Why we’re not ‘Going for the girl’

Having three boys, something I hear a lot of is ‘So, are you going to go for the girl?’. In fact, it’s something I started hearing pretty much as soon as we had the 20 week scan with Boaz and found out he was a boy. Usually this question just elicits a nervous laugh from me, and an attempt to change the subject quickly. But I’m going to give a proper response here because a) I think this is something that does need a proper response and not just glossing over and b) I want my children to grow up knowing that they are dearly loved and wanted for who they are.

So here is my answer to that bizarre question.

No.

We are not ‘going for the girl’. Firstly, biology dictates that this is impossible. But, aside from this, children are a gift from the sovereign Lord. He knew them before the beginning of time. He has fearfully and wonderfully made each one of them. And He has ordained that each one of our children, thus far, should be boys. And in a world where society seems to say that it is OK for men to act as boys and shirk their responsibilities as fathers and husbands, what an honour and a privilege to be tasked with a ministry to raise Christian men of the next generation who will, Lord willing, be men of God in whatever He calls them to.

So to all my children, present and any future children, I want to say this: You are fearfully and wonderfully made and we are honoured and blessed that God chose to task us to be your parents. We love you. You. And we do not wish that you had been anyone other than who you are.

To any future boys that God may bless us with: You were not supposed to be a girl. We are so pleased that God has blessed us with you. We love you. Never feel that you’re only here because we were hoping for a girl.

To any future girls that God may bless us with: You are a blessing from the Lord and we love you. There is no expectation for you to be anyone other than you are. We were not holding out for you, in that we were not holding out for someone to put in dresses or do ‘girly’ things with. Please never feel a burden to be ‘girly’. We love you because you are you.

 

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5 Things I’ve Learnt in 5 Years of Motherhood

Boaz turned 5 today. People always say it – but that 5 years went by unbelievably quickly! I’ve been on a very steep learning curve, and I’m still learning every day. But here are what I think are the 5 biggest things, in no particular order, that I’ve learnt since becoming a mummy.

  1. Breastfeeding is hard. Like, really hard. Before Boaz was born, my midwife gave me a DVD of young mums’ positive experiences of breastfeeding (I think because I was 21 I fell into the ‘young mums’ category). Breastfeeding was sold as this wonderful, pain-free, bonding experience which would perfectly nourish my baby and give me time to snuggle and nurture them. Pictures on the walls of the children’s centre were of mums blissfully looking down at their sweetly sleeping baby as he or she nursed peacefully.

I’m calling time on this tosh. What a lot of rubbish. Now, if you’re one of the lucky ones who seems to feed with no problem, then feel free to ignore the rest of this point. But for the rest of us, I want to ask: where on those pictures were the tears of a mummy who was beyond exhausted from sleep deprivation? Where were the pictures of a mum whose breasts were so sore she couldn’t even shower because the water hurt? Or of the mum who had to sleep with muslins shoved down her bra because, for some reason, her body thought she was feeding the 5000, not just the one baby?  Whose nipples were so cracked and painful that there was almost as much blood as milk? Who squeezed her husband’s hand when feeding because it was nearly as awful as the labour? Whose heart sank every time she heard her baby wake up because she knew she had to try and latch them on again? And then there’s mastitis. Flu like symptoms?!?! Please! When do you ever have flu but have to wake up every hour to feed a baby? Or when is a standard flu symptom to have excruciating pain in your breasts?

Breastfeeding is hard. That’s the truth. Sometimes it’s full on awful. It hurts, it’s tricky, it’s exhausting – and it’s flipping cold when you’re at the park in the winter with older children. But it does give us some opportunity to reflect on Christ and His suffering. He endured what He did because of His love for us, in the same way as we endure breastfeeding because of the love we have for our children (and perhaps also because it’s free!). That’s not at all saying that mums who don’t breastfeed love their children any less – we’ve just said how horrendous it is and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, breast feeding just won’t work out. But perhaps if we were a bit more honest about this fewer mums would feel shocked and alone when it isn’t the beautiful serene bonding experience it’s supposed to be!

 

  1. I am very, very sinful. It’s not like I was under any illusion before I had children that I wasn’t sinful – but having children seems to bring out both the best and the worst in people! I lack patience: I shout at the boys because they haven’t put their shoes on quickly enough. I’m desperately selfish: I’ll make excuses not to play with the boys because I’m checking Facebook. I’m lazy: I’ll stick on the TV or just dish out some punishment rather than try to help my children deal with the attitudes of their hearts. I’m resentful: I grow bitter against my husband that he doesn’t have to do the night feeds. And so the list goes on…

It’s not been especially pleasant having to really acknowledge the extent of this side of me over the last few years. But it has, nonetheless, been encouraging, because it is not the healthy in need of a Physician…

 

  1. Jesus isn’t Supernanny. Obviously. But all too often I found myself desperately pleading with God that he would somehow reveal himself in this way. How, I asked, can He really love my children if He’s given them to me with no clue of what to do? The answer, I’ve come to realise, is two-fold.

Firstly, God has revealed Himself through His Word. If I take the time to study Scripture and prayerfully read it, then I will come to know more and more the heart of God. It might not give me ‘3 easy steps’ to follow when I don’t know what I’m doing, but it will lead me closer to raising my children as Christ would have done. Over the years, I’ve got to know my husband more and more, and so I’m more able to make decisions that I think he would make, even though it may be a completely new situation. The same is true of God: the Bible may not tell me exactly how much sugar I should allow my children to have a day, but it does teach me about God and that our dependency and comfort should be in him, not in sugary treats. And it does teach me that we are created in the image of God, and that God had a physical body in Jesus, and so how we treat our physical bodies does matter.

Secondly, Supernanny goes into a home, shows them how to fix the problem, and then leaves them so that they have control of the situation themselves. This is not what God is in the business of doing. In fact, the very idea that God would waltz in, give us 3 easy steps to follow and then leave us to it is the complete opposite to the narrative of the Bible and the Gospel of hope that we have. God did give us rules – to begin with one very simple one, and then a plethora of more complicated but, nonetheless, theoretically do-able rules. And we couldn’t, we simply couldn’t keep them. So Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life fulfilling all the law and then bore the wrath and death that should have been for us, so that we could be forgiven. He did it for us, because we can’t. And the Holy Spirit is given to us to help us in following Christ – but not because we have to or because it has anything to do with our salvation. But because God has works through the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and so we want to follow God’s way, and it is part of our sanctification. Even if Jesus did come as Supernanny, our sinfulness (see above point) would mean we simply couldn’t follow any parenting law perfectly. Parenting law, like any law, would crush us. We need Jesus’ righteousness and grace in parenting as in anything. And we need to walk with Him and pray for the Holy Spirit to work within us. There’s no way we could do this on our own with a set of rules!

 

  1. My kids are fun. I assumed that I would love my children, that I would nurture them, that I would read and sing and play with them. But I don’t think I ever expected them to be fun: that I would really enjoy their company. They make me laugh; they lift my spirits with a cuddle; they amaze me with what they’ve observed; they entertain me with stories and shows. Motherhood is hard – but it can also be lots of fun if we let it. We do have to be intentional about it too, though. Sometimes we have to make a determined decision that reading another story cuddled up on the sofa takes priority over being on time, or that sharing a one-off sneaky biscuit when they wake at 3am is going to be more important than our sleep, or that instead of snapping when we feel tired and irritable we’ll take a deep breath and scoop them up for a hug.

 

  1. God is awesome. When I first thought about this point, it was going to say something like ‘I’m amazed at what I can achieve’ or ‘I can cope with so much more than I realised’. But neither of these statements is true. At all. What is true is that God really is the Sustainer of life: when you’re so sleep deprived that you think you’re going to throw up and you cry all day, God sustains and somehow you make it through till bedtime. God really is Provider: when you’re run down and overwhelmed, God puts people in your life to share your burdens. God really is Healer: when you’ve taken out all your frustrations on your husband, God works a healing power in your relationship. God really is Sovereign: when nothing makes sense and you can’t see a path through, God knows the path and will take you down it. God really is the Giver of life: when you have nothing left to give, God still uses you to give to your children.

The Inspector Who Came To See

Once there was a little boy called Boaz,
and he was playing Lego with him mummy
on the floor.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

Boaz’s mummy said,
“I wonder who that can be.

It can’t be the milkman
because we go to Tesco.

And it can’t be the delivery man from Asda
because this isn’t the time I booked.

And it can’t be Daddy
because all the trains are delayed.

We’d better open the door and see.”

Boaz opened
the door, and
there was a big,
officious, OFSTED inspector.
The inspector said,
“Excuse me, but
I’m very important.
Do you think
I could have
a word with you?”
Boaz’s mummy
said, “All right,
come in.”

So the inspector came into the lounge and sat down on the sofa.

Boaz’s mummy said, “What would you like to know?”
But the inspector didn’t just answer the question.
He took all the Lego Boaz was playing with
and put it in the box with one big swipe.
CRASH!

And he still looked grumpy,
so Boaz offered him some play dough.

But the inspector didn’t play with the play dough.
He put all the play dough in the tub.
And the he cleared away all the cars,
and all the paints,
until there was nothing
left to play with on the floor.

So Boaz’s mummy said,
“Would you like to see some writing?”
And the inspector went
through all the books on the book case
and all the puzzles in the draw.

And then he looked round the house
to see what else he could find.

He looked at all the toys
that were floating in the bath…
…and all the crayons in the tin
… and all the flour and sugar in the kitchen…
…and he inspected all the DVDs,
and all the musical instruments,
and all daddy’s books
and all the teddies in the bed.

Then he said
“Thank you for an informative visit. I think I’d better go now.”

And he went.

Boaz’s mummy said, “I don’t know what to do. I had no lesson plans for the inspector, he’s seen it and made notes on it all.”

And Boaz found he couldn’t have his story time
because the inspector had removed all the books without subjunctive clauses.

Just then Boaz’s daddy came home.

So Boaz and his mummy told him what had
happened, and how the inspector had cleared away all the toys
and taken all the Bibles.

And Boaz’s daddy said, “I know what we’ll do.
I’ve got a very good idea. We’ll put on our coats
and go to a park.”

So they went out in the rain, and all the umbrellas
were up, and all the cars had their wipers on, and they
walked across a field to the park.

And they had a lovely playtime with
tree climbing and mud and puddles.

In the morning
Boaz and his mummy
made cakes
and they played
lots of dressing up.

And they also made
a very big poster of
Spelling Rools, in case
the inspector should
come to see again.

But he never did.

Why Samuel Hosea?

When we tell people the names of our children, it’s not uncommon to hear the reply: “They’re interesting/unusual/different names. Do they mean anything?” The eve of Samuel Hosea’s baptism seems a good opportunity to explain what his names mean to us. (Maybe one day I’ll get round to writing about Boaz Alexander and Josiah Wilberforce too!).

Samuel

The books of Samuel in the Old Testament are packed full of amazing and gripping historical story and teaching, but, for me, it’s Chapters 1 & 2 of 1 Samuel which prompted us to choose Samuel as a name. In fact, before we found out at the 20 week scan that we were having a boy, Hannah was the name we had in mind for a girl. Here’s why:

  • Elkanah loved Hannah even though she was not able to have children (1 Samuel 1:5) and, to him, her value was not based on her fertility. Although the books of Samuel don’t elaborate much on Elkanah and Hannah’s relationship, and though they were written long before Paul wrote to the Ephesians, it seems to me that Elkanah was loving Hannah in the way we now know that Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25). By giving her a double portion (1 Sam 1:5)he makes it clear that he loves her and Hannah would hopefully feel secure in this love. He tries to comfort her when she is heartbroken over her infertility, and reminds her that their relationship is valid and worthy even without it resulting in children (1 Sam 1:8). Then finally, he lovingly leads her in 1 Sam 1:23, listening to Hannah’s reason for wanting to wait before going to the tabernacle and allowing her to stay behind, but also gently holding her accountable to what she says. I’m so grateful to have a husband like this, and if God calls our sons into marriage, I pray that they will love their wives like this too.
  • Hannah poured out her hurt and her pain to God (1 Sam 1:10), but then got up and ate something and was no longer sad (1 Sam 1:18). I love that this shows us that it’s ok to be grieved, and it’s right to cry out to God (the Psalms also show us this a lot), and petitioning God for something very specific is not wrong at all. But Hannah also knew that God was sovereign, His will perfect, His ways right. She could ask, she could plead even, but she could also then leave it at the feet of God and trust Him, whatever His answer.
  • Hannah was willing to give Samuel to God. Giving our children to God is a surprisingly easy thing to say we’ll do, but often very difficult in reality. Hannah had to physically hand over her child to Eli and leave him there, and all she was able to do was visit him yearly and give him the little robes she made him (1 Sam 2:19). I can barely imagine how hard that would have been. But one of the reasons we home-educate our boys is so that we can, hopefully, help them discern and prepare for the calling God has on their lives. And maybe God will call them to a nice safe job in a nice safe place, and maybe he won’t. And I pray that God will prepare my heart to be like Hannah’s.
  • Even after God blessed Hannah with Samuel, she still knew that her heart exalts in the Lord and that He is her salvation (1 Sam 2:1). Like Samuel, all children are a gift given to us by God (Psalm 127:3). They are a blessing, a joy. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily feel that way, but in those instances it is our hearts and our attitudes that are wrong, not the truth of Scripture. Hannah knew that children were a gift from God, but that a gift only points to the giver. Hannah knew that her ultimate joy and exaltation was to be found in God, and though she could delight in her baby, this delight was only pointing her to the greater delight to be found in God.

Hosea

I’ve previously written a post about a great book called ‘Redeeming Love’ by Francine Rivers and why you should absolutely read it! This book has been deeply important in my realising both what the love of God looks like for me, and what Biblical headship means. I can’t recommend it enough. There is one other thing I would add to what I have already written in that post, and it is this: Hosea redeems and welcomes back his wayward wife several times. In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, we see the father welcome back his wayward son with open arms and total delight. But the amazement we feel when the father runs down the road to embrace his son would surely be only the greater if the son continues to repeat this pattern of leaving and returning, and if the father continually rejoiced in his coming home – and the book of Hosea shows us that this is what God does. God’s mercy knows no bounds, and I pray that our children will grow up sure in this truth.

10 Reasons I Love ‘Follow Me: Daily Lent Guide for Families’

51XU0LOxqiL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_I was so excited when I saw that Amy Robinson had brought out a guide for families for Lent ‘Follow Me: Daily Lent Guide for Families’ – and it does not disappoint. We do stuff with our kids for Advent and Holy Week, and had really wanted to do something with them for Lent, but hadn’t really got around to thinking about it much. Does anyone else find that a year seems to take half the time to whizz by once you have kids?! But, thanks to Amy’s awesome book, we are set to go!

With Lent being 40 days, I was going to try to write 40 reasons I think this is a great resource, but that seemed perhaps a little excessive (and I’m writing this with one hand while I nurse my 6 month old!). So, here are 10 reasons I would absolutely recommend using this book if you’re looking for a family resource this Lent.

  1. Looking at one passage from different angles for a whole week opens it up in so many ways and gives an opportunity for all styles of learners and thinkers to access the passage.
  2. The activities are short enough that you can easily fit one in each day, but open enough that they can readily be extended and continued if you have more time.
  3. Amy gives historical and cultural context to the different stories, giving them colour and bringing them to life.
  4. Anything you might need for the more crafty activities is probably kicking round your house somewhere already – or is easily available at the local supermarket. You’re certainly not going to need to make regular runs to expensive craft shops.
  5. The activities can be used by children of different ages, making it a great whole family resource.
  6. It can be used year after year – especially the ‘go wondering’ questions. I’m really looking forward to seeing how my children’s answers develop year on year.
  7. The re-telling of each Bible story comes with tips for telling the story which is great for those of us who might not be natural story tellers!
  8. But for those who love to spin a yarn, there’s enough freedom and room to really embrace the re-telling and have a wonderful time telling the story to your children.
  9. Amy has such a gift with words and communicating stories: the re-tellings are beautifully written – you’ll love them.
  10. The ‘Community Day’ happens every Sunday and is an activity to do in a community – it’s a lovely idea and I’m excited to give this a whirl. I was a bit worried they might be quite onerous or require organising groups of people, but Amy’s a vicar’s wife and mum to two young children – and isn’t daft! The community day activities are totally do-able and will easily fit into your day.

Lent is less than two weeks away now, so do order yourself a copy and have a read through. I know Amy would love to hear how you’ve used it and what you thought, and if you manage to write a list of 40 reasons you enjoyed using it, do send me a link 🙂

Advent Alphabet Bunting – with Printables

One year I decided it would be a good idea to embroider Advent Alphabet Bunting for Boaz. In some ways, it was a good idea: it’s a lovely little Advent tradition now, which can be used in different ways with children of all ages. In some ways it wasn’t such a good idea: it took me two years to complete, and by the time we had the full set, we had Boaz and Josiah! So, by all means embroider your own bunting – but paper bunting might be a bit more time efficient. I’ve made a set of Advent Alphabet Bunting printables you could use – I’m in no sense a graphic designer so they are a bit, um, basic!! But there’s nothing a bit of glitter can’t make passable at Christmas!

The idea is you peg up one piece of bunting a day. Yes, I know, 24 days of Advent, 26 letters – just start a bit early or do a couple on two days. With really young children you could just do the letters; slightly older children could read the words, older yet could tell you where it fits in the story, and even older yet could find some Bible verses relating to them. I’ve tried to cover the salient parts of the Christmas story and some key doctrines – hopefully I haven’t missed anything too vital. Some of the words are perhaps verging on the tenuous, but I did manage to find something for all 26 letters!

Download Advent Alphabet Bunting

Angel – The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the message that she was God’s chosen one to bear His Son, and to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son (Luke 1). The angels also took the message of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20).

Bethlehem – Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant with Jesus for the census. It was while in Bethlehem that Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-7).

Carpenter – Jesus was very likely to have been a carpenter by trade, like Joseph (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55, respectively). In both these passages, this trade caused surprise, even offense, as He spoke in the Synagogue, perhaps showing that in the same way as He was not born as one would have expected the King of Kings to be born, neither was His life what might have been expected.

Dreams – God spoke to Joseph through angels in dreams, telling him that Mary had conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt for the safety of Jesus (Matthew 2:12,13), and to return to Israel to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23).

Elizabeth – Elizabeth was seemingly barren, but God promised and gave her a son, John, who was filled with the Holy Spirit and prepared many for the coming of Jesus (Luke 1:1-25, 57-66, Luke 3:1-20).

Frankincense – One of the gifts the Magi gave the young Jesus was frankincense (Matthew 2:11). The Bible doesn’t say why they gave frankincense, but it’s possible that, as it was used in burnt offerings to God (Exodus 30:34), it symbolised Jesus being the once and for all sacrificial offering.

Glory to God – This is part of the praise of the angels when they told the shepherds of the birth of Jesus: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ (Luke 2:14).

Holy Spirit – Jesus was born of the virgin Mary: she conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). John, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15).

Immanuel – There is some debate whether this should be ‘E’ or ‘I’, but my ESV has it with an ‘I’ – and I couldn’t think of anything else for ‘I’, but could for ‘E’! Immanuel means ‘God with us’, and it is significant that this is one of the names of Jesus, as it points to Him being God incarnate (fully God, fully human), and also the fulfillment of the prophesies in Isaiah (Isaiah 7:13-15, Matthew 1:22-23).

Jesus – We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

King Herod – Herod was king of Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus, as was greatly troubled at the thought of a ‘new’ king, who he thought would be a political threat (Matthew 2:3). In order to try and eliminate any possible threat, he eventually ordered the massacre of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and that region, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah (Matthew 2:16-18).

Love – Because of the love of God for us, Jesus came to earth to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, that we might have eternal life (John 3:16).

Mary – Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), and worshiped and praised God for this calling (Luke 1:46-56).

Nazareth – On returning from Egypt, Joseph took his family to live in Nazareth, after being warned to do so by an angel in a dream (Matthew 2:19-23). Nazarenes were often looked upon with disdain (John 1:46), which perhaps fits well with the theme often found of Jesus not being what would have been expected of the saviour of the Jews.

Obedient – Philippians 2:8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.

Prophets – There were many prophets in the Old Testament who foretold the birth and saving power of Jesus, such as Isaiah and Micah. Others point towards him through their lives – Hosea (who continually fought for and forgave his wife) and Jonah (who spent three days in darkness), for example.

Quirinius – The census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem took place in the time of Quirinius (Luke 2:2).

Royal – Jesus was from the royal line of David (Matthew 1:1-17), but He was the fulfillment of this line: the true king whose kingdom would have no end (Luke 1:32-33).

Shepherds – When Jesus was born, the first people told were the shepherds – the lowliest of society. They immediately responded and rushed to worship Him (Luke 2:8-20).

Temple – According to Jewish law, Jesus had to be presented at the Temple, which He was. There, Simeon recognised Jesus to be the salvation prepared by God (Luke 2:22-38).

Under a Star – The star of Bethlehem guided the Magi from the East to find Jesus, resting over Him (Matthew 2:9b).

Visitors from the East – The Magi who came to worship Jesus and bring Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh came from the east, following the star (Matthew 2:1).

Word Become Flesh – John 1:1-5 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

Χριστως – This is the New Testament Greek for ‘Christ’. It’s possibly a little pretentious to have a Greek word in Advent bunting – but finding something for ‘X’ was pretty tricky!! It’s pronounced like ‘Christopher’, but with the ‘pher’ replaced by ‘s’. ‘Christ’ is the Greek New Testament rendering of the Hebraic Old Testament ‘Messiah’ which means ‘saviour’.  Jesus was the long awaited saviour, though He was largely not recognised as such (John 1:10-11).

You – Jesus came to save sinners from the ultimate consequence of their sin (death), and to give them eternal life (Romans 6:23). The Bible is very clear that we are all sinners in need of a saviour (Romans 3:23), and that Jesus came for any who accept Him as their saviour (John 3:16). This means Jesus came for you.

Zechariah – Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. The birth of John was foretold to him when he was serving as a priest, but Zechariah did not believe the angel, and so he was struck silent until the birth and naming of John (Luke 1:5-25, 57-80).

‘Redeem the Tree: Putting Christ at the Heart of All You Do This Christmas’

Family Advent Activities

redeem the tree

Click to download PDF of ‘Redeem the Tree’ activities!

 

Christmas is just about my favourite time of the year! I love it! I have such wonderful memories from my childhood – my parents gave us such fantastic Christmases! And I wanted to be able to give this same gift of a magical Christmas and beautiful memories to my children. But I became conscious that I was trying to run two Christmases in parallel: the Christmas celebration of Christ and the Christmas celebration of fun traditions – and often the latter was more appealing to them than the first. I realised that I needed to make a conscious effort to put Christ at the heart of Christmas, but I didn’t want to lose the tree decorating, and the lights, and the baking and all those fun times – and I also believe that God wouldn’t want me to. After all, this is the birth of Jesus we’re celebrating: God incarnate come to reconcile all of creation to himself (Col 1:20). Of course Christmas celebrations should be fun and memorable and exciting! But they should also point to Jesus, not distract from him.

And so I started to think about how I could bring many of the traditions I love about Christmas in line with the heart of Christmas. A lot of the traditions are not, technically, being redeemed as they were never to do with the birth of Christ in the first place: Christmas trees and Santa, for example. But Christ came to reconcile all things to Himself, including these.

Looking on the internet I struggled to find anything that met with what I was trying to do. Some resources actually reinforced this ‘dual Christmas’ by coming up with specifically Christian activities about the Christmas story, but not drawing into it the other traditions that have become a part of our Christmas celebrations. But what several people did note was that the Jesus Storybook Bible contained 24 stories leading up to Christmas, all showing how they ‘breathed [Jesus’] name’. Perfect! And so, a couple of years ago, I began putting together my own advent activities for my children. I’m sharing these ideas so that they might be a spring board for your own thinking – they’re just ideas. Change them as best suits your family, and swap in your own traditions – it might even be a great opportunity to start some new ones!

Some things will go way above the head of my children until they are older, but by starting them now I hope they grow up with Christ firmly at the centre of their Christmas – they won’t have competing narratives taking root in their hearts and minds.

Click to download PDF of ‘Redeem the Tree’ activities!