snow of the winter season is always amazing - white and still and beautiful. Did you know that God in His infinite wisdom created each snowflake unique? God in His infinite wisdom also knew we would need a Savior, one who could redeem us, cleanse us, and make us as “white as snow”. That Savior is our Messiah, Jesus, who was born at just the right time. Activity: If there is snow on the ground, go outside and celebrate! If it has not snowed yet, anticipate that first snow of the season. Dear God, thank You for snow. Help me to look for the beauty in the snow and to celebrate the One who died to make us “white as snow.” Amen.
December 9 - Gingerbread But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) The smell of gingerbread baking in the oven is a sweet smell! The ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon all contribute to that sweet smell. But eaten alone, these same sweet smelling spices would have a very pungent taste, not sweet at all. It takes sugar to make them sweet. Today gingerbread cookies are often cut and decorated with frosting. Some gingerbread is hung on Christmas trees, some is made into houses, some into bread. Whatever gingerbread is made into, the fragrance is unique and quickly reminds us of Christmas. May that fragrance remind us that God uses us to spread the sweet fragrance of Jesus. Activity: Make some gingerbread! Use a family recipe, or find a new one and start a wonderful, sweet fragrance. Dear God, I am humbled by the fact that You use me to share the Gospel. Help me to be the sweet perfume that spreads the Good News that Jesus has come to save us all. Amen.
December 10 - Star “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2 We have seen His star….oh to be a witness to that first star that shone over the place where Jesus was! Stars have twinkled overhead since God made them in the very first days of our universe’s creation. Yet the star the wise men saw was different. They knew ahead of time a star would point to Jesus, they had studied the charts. Isn’t that amazing and strange? How could they have known? We might never know the answer to that, but we do know the star guided them. Stars are used at Christmas to remind us of many stars: the star of Bethlehem; the star that led the wise men; the Bright and Morning Star, Jesus. We have come this Christmas to kneel at the manger. The star that points heavenward on the top of the Christmas tree reminds us that someday heaven will be ours. Activity: Cut a 5 pointed star. Dear God, when I look at the stars in the sky tonight I am amazed. You made those stars and put them in their place. You made a bright star to shine brighter than the others to guide the wise men. Help me to come to the manger this year in amazement and awe. Amen.
December 11 - Christmas Carols Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 Christmas carols are fun to sing this time of year. Each of them tells part of the greatest story, the story of the birth of our Messiah, Jesus. Here is the story of “Silent Night”: In December of 1818, in Austria, a pastor of a church wrote a poem about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. He gave the poem as a gift to his friend Franz Gruber. Later that same night, Mr. Gruber wrote a melody to go with the words. Everyone who heard the carol liked the words so much that the carol spread all over the world. The carol was “Silent Night.” When we sing carols like “Silent Night”, we can think about the true story of the birth of Jesus. Activity: Go caroling! Have fun going out to spread a little Christmas cheer. Dear God, as I make a joyful noise during this holiday season, help me to focus on the meaning of the Christmas message. Amen.
December 12 - Cookies How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103 In Bible times, cakes were made with wheat flour and water, and then sweetened with honey. Honey doughnuts were made into animal shapes and fried in olive oil. Locusts were dried in the sun, and then mixed with honey and wheat flour before being baked into biscuits. In the United States, Christmas cookies were here before the Christmas tree was! Christmas cookies have been part of most of our traditions for generations. Some of us have favorite recipes that we bake only during the Christmas season. Cookies are sweet and bring a warm feeling as we smell them baking. The Psalm tells us that His Word is “sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Activity: Bake a batch of Christmas cookies and give them to a neighbor or friend. Dear God, I am glad we have set aside time to spend together with Your Word during this season. Your Word is “sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Amen.
December 13 - Christmas Lights “I am the Light of the world.” John 9:5 Christmas lights are beautiful this time of year. On houses, on trees, in branches, on mantles, they are everywhere. Lights on Christmas trees used to be tiny candles, which were pinned onto the tree’s branches and lit. They were not lit until Christmas Eve and were then quickly put out! Three years after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, history was made in the United States. An associate of his wound 80 red, white and blue bulbs around a Christmas tree. Three years after that the White House had its first lit Christmas tree. How different today’s Christmas tree lights are. How vastly different the lights were in the stable on that very first Christmas. The innkeeper probably handed Joseph a lighted clay lamp that only dimly lit the stable that night. This Christmas, as we look at the beautiful lights, remember Jesus, the light of the world. Activity: Take a drive with your family to look at the lights. Light luminaries and put them on your sidewalk to light the way for others. Dear God, help me to carry Your light. Amen.
December 14 - Games Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. I Corinthians 9:24-25 The apostle Paul gives us a visual of a runner competing in a race, or in a game. Games have been a part of daily life since early times. The Egyptians played games and enjoyed competing against others in them. During the Christmas season, we sometimes forget to play games and laugh together. Especially at this time of year, we should be filled with joy! Activity: Plan a family game night. Get out some of your favorite games and play them. Or, try a new game, one that is a family gift, or one that hasn’t been played for a long time. Enjoy each other’s company and laugh. Dear God, remind us to laugh and to play together. During this season of joy, help us to have joy, the joy that comes from knowing Jesus is our Messiah. Amen.
December 15 - Poinsettia "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” Luke 12:27-28 The poinsettia comes to us from Mexico. It became the Christmas flower only recently when it was introduced in the 1800’s by the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. The poinsettia has large, dark green leaves surrounding special colored leaves which are red, white, pink, salmon, yellow, cream, or apricot. The flowers in the center are tiny, but are thought to resemble the Christmas star. Activity: Make a paper poinsettia. Make several to decorate cards with. Dear God, like the tiny flowers in the center of the poinsettia that look like the star of Bethlehem, I think about how small Bethlehem was, and yet You chose that town for Jesus to be born in. Thank You for sending Jesus at just the right time. Amen.
December 16 - Lantern You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 A lantern is used to light our path when we walk outside. When Mary and Joseph searched for a place to stay, they were told time and again there wasn’t room. One innkeeper saw their distress and offered a shelter, a meager stable, a place where the animals were kept. Perhaps the innkeeper gave Joseph a lantern to light the path and to light the stable that night. Lanterns today are certainly different than those used in Bible times. Today’s lanterns are modern marvels; the light they give off is brilliant. Lanterns can be used to light a room when the power is off; they can be used to help us find our way when we are outside and the sky is dark. Activity: If you have a lantern, go outside in your yard and see how much light it gives off. Go for a walk with your family after dark and use the lantern to help light your way. Dear God, help me see Your light, the Light of Light, Jesus, this Christmas. Amen.
December 17 - Family These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 During the Christmas season we look forward to getting together with our family. Some may have family that live far away; others may have family that live close by. Either way, we look forward to being with family at Christmas. Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem because Joseph’s family was from the house and line of David; they had to go to the town of his family. In the Old Testament, family was the center of life. Families lived together and generations were close by. God tells us the importance of family in Deuteronomy 6. Within the family is where faith is talked about the most. God tells us to talk about it often, when we sit down, when we walk along the road, then we lie down and when we get up. Activity: Plan a family meal and eat together. Talk about Christmas traditions in your family. Dear God, thank You for my family. Help us to talk about matters of faith and to celebrate all that You’ve done for us through Jesus. Amen.
December 18 - Nativity She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. Luke 2:7 The nativity sets we place in our homes are vastly different from what the stable was like when Jesus was born. Today our nativity sets are neat and clean, molded and painted - a sharp contrast to the humble cave, dark and smelly, cold and damp, where Mary tenderly wrapped Jesus in cloths and laid Him in a manger. The mangers in our purchased nativities appear to be fairly neat and look warm, with lots of soft hay. In reality, there may have been only a little hay, if any at all. The manger most likely wasn’t scrubbed clean; after all, it was where the animals ate. Our nativity sets remind us that Jesus was kind enough to give up all His riches and become poor so that we could become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9) Activity: As you look at the nativity set in your home, move the pieces around. The wise men didn’t arrive until much later. Place them in another location, so they are still traveling to the place where Jesus was. Are the shepherds still in the field tending their sheep? Have Mary and Joseph arrived yet? Dear God, as I snuggle into my cozy bed, it’s hard to imagine a newborn baby in a manger. Some people today are without a home or a cozy bed. Please protect them and watch over them. Amen.
December 19 - Story Books "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” Joshua 3:9 There are some great Christmas story books. Which is your favorite? When we read a good book, it can take us to another time and place in our imagination. Long before we had movies and television, we had books. Before we had books, we had people to tell us stories. Story- telling was part of every family’s life. The stories of God’s great love for each of us through Jesus were told again and again through the ages. Find a good book and read! Find God’s Word and read! Activity: As a family, tell stories about Christmas’ past. Laugh, cry, be together. Dear God, thank You for including me in Your story because of Jesus. Amen.
December 20 - Christmas Movies And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:8-16 “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Each of these phrases is from a somewhat famous Christmas movie. All of them put in our minds the image of a scene from that movie. What images do you have of the night the angels appeared to the shepherds? Perhaps the sky was dark that night, the air a bit cold, the quiet settling in. Perhaps the sheep were finally resting, tired of wandering and eating. Perhaps the shepherd on duty that night to watch for lions and other predators was more at ease, yet watchful. Imagine the night sky being lit up by one angel telling you to not be afraid. Then imagine the entire sky lit up with a multitude of angels! WOW! What a sight to behold! We don’t have any real footage of that night’s events, but we can imagine what a spectacular sight it was. God tells us in His Word that the shepherds went in haste to find the baby in the manger. And it was just as they were told. Imagine! Activity: Watch a favorite Christmas movie together. Enjoy each other’s company! Dear God, sometimes all I can do is imagine. Help me to believe all that You tell us in Your Word. Amen.
December 21 - Hay And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 Hay growing in a wide open field is beautiful. Watching it wave in the wind is an awesome sight. When the hay is ready to be cut, the smell is distinct and sweet. After hay has had a chance to dry out, it takes on a pungent odor: a slightly sweet, musty, dust-filled smell. And after it has dried out like that, the texture of the hay is soft, yet brittle and even quite rough. Hay is used to feed animals, but it is also used to protect plants from our winter’s cold and wind. In pioneer times, hay was used to help insulate homes, and hay was twisted into tight bundles and burned to help keep that home warm. We don’t know what kind of hay was in the stable the night Jesus was born, or even if there was hay. We do know Mary laid Jesus in a manger, a feeding box, which may have still had food for the animals in it. The image of the stable is quite different from the hospitals most of us were born in. Today lots of babies come into the world with sterile halls and rooms and equipment, and with freshly washed bed sheets and towels. Mary knew God was watching over her. The words of the angel Gabriel most likely still echoed in her ears, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Activity: Take a field trip to your garden and find some hay. Or take a field trip to a garden center to look at some hay. Is it rough? It is smooth? How does it smell? Dear God, thank You for my bed that is warm and cozy. Be with all those that don’t have a bed to sleep in. Keep them warm and protect them. Amen.
December 22 - Sheep "My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never die. No one can steal them out of my hand. John 10:27-28 Sheep have a strong instinct to follow. If one animal decides to wade through a stream, the whole flock will follow. Sheep seem strange and sometimes a little dumb, but in fact they are not. Sheep can remember the faces of up to 50 others for up to 2 years! In today’s Bible reading, we are like sheep. Jesus says “my sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me….no one can steal them out of my hand.” We are cared for by the Good Shepherd. Perhaps Jesus heard the baaing of sheep as He lay in the manger. Perhaps the shepherds brought their sheep with them; they needed protecting. Activity: What animals are in your nativity set? Are there sheep? Take a look. Dear God, when I am thinking of celebrating with family and friends, keep me safe and healthy. Help me focus on the celebration of Your birth. Amen.
December 23 - Angels For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11-12 We usually see angels this time of year in our nativity sets, on the tops of Christmas trees and as ornaments on our Christmas trees. Angels are in the Christmas story, in Luke 1 and 2. Angels are mentioned almost 200 times in the Bible. Our Bible reading today tells of very comforting angels, God’s crew watching over us. They still guard us and lift us today. Activity: Count how many angels are on your Christmas tree and in your Christmas decorations around the house. Dear God, when I am afraid, help me remember that You send angels to watch over us every day. Amen.
December 24 - Gifts For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 Today is Christmas Eve. Most of us have presents under the Christmas tree just begging to be opened. The tradition of gift giving hasn’t always been part of our Christmas celebrations, however. It wasn’t until the Victorian era, the 1900’s, that gift giving became a “tradition”. The gifts we give are something we do because of how we feel about someone. We hunt for a special gift to give to our mom and dad, something just right. The Gift we receive at Christmas is Jesus. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son Jesus to become one of us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 But we know that our Christmas celebration isn’t complete without looking ahead to Easter. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Merry Christmas and Happy Easter! Activity: Bake a cake and decorate it! Celebrate Jesus’ birthday! Dear God, thank You for Your incredible Gift, Jesus. Amen.