What gives us that warm feeling?


By Carla C. Stanford
Guest Columnist 

What is it about this time of year – a time when the mere thought of family gatherings and other special events produce a warm feeling within; a time when a giddiness overtakes us upon hearing children’s choir sing our favorite Christmas carols.  

I look forward to being together with my family at our church’s Christmas Eve service and going to Grandmother’s for a Christmas family meal. It all fits like a warm, woolen mitten. 

As Christians, we must be careful not to get the “right” feelings for the “wrong” things.  Sure, the Christmas commercials get us in the Christmas mood, but is materialism driving our motives? As cliché as it may sound, we need to remember the reason for the season. It should be a prayerful time, a reflective time, a time when we express sincere gratitude from the deepest places in our souls for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

In this “me, me, me” world, it is difficult at best to teach children to focus on the true meaning of the season. After all, we are surrounded by television advertisements that take classic Christmas songs and turn them into name recognition pieces. They are surrounded by peers telling all about what they want for Christmas. How can we, as adult Christians, help children internalize those truths which really count for all eternity? 

Children, by nature, are very visual beings and also often respond well to “hands on” experiences. You can reinforce Christian beliefs about Christmas by simple activities. 

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Light a candle every day with your child(ren) at bedtime (practice safety). Say a Christmas prayer with them thanking God for sending His son. Make this all about Christ’s birth and our thanks for Jesus.  Let your child blow out the candle at the end of the prayer each night. This takes secularism out of the picture, even if for a brief time. 
  2. Take your child to church-sponsored Christmas plays. You will be spending time together and teaching your child about Jesus’ birth. 
  3. If you put up a Christmas tree, discuss the Christmas story while you are putting on the ornaments. Ask your child questions about how he or she thinks the story of Jesus’ birth was. While doing so, you can also increase your child’s language skills. Make sure you have some ornaments that remind everyone about Jesus’ birth. 
  4. Books are a great way to teach the true Christmas story and to bond with your child. Books such as The First Christmas (a pop-up book) make the story come to life. Other precious books for young children are: The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, B is for Bethlehem by Elisa Kleven and the beautiful and well-worded Little Drummer Boy by Jack Ezra Keats. Tons of Christmas books fit the developmental level of your child and reinforce your Christian values. Take the time to find one and read it to your child. 

Whatever you do this Christmas season, be sure to focus on the true reason of the season:  Jesus’ birth. It is good for children to be reminded of Christian values, and this is a perfect time of the year to do so.  

May your joy this season be centralized in the fact that the birth of a small, holy baby brought hope, salvation and a grand promise to a human world. Merry Christmas! 

Stanford is a nationally certified family life educator, speaker and writer who is a member of First United Methodist Church of New Albany.