When I was a young child, we had lots of Christmas traditions. What I still love to this day is that our traditions were unique to our family. They brought us together through shared experience and gave us a sense of unity.
As soon as I began to have children of my own, I started thinking about what traditions I wanted to pass on to them. As my daughter became old enough to get sucked into the commercialism of the season, I found myself frustrated. I knew we would have to be really intentional if we wanted our kids to understand the Advent. My husband and I talked about giving only handmade gifts or doing away with gifts altogether. You can imagine how that would have gone down with our kids, let alone the uproar the grandparents would have created.
So when our oldest two were 6 and 4, we started a new tradition. On Christmas Eve, we gathered around the tree. My husband read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Then I pulled a small box from under the tree and told my children this would be the first gift to be opened. I handed it to my daughter, and she opened it. Inside the box was the ceramic baby Jesus from our nativity scene. She looked up at me with confusion, and I asked her why she thought I wanted this to be the first gift opened. As if I had coached her, she said, “Jesus is our gift from God.” (Thank you, Little Village!)
A great conversation followed about why we give gifts to each other and what we celebrate on Christmas. Now, every Christmas Eve, we gather around the tree, and one of the kids opens the first gift. Whoever opens the gift gets to share why this is the first gift opened. Last year, we had other family in town who got to experience this tradition with us, and my daughter was able to share the gospel with her cousins while talking about it.
The beautiful thing about traditions is that the repetition year after year creates a lifelong memory for our children to pass on to their own children. My hope is that this tradition will be used by God to help my children truly understand the gift of Christ for their salvation. I want to create holiday memories, but more than that, I want to create an environment in which the gospel can take root in young hearts. For our family, putting Jesus in a box turns our hearts toward truth at Advent.