Christmas Amplified, Christ Magnified

When I was young, I remember my dad getting ready to lead worship by putting a “pick-up” inside his guitar that he would plug into an amplifier so his guitar would be louder.  The sound that came out of the amplifier made it much easier to hear the music.

As I sit this morning by my Christmas tree and think back over the last year, my memories seem louder. I think Christmas does that. It amplifies everything.  Family becomes bigger. Friends become family. Gratitude for blessings overflow. Everything is special. You want to capture each moment, hold onto the feeling, embrace the season.

Unless you don’t

Because just like the sense of joy and gratitude is amplified, so is the deep sense of loss and loneliness that is present for many of us.  The empty space looms larger. The silence becomes deafening. And sorrow rises again as grief becomes palpable.

The Advent and Christmas seasons take the “noise” of our lives; the background hum we learn to live with, and amplifies it so it can’t be ignored. For the good things, this brings great joy. For the sad things, this brings sorrow. 

Enter Emmanuel.

As the crescendo of our lives rises in a cacophony of sound, there is a resounding cymbal crash as Christ emerges on the scene. His presence changes the symphony. His “God with Us” appearance overwhelms the noise. When we recognize His entrance into the song, everything changes.

The Psalmist declares, “Oh, Magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together!”

Magnify – Make Bigger – Amplify. bible-1149924_1920

That’s what Christ came to do. He understands the noise. He understands the joys and the sorrows. He understands that our hearts are malleable; they twist and turn with each rise and fall in our lives. He came to be bigger than all of that; to be present in each moment and to be louder than them all.

In the sadness, to be Redeemer.

In the joy, to be Prince of Peace.

In the heartache, to be the Eternal Hope.

In the anticipation, to be the Messiah.

In all, to be our Emmanuel, our God WITH us.

I recently read a quote that said, “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos” (L. R. Knost).

That is what Christ has done for us.

He has come into our sea of big emotions and put out His calming hand. At Christmas, we can experience this more than any other time, if we magnify the Lord together.

And we can be that for our kids at this time of amplified noise. We can whisper in their ears, “Look at Jesus. He’s more than a Christmas story. He’s our Hope, our Peace, our Joy, our Love. He’s here to be bigger than our fears, bigger than our successes, bigger than our deepest sorrow.  He is Emmanuel. He is God with us.”

Merry Christmas friends.

And Glory to God in the Highest.. peace on earth…good will toward all mankind. 


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

family

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and  Seedbed

Looking for Christmas at Christmastime

It’s Christmastime!!  By far my favorite time of the year.  I love it all – the lights, the smells, the presents, the shopping, the cooking, the eating, the laughing and the celebration of God’s great love for us.

I credit my parents with my love for Christmas.  Whether intentionally or not, they made Christmas a magical time for us every year.

I remember Dad putting together the Christmas Village on the window seat in our home, complete with streets made of tape and fake snow in the window.

I remember opening the pictures on the advent calendar and reading the verses that led us up to Christmas day.

I remember big, fat colored Christmas lights, hunting for Christmas trees with my family, drinking mom’s real eggnog, and sitting under the lit-up tree while Dad told us the gospel story using the tree as his text.

child-1867394_1920As I’ve grown older, I have striven not to lose that magical feeling.  I’ve watched as others my age and older grow focused on the things that hide the beauty of this season.  So much complaining and frustration, so much commercialization and stress, so much focus on money and things and so little time spent on soaking in the joys and blessing of the season.

But for me… bright colored lights against a night sky are still magical!  Decorated trees are beautiful, Christmas cookies are tasty, ringing bells are festive and the Nativity Story is timeless.  Even if I can’t always handle the Christmas sales and shopping and the hustle and bustle of the season, I can always stop and appreciate what is there and see the mystery and awe of the celebration.

And I see it in the most unusual places; places that you may associate with the “worst” of the Christmas season, places like… Walmart.

I think Walmart probably epitomizes to most of us who are frustrated with the commercialization of Christmas.  Walmart is all about money – bottom line; “Christmas is nice and all but how do we get the most money out of this season?”  They are a business and they run like one.  And, regardless of whether it’s Christmas or not, we tend to not like the big-box business that Walmart represents.

But a few years ago, I went to there to buy a few groceries and finish (again) my Christmas shopping.  As I walked in, I instantly felt uncomfortable because there were police officers everywhere.  I thought maybe the store had been robbed or there was a fugitive on the loose or something equally terrible had happened.

But soon I realized the police officers were there for another reason.   A beautiful reason.  A Christmas reason.

I watched as families who were hurting financially this Christmas season were assigned a police officer that took them over to the toy section of the store with a calculator and credit card in hand.

I watched an officer get down on his knees beside a little boy who looked scared to ask for anything and say, “How about a bike, buddy?  Would you like a bike for Christmas?” and then watched as this little boy’s eyes grew wide with astonishment and cried, “Can I really? A new bike for me?” and threw his arms around the officer’s neck.

I watched a father quietly tell the officer he was with how grateful he was for this service, how he’d never been out of a job before and he didn’t know how he would be able to get even one gift for his kids if it wasn’t for them.

I watched a young single mom walk through the infants section filling up on things like clothes, diapers, wipes and blankets for her little one and the young officer with her saying, “Are you sure you don’t want to get any toys?” while she quietly shook her head and said, “This is what we really need.”

Over and over again, I had to go hide in another aisle and wipe away my tears as I watched children laugh, fathers cry, mothers hug and officers glow.

I could tell you about the other things I saw at Walmart.  I saw sales and high prices.  I saw carts full of toys and trinkets that would probably break in a week.  I saw commercialization and depersonalization of Christmas.  I saw all of that too.  Because it’s all there.  All the time.

But that’s not what I left the store remembering.

 I saw Christmas, the real beautiful Christmas I have loved my whole life.  I saw LOVE and my God is is LOVE. And I have the chance to pass on that legacy to my kids.

There will always be reason to find things that are wrong with the season.  I’m not going to defend them and say that they are right.  But I am going to choose to find the reasons for joy and to teach my children to do the same.

We are going to celebrate together the love the we commemorate at Christmas.

We are going to “ooo” and “ahh” over lights and eat way too many cookies.

We are going to carol to our neighbors and watch Christmas movies.

We are going to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and remember once again that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.

And we are going to enjoy all the season has to offer because, you know what, it’s worth enjoying.  

At the end of my kids time in our home, I doubt they remember how commercialized and empty the Christmas season is “out there”.  I bet they remember how beautiful, love-filled, and Christ-centered Christmas was “in here”.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About this Blog

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

A Birthday Party For Jesus

 

I’m excited to welcome guest blogger, Rebecca Clay, to share with us about her fabulous idea for a Birthday Party for Jesus that your kids will never forget!  If you are looking for a fun and unique way to celebrate the birth of Christ with your kids at home or at church, look no further. Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your creativity with us!


A Birthday Party for Jesus

Christmas is coming! Christmas is a time of year where we celebrate the most special birth that has ever taken place. JESUS came to Earth to walk among us and eventually would die for our sins. For JESUS’ birthday, we celebrate with the biggest birthday party of the year. Most people have the day off of work. We exchange gifts, sing songs, and have big family meals together.SONY DSC

Today we are going to have a birthday party for JESUS right here, give JESUS the gift of your listening ears as we go through the story of HIS very special birth and find out what games we are going to play to celebrate with HIM.

Mary was a young woman who loved GOD. An angel appeared to her one day to tell her that she was going to have a baby. Mary was confused because she wasn’t married yet. How was she going to have a baby? The Angel told her that this baby was very special. HE was going to be the Savior of the world. HIS name was to be called JESUS.

Mary was excited to be chosen by GOD, but she had to be afraid of what people would say and that she would be judged and stoned for having a baby before marriage. When Joseph was told about the baby, he was afraid to take Mary as his wife as well. An angel came to him and told him to marry her. She was still pure, and chosen by GOD.

It didn’t matter what others said or thought, the important thing was that they listened to the Angel to get the message from the source.

Game #1 –  Telephone – Start with a phrase. You can supply them on strips of paper or you can allow the children to come up with them on their own. Line them up and only let the first child know the phrase. They whisper it to the child next to them and then go down the line until the last child hears it and announces to everyone what the message they heard was. The message is likely to have changed between children to draw your point about ‘getting news from the source’.

Caesar Augustus made a decree that it was time for them to travel to pay their taxes. Since Joseph was a descendant of David, he had to return to Bethlehem to pay his taxes. They left Galilee and traveled the long journey together.

Mary was very pregnant and the trip was long. It was not an easy time to travel with no vehicles or true way to cool down.

Game #2 – Spoon Relay – Get a small cup or bowl of something. Goldfish/Cereal/Play coins. Have the children take a spoon and get the items in them, carrying them one at a time across the room to a designated spot until all of their coins have been moved across the room. For older children you could have them carry the spoon in their mouth and try not to drop anything to add to the challenge.

OR

Game #2 – Pin the Tail on Mary’s Donkey – Put up an image of a tail-less Donkey on the wall. Cut out multiple tails and allow each child to have one with tape on the back. Blindfold them one at a time and allow them to try to get the tail in the proper place on the donkey.

Everyone had to pay their taxes, and so the town was filled with people who had traveled on their own to pay the taxes they owed as well. Every Inn in town was filled and there were no rooms available for them to rent. They traveled from each place – searching for a bed to sleep in, exhausted from their long journey. Mary knew that the baby would be born soon and was looking for a place to have the baby while they stayed.

Game #3 – Musical Chairs – Group children by size. Set up clusters of chairs, one less than the amount of children that are in each group. As you play music, children march around the chairs. Once the music stops, the children race to find a seat before the others do. The person left standing is out. Take away one chair each time until you are left with only one chair. Whoever gets to the chair the last time is the winner.

Finally they found an Inn where they were offered a place to stay out in the stables where all of the animals of the lodgers were staying. It was dirty and cold and smelly, but it was a place with a roof and hay that they would be able to make their own beds to lay in out of. There in that stable, baby JESUS was born. Mary wrapped the baby up to keep him warm, and found a special place to lay him in a manger – the special trough that the animals would normally eat off of. There in the manger, the baby would be warm and safe for the night.

Game #4- Safe place – Gather blocks of different sizes and types. Allow children to build up some kind of contraption that they believe would work as a good bed for the baby. Then allow them to test it out by placing an egg on it to see if it can support the weight and keep it safe. (If you are not feeling so bold, you can use a small ball in place of the egg)

In the fields just outside of town, there were Shepherds taking care of their sheep. It was a quiet night as they watched over the animals to keep them safe. Suddenly an angel appeared in the sky in front of them. The angel said “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Then the sky filled with angels. They all began to sing; “Glory to GOD in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Once the angels left and the sky was back to normal, the shepherds decided to go into town and look for the baby that the angels told them about. They were excited to see the newborn king for themselves. They were eager to travel around and share the news of the birth throughout the town.

Game #5 –  Pass the Good News – “Hot Potato” with a toy star. The children passed a toy star around in a circle as we played some more Christmas music. When the music stopped, whichever child was holding the star would announce “JESUS is born!” We allowed the children to stay in the game and just made sure to stop on each of the children.You can have each of the children who get to call it out sit out of the game while it continues.

Above the stable where JESUS was born, a new star appeared in the sky. There were wise men from the Far East who studied the skies. They saw the star and recognized it as a sign of the great gift that was given to the Earth. They decided to follow the star to find the newborn king. Their journey was long and took them years to complete, but they kept their eyes trained on the star and followed it all the way to Jerusalem.

Game #6 – Follow the Star – The children each take a turn being “the leader”. They get to be at the front of the group and moves around the area in whatever way they want to (skip, zig zag, pretend to swim, jump, wiggle..) the others mimic the actions. We typically allow each child thirty seconds to a minute of being the leader and then “the leader” moves to the back of the line and the next person becomes the new leader and takes over.

While the Wise men traveled across the land to find JESUS, HE continued to grow older. Just like any other baby, HE depended on HIS mother for food and care. HE had to learn how to walk and crawl and talk just like all of you did.

Game #7 – Baby Crawl Race – Designate a Starting line and a finish line and have children race on their hands and knees in a crawl like a baby. Make it a relay by placing a baby toy at the “finish” line and having them pick it up and carry it back to the starting line. Whoever gets there first in each race wins.

When the Wise Men got to Jeruselem, they went to the palace to ask the King where they could find the new King of the Jews. Herod found scribes and biblical scholars to tell him where he could find baby JESUS. He told the Wise Men that he had been born in Bethelham to find him, asking them to return to him so that he could return to worship the baby as well. Herod did not plan to worship the baby but to kill him, because he was worried that JESUS was a threat to him as the king.

The Wise Men found Baby JESUS and brought him special gifts of gold and expensive spices and oils. But the angel came to them and warned them to return to their own land in a different path to avoid going to Herod again, because he had evil plans for the baby. That left Herod angry as he searched on his own for the baby.

Game #8 – Four Corners – Label four corners of the room with numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Pick “Herod” to stand in the middle and cover their eyes. The rest of the children pick corners to stand in and Herod calls out a number. Everyone standing in that corner is out. (If Herod says “three” everyone in the corner labeled three is out). The game continues until there is only one child left.

Herod was left guessing, but the angel told Joseph in a dream that they were in danger and led him to Egypt to hide in safety until king Herod died and the angel came back to tell them that it was safe to return to their home. Because of this protection, JESUS was able to grow into an adult who healed and ministered to people. People learned that when they followed JESUS’ lead and did what HE told them to, that miracles would happen.

Game #9 – Jesus Says – One child is selected to be “Jesus”. They give simple orders for others to follow. If an order is prefaced with “Jesus says” the children should do the action. If they omit the “Jesus says” and just give an action, the children should ignore it.

About the Guest Blogger: Rebecca Clay is a stay at home mom of three children who has been serving in children’s ministry for nine years. As a student she was an Early Childhood Education major, she is passionate about reaching children where they live through kinesthetic lessons, puppet and movement ministry and fervent prayer. She blogs about her personal blessings from her experiences serving and working with children at AsAChild.freeblog.site.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

When the Christmas Story becomes Bigger: Telling the Whole Story at Christmas

 

It’s Christmas Time!  And oh, how we love to tell the Christmas story. We share it in pageants and cantatas; we read it in bedtime stories and Advent prayers, we sing it in carols and choirs. What a beautiful story it is of Love sent down, of Joy proclaimed and of Peace realized in the form a little baby, the Prince of Peace.

But what makes the story even more beautiful is when it is told in the context of the larger metanarrative of Scripture.

When we tell the whole story, the Love portrayed becomes that much more powerful; the Joy proclaimed becomes that much more glorious; and the Peace realized becomes that much more tangible.

The Story below is shared using four small props and would be appropriate for a church setting (service, Kids Church, Sunday School, etc) or a home setting (bedtime, around the tree, dinner table). I’ve shared the Christmas story this way in many places with many people and each time, there’s a deeper realization of the immense beauty found in the gift of Immanuel, God with us.

“The Whole Christmas Story”

Props: 2 red hearts, one black lightening bolt, one brown cross. (I cut mine out of construction paper)photo

Gather your church or your family together and pick one person to be the story teller. Everyone else will help with the props.

Okay you guys, I need your help today to tell a story. And this isn’t just any story; this is THE STORY. The story of all time! And you get to be a part of it!! So, who wants to be my first helper?

(Choose someone to hold Red Heart)

All great stories have a great first line. Usually we say “Once upon a time” but… How about we start it this way… In the beginning, God created… EVERYTHING! He created the earth and the sky, the bugs and the fish, the trees and the flowers, and then he created us. And when he did, he looked at us and said, “Man (because there was only a man at first) I love you!” And Man looked at God and said, “God, I love you too!” And everything was perfect.

(Choose child to hold Black Lightening Bolt)

Then one day, something terrible happened. Everything was perfect. God loved Man and Man loved God and all was well until… Well, as you know, every story has to have an evil villain so we are going to call our evil villain.. SIN. (refer to black lighting bolt).   Sin snuck right into that perfect world, being the sneaky villain that it is and it BAM! Came right between God and Man!! God still loved man very much but man choose Sin over God. Things were not perfect any more. It was a very sad time. Man was sad and started doing sad things, more and more sad things, and SIN kept pushing Man further and further away from God.

But God… he’s the good guy in our story… God still loved Man very much. He knew that Sin was out there trying to steal Man’s love and even before Man had chosen Sin, God had a plan in place to bring Man back to Him. God did something absolutely amazing, like a total SUPERHERO move!

(Choose child to hold Brown Cross)

God did an amazing thing. He decided to leave His place in heaven where he was safe and come to earth as a Man, a Man called Jesus, and fight the evil villain. In that day there was a woman named Mary and man named Joseph that God asked to be Jesus’ parents. They said “Yes!” and Mary gave birth to Jesus. This was the very first Christmas and God gave us the very best present that day. Every birthday needs a party, right? So God sent a whole bunch of angels down to earth to tell some shepherds that Jesus was born, and those shepherds went to see him and then ran out to tell everyone else. God also put a big beautiful star in the sky so that people from very far away would see it and come visit Jesus and bring him presents.

Sin wasn’t happy that Jesus came and tried to get Man to hurt him, but God protected Jesus so He could grow up and fight the evil villain. Jesus talked to a lot of people when he was growing up and told them that one day He would fight Sin once and for all. And then, that day came. It was an epic battle.   Jesus told the villain he couldn’t win, that he would defeat him, and Sin fought by telling Man to do evil things until one day, one very sad day, Man put Jesus on the cross because of Sin. Man killed Jesus. It seemed like all hope was lost.

Now, we’ve watched some great Superhero shows right?   Those shows, they are basically getting their story line from THE STORY, so you probably know what’s going to happen. Because in those movies, when the superhero looks totally defeated by the villain, what happens? (Kids might say things like the superhero comes back to life, or gets stronger, or beats the bad guy)

That’s right!! Sin isn’t strong enough to beat Jesus. Just when we think all hope is lost TA-DA, the grave opens and JESUS ISN’T THERE because He is Risen!! Sin is defeated!!!! God Wins!!! Oh, wait, but what about Man?

(Choose child to hold Red Heart)

Because Jesus beat Sin on the Cross, Man has an amazing opportunity. If we want to, we can have that perfect love relationship with God again. Sin cannot stop us from loving God and it could never stop God from loving us. We can go to God anytime we want because of Jesus’ victory on the cross and say, “God, I choose to love you and hate Sin. Jesus, you’re my superhero!”

(Have the kids lay all the signs out on the floor in a row)

Now, you may ask, why I told this story today. Because right now, as we get ready for Christmas, we are right in the middle of the story. We are right here.

(Point between lightening bolt and cross)

We are getting ready to welcome Jesus into the world on Christmas Day by celebrating when He was born. We are getting ready to open the best present of all, God’s love! We will celebrate the BIGGEST SUPERHERO VICTORY OF ALL TIME!! We will remember that SIN was defeated! That our HERO died BUT came back to life and SAVED the DAY! And that we can be in the perfect love relationship with God again.

So this month , as you wait for Christmas and you think about the Story, take time to remember. This story has the happiest ending of all! It ends with a LOVE SO BIG it wins every time! And you get to be a part of that story!!


A version of The Story is also available for Lent or Easter!  Click here to read the Easter version. 

For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

And One To Grow On: Christmas gift ideas to help your kids grow their faith

My friend, fellow minister and fellow mom, Judy Chatterton, recently posted on Facebook some of the gifts she is getting for her kids this year. I asked her if I could share her thoughts and recommendations here so that we can pass them on to parents/caregivers who may ask for ideas or so we can consider them for our own children.

Judy has three children of varying ages, so the books are spaced out accordingly. Here’s what she had to say!


I’m Christmas shopping for my kids. Want to see what they’re getting???? I always get them one gift that helps them grow spiritually, after all isn’t that the whole point of Christmas!! Read the caption with each picture for a description.

Kindergarten-3rd gradeiam

I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God by Diane Stortz

This is what our youngest son is getting. That little guy hasn’t learned yet that God has different names…he’s our provider, protector, The Great I AM. Awesome illustrations without too many words on a page. This is probably a third grade reading level so he couldn’t read it himself but it will be good for bedtime.

 

gratitudejournal3rd – 5th grade

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart: Gratitude Journal for Kids by Crystal Paine

I love, love, love the idea of a gratitude journal. ❤️ I was thinking about making one for my daughter (and you could do that) but then I found this one that was created by one of my favorite bloggers!!

 

Preteen

imachristianI’m a Christian, Now What by Lifeway Kids

Okay….. let’s talk about devotions. Most devotions are boring and kids really have no idea how to take a scripture verse and apply it to their lives. I really think that devotions that are solely reading are probably more appropriate for middle school and up. That’s just my two cents! I like this devotional because it’s actually a journal. It has activities that you do to help you remember a scripture or apply that scripture to your life. It has games and puzzles and is colorful.

 

Bonus: For Young Kidsbibleappkids

The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible

We’ve had this Bible for a year now. If you have young kids in your house you NEED this Bible!! The illustrations are adorable. It’s colorful. It’s an easy read aloud because there aren’t a lot of words on each page. I think this should be every child’s first Bible!!! For goodness sake’s, you want a child’s first impression of God’s word to be a positive one and this storybook accomplishes that.

*Personal Note from Christina – My five-year-old son loves the Bible App for Kids. When he asks to play on my phone, it’s usually so he can get to this app. It’s fun, interactive, and he loves to tell me the stories he’s “read” when he’s done. Oh, and did I mention, it’s free? Check it out in the App Store.

Thanks Judy, for sharing with us what your kids are getting this year!  

Friends, do you have a favorite you’d like to share?  Please mention it in the comments below with a link for where we can purchase it.

Happy Christmas shopping!


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

A Simple Advent Journey for the Family

I am so excited to celebrate Advent this year with my family and my church. As part of our celebration, the families are participating in a “Reverse Advent” activity where each day of Advent they put something (food, toiletries, etc) into a box and after Christmas, donate it to the charity of their choice.

In order to make this time more meaningful, I collected a number of prayers, Scriptures, and activities for the family to experience together throughout the month. These brief readings and prayers do not take a lot of time (can easily be done at the dinner table) but they help to frame Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth in the larger story, the metanarrative, of Scripture.

I hope that your family or your church family will be able to use them too and celebrate together the coming of our Prince of Peace!

banner-1050583_1920

Our Christmas “Advent”ure

This Advent Season, gather your family each day for a moment to read a Scripture, say a prayer, or do an activity below and add to your “Reverse Advent” basket.

November

Week 1

27 – Make a your First Advent Candle. Use a paper towel or toilet paper roll as the candle. Wrap it or color it in purple and write the word “HOPE” on it. Creat a “flame” using orange construction paper or just color one on white paper. Cut out and attach to the top with tape. You’ve just lit your first Advent Candle. The theme for this week is HOPE.
28 – Read Luke: 1:26-38

29 – Pray this prayer together:

God of hope, who brought love into this world,
be the love that dwells between us.
God of hope, who brought peace into this world,
be the peace that dwells between us.
God of hope, who brought joy into this world,
be the joy that dwells between us.
God of hope, the rock we stand upon,
be the center, the focus of our lives
always, and particularly this Advent time.

30 – Isaiah 7:10-14
 

December

1 – Read Matthew 1:18-24

2 – The Advent Theme for this week is Hope. What are some things your family hopes for?

3 – Read Isaiah 11:1-10

Week 2

4 – Make a your Second Advent Candle. Use a paper towel or toilet paper roll as the candle. Wrap it or color it in purple and write the word “LOVE” on it. Create a “flame” using orange construction paper or just color one on white paper. Cut out and attach to the top with tape. You’ve just lit your second Advent Candle. The theme for this week is LOVE.

5. Read Micah 5:2
6. Read Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

7. Read Isaiah 2:1-5

8. Pray this prayer together:

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son:
that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who lives and reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen

9. Read Matthew 3:1-6

10. God is Love. Our theme for this week reminds of His great love for us. How does our family show and experience God’s love?

Week 3

11. Make a your Third Advent Candle. Use a paper towel or toilet paper roll as the candle. Wrap it or color it in pink and write the word “JOY” on it. Create a “flame” using orange construction paper or just color one on white paper. Cut out and attach to the top with tape. You’ve just lit your third Advent Candle. The theme for this week is JOY.

12. Sing “Joy to the World” together as a family. Sing it as quiet as you can. Now, sing it as loud as you can! How does our family share JOY with others?

13. Read Isaiah 9:6-7
14. Read John 1:19-34

15. Pray this prayer together

We beseech thee to listen to our prayers, O Lord,
and by the grace of thy coming enlighten our darkened minds:
Thou who livest and reigns with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

16. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
17. Read Philippians 2:1-11

Week 4

18. Make a your Fourth Advent Candle. Use a paper towel or toilet paper roll as the candle. Wrap it or color it in purple and write the word “PEACE” on it. Create a “flame” using orange construction paper or just color one on white paper. Cut out and attach to the top with tape. You’ve just lit your fourth and final Advent Candle. The theme for this week is PEACE.

19. Read Malachi 3:1-5
20. Read Romans 8:18-25
21. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. What are some ways we see God’s peace in our lives?22. Read Isaiah 52:7-10
23. Read Revelation 21:1-4

24. It’s Christmas Eve. Join us at church to celebrate Christ’s birth together. We talk about “passing the peace” which is extending to others the promise of peace we’ve been given. We say, “The peace of Christ be with you” and they reply “And also with you”. Try it tonight when you come to church and celebrate our Prince of Peace.

Christmas Day

25 –  Jesus has come!! Read Luke 2 as a family as you finish this season of Advent. Consider these prayers that have been shared through church history as a way to culminate our Advent celebration

God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth
has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh.
Make us a people of this light. Make us faithful to your Word
that we may bring your life to the waiting world. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(From The Roman Missal)

Let the just rejoice, for their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice, For their saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice, For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice, for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice, For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice, For Jesus Christ is born.
St. Augustine of Hippo


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author 

Family(40)

Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Christmas Love Letters from God: Journey Through Advent to Ephiphany

Around this time of year, parents begin asking me for thoughts on what they can do for Advent with their kids. In the past, I’ve shared ideas for some fun things such as the Christmas Song Scavenger Hunt (We love to do this at a mall during the holiday season and challenge another family to see if they can beat us at finding all the items) and some discipleship-focused things such as celebrating Jesus at Christmas in the everyday.

christmas-love-letters-coverThis year I’m excited to suggest a great book, written by Glenys Nellist, called Christmas Love Letters from God as a way that your family could journey through Advent and into Epiphany together.

You may recall that a while back I reviewed Glenys’ book Little Love Letters from God. I love her books because they do something many children’s Bible stories fail to do – they put children right in the middle of The Story. For those who have read my blog before, you know I really believe that the stories of the Bible find their greatest impact when they are told in the context of the larger story, the metanarrative of Scripture (read more about that here).

Why? Because understanding that these moments and events don’t stand alone but are part of a bigger picture gives them meaning and let’s us know that our story has a place in that bigger picture too.

In Christmas Love Letters from God, Glenys has done the same thing again by taking the familiar and beloved stories from Christmas and including at the end of each one, a personalized “love letter” to your child(ren) from God.

They get to read things like, “I’m so glad Joseph said yes to me…Never be afraid to say yes to me. When you hear those quiet whispers in your heart….remember that just like I helped Joseph, I will help you too” and “I gave my Son, Jesus, to Mary and it made me feel wonderful…because…Jesus wasn’t just for her. Jesus was my gift to the whole world and that includes you.”  And the letters always end with “With Love, God.”

My son loves reading these books and hearing God’s letters that are written to him. And he loves entering into the story in a very real and tangible way.

But what I love the best about this particular book is that the chapters line up perfectly with the Sundays of Advent and take us right up through Epiphany.

If you were to take one chapter each Sunday of Advent, Christmas Day, the two following Sundays which gets you to Epiphany, you will have journeyed together with love letters from God through this very special time of year.

  • Sunday, November 27 – Start with Isaiah’s Good News and hear about the Light that is coming into the world.
  • Sunday, December 4 – Join Mary’s Song of thanksgiving and think of how we sing Christmas carols of joy today.
  • Sunday, December 11 – Read about Joseph’s Dream and the plan God had for Joseph to be Jesus’ daddy and the plans He has for us.
  • Sunday, December 18 – As Mary and Joseph travel  Bethlehem’s Road, remember together it was God who was leading them all the way.
  • Sunday, December 25 – Celebrate together on Christmas morning the Jesus Joy of our Savior’s birth, the perfect gift, our very best present.
  • Sunday, January 1 – Consider that the story doesn’t end but invite your children to join the Shepherd’s Surprise that God had chosen to tell them great things, just like He does for us.
  • Sunday, January 8 – As you finish the season, with the story of the Wise Men’s Wonder, you’ll get to remind your children that the greatest gift they can give to Jesus is their heart. What a wonderful way to start the new year together!

Not only is this book engaging and grounded in Scriptures, it is also beautifully illustrated – one you will bring out every Christmas even once your children are grown. I am so excited to start reading this with my own family (Caleb has already had a sneak peek or two…He’s pretty excited) throughout the entire Advent and Epiphany Season.

Interested in getting a copy for yourself or your church?

author-photoThe author, Glenys, and Zonderkidz are offering a free copy of Christmas Love Letters from God. To be eligible to enter, you must live in the US and have a street address (no PO boxes).  To be entered in our drawing, follow this link and scroll to the form at the bottom of the page. In the comment section please write “Little Love Letters” and make sure we have a way to contact you for mailing information.

Winner will be chosen on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

The book is also available for purchase through Zondervan or Amazon (as well as a number other retailers). To hear more about the book, check out these videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjKR8EQZIMo and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E-W_cxXzlI


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Christmas for the Whole Church

I get a lot of requests for Christmas programs that are intergenerational and focused on bringing the whole church together, while still being appropriate for kids to lead and participate in. One year, after searching for a while, I decided to write my own, and just see what happened.   We ended up having a very moving and memorable all-church experience around the story of God’s Love played out at Christmas. I’m sharing this in the hopes that it will help others experience the same thing this year at your church.

Because the original program included videos and music our church paid for, I am unable to share the full scripting here, although I can provide links to the music and videos for your own purchasing if desired. IF YOU USE THIS SCRIPT, PLEASE PURCHASE WHATEVER VIDEOS OR MUSIC YOU MIGHT DECIDE TO USE. The rest of the script, which I have written, is free for your use but please honor those who have copyrighted their materials for purchase.

The idea for this program came out of the idea of “Cardboard Testimonies” where people share their testimony in short phrases on a piece of cardboard. For instance, the first side might read “Lost in Sin” and the other side could read “Found in Love.”  As you read through the script, you’ll see how this is utilized to share the story of Christmas and, even more, the metanarrative of God’s ongoing story of Love and rescue for all of us!

Cardboard testimonies – A Christmas Celebration

  • Narrator 1, 2christmaschurch
  • Joseph – Doubter/Believer
  • Mary – Too Young/Chosen by God
  • Shepherds – Nobodies/God’s Somebodies (2)
  • Wise Men – Wise/Humble (3)
  • Scripture Reader
  • Children to sing

 MATERIALS NEEDED – Cardboard signs, both prepared as described and empty, and extra sharpies. Costumes can be used for children if the church desires.

Narrator 1  – It’s that time of year again. Can you feel it? (wrap arms around self) Can you smell it? (take a deep breath and then look over a plate of cookies) Mmmmm, can you taste it? (takes a small bite) This is one of my very favorite times of year. I love the sights, the sounds, and the stories that make it so special. But my favorite story is the one we as Christians celebrate as we light our tree, share our gifts and sing our songs. Of course, I am talking about the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Narrator 2 – Like so many stories in the Bible, there is so much for us to learn from how God interacted with the people He used. Today, we want to look a little deeper at the story we all know and love and just see if we can catch of glimpse of Christmas here today.

Let’s start with Joseph, Jesus’ father here on earth

(Lights dim, spotlight on center stage, Joseph enters hold up large sign “Doubter.”

Joseph: I couldn’t believe it when I heard her say it. “I’m going to have a baby, God’s son, and he will save the world.” We weren’t married yet. I wasn’t ready to be a father. And she said she talked to angels. Doesn’t that sound crazy to you? But then, it happened. In a dream I talked to an angel too. I heard him say that everything Mary said was true. That I was going to be the father to God’s own Son. And in that moment my heart changed (flip the sign to other side “Believer”) and I became the first of many believers in my son, Jesus, the Messiah.

(Video – Joseph song: Music available to purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Josephs-Song/dp/B002CGLYD2 and video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BARVAg0gl6w&list=RDBARVAg0gl6w , Joseph leaves)

(Mary enters, holding up sign that reads “Too Young”)

Mary: Hi, my name is Mary. I’m still not used to getting up in front of people but I am learning. I’ll never forget the day the angel told me I was to be Jesus’ mother. Me? But, I was so young, really just a child. I was engaged to be married but not for a while and I couldn’t understand why God would choose me. But He did. Not because of my age or my abilities but because I was willing and I was available. (flip sign, other side reads “Chosen by God”). I was chosen and by His Love , I was blessed to be the mother of God’s only son.

(Song: Mary, Did You Know? Music available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IB4DTFU/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk9. We had two of our youth play the piano and sing for this part.  Mary exits)

(Two shepherds enter, carrying 1 big sign that says Nobodies. The two should be struggling, arguing a bit on how best to carry the sign before they get situated)

Shepherd #1 – Ahem, hello, sorry ‘bout that. Um, ahem, yeah… we are shepherds. (said definitively and then stop expectantly)

Shepherd #2, shaking his head – And…? Never mind, I’ll tell them. We are shepherds and around these parts we don’t get much, yah know, R-E-S-P-E-C-T because well, see, we don’t have a lot of schooling and mostly we’re just out in the field all day watching sheep.

Shepherd #1 – But that’s important!! Because if someone didn’t watch the sheep, they’d run off or get eaten and things!!

Shepherd #2 – Yeah, I know that, but lots of other folks just think we’re stinky and silly. BUT not God, oh no, not Him. He done sent us a whole slew of angels, singing and telling us that the Messiah had been born.

Shepherd #1 – That’s right. At first we were scared but then we was just excited. We was the first to know!! (they flip the sign, easily and not clumsily this time) and we were the very first ones to tell others that Jesus has been born.

Shepherd #2 – We may not speak the best or read real well, but God trusted us to announce the arrival of His Son. I say that makes us Somebody in His book! (they high five)

(Video: Skit Guys, First Christmas Shepherd available for purchase at http://skitguys.com/videos/item/first-christmas-shepherd)

(Wise men enter, stoically, the middle one holding a sign reading “Wise”)

Wiseman #1 – Good evening. It is our privilege and joy to share with you this evening the events that occurred upon our visit to Bethlehem around the arrival of the baby named Jesus of Nazareth.

Wiseman #2 – Our charts and graphs as well as our astrological studies had led us to the exact location of the child’s birth. We had brought with us valuable gifts to present to Him as our studies had revealed that he would indeed be a king, a king of kings to be exact.

Wiseman #3 – Imagine our surprise when all of our wisdom and charts and graphs and maps led us to a tiny cave behind an inn in the town of Bethelehem. (all kneel as the middle one flips the sign to reveal the word HUMBLE) We bowed before the king of the world on a dirt floor and dirty hay and never have we been so fulfilled in all our lives.

Scripture Reading  – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn. 1:1-5)

(At this time, all the kids will come out and sing “Here I am to Worship”, music available to purchase at http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0081209)

There are no spoken kid parts at this time but they will have stage presence as part of this section

Narrator 1: You see, there’s so much more to the story than just a manger and a birth. Lives were changed. People were transformed. Let’s take a look one more time at how these people so long ago were changed.

All characters go line up in the front platform, holding their broken signs facing out.

Narrator 2: See, each person needed God in some way. They all felt confused, insecure, insignificant, unworthy and self-sufficient. But the love of God transformed them (Actors flip signs) He changed their lives, their minds, and their hearts. He made them into believers and helped them understand they were chosen children of God. He made each of them “somebody” and gave them hearts of humility.

Actors exit right, lining up against the side wall of the sanctuary holding their “new” signs above their head to be seen by the congregation.

Narrator 1: Yes, these people long ago were transformed and the impact of our Savior’s birth continues to this day. Jesus’ love still has the power to change us, each one of us. The story continues even with us…

At this time, a few adult members of the congregation will come out one by one and in the spotlight with their “cardboard” testimony. If anyone is willing, you could give them time to share their testimony.

Narrator 2: Perhaps some of the rest of you have experienced this kind of love in your life. Perhaps you too have a story to share. (Preplanned volunteers line up on left side of church) If so we will invite you now to make your way to one of the three stations where blank signs and markers are available for you to make your own sign.

Narrator 1: While the music continues to play, make your way to the far side aisle and we will help you come one by one to the front to share your sign. You don’t need to talk, just share your sign with us. This may very well be the best Christmas card you could send. You may now go to the 3 stations at the back.

Music to play. We used “Oh How He Loves Us” by David Crowder. Preplanned volunteers will begin filing onto stage to show their sign. As congregants line up, prompter 2 will tell each one to go as the current testimonial is stepping down. There is no set time limit for this. It will depend on the size of your church and the move of the Holy Spirit. Our testimony time lasted about 10-15 minutes. The music played on a loop during that time. 

Pastor/Director: Maybe today, you didn’t have a sign to show or a card to write. That’s okay because the very best news of Christmas is that the story never ends. If today you felt a desire to allow God to re-write your story and you would like to pray with someone, we invite you after the service to make your way to the corner of the sanctuary at the cross where we have friends who would like to pray with you waiting.

Now, in the spirit of celebration, thanking God through Jesus Christ for His magnificent gift of love, let us come to the table set before us and share in communion with Christ and one another (Continue with communion liturgy).

Whole congregation sings: O Come all ye Faithful, Joy to the World (or music of your choice. We followed this Christmas program with a church-wide holiday dinner)


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook.

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

Peace on Earth

My favorite Christmas carol of all time was written by a broken man. He had experienced the worst of what this world has to offer. The horrors of war, the pain of seeing families torn apart, and a country divided. His journal read “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays” and “Better to leave these days wrapped in silence.  His hope was lost, his heart was cold.

And in the midst of that heartache, he began to write a poem, a poem that would eventually be set to music and shared for generations to come; a poem that reminds us that there is more to this world than we can see and we serve a God “who is not dead, nor does He sleep.”  The poem goes like this:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

advent-551793_1920Perhaps this past year, you’ve seen some horrors, you’ve experienced
some heartache, you’ve lost some hope. Perhaps the disappointments outweigh the victories and your sorrow outweighs your joy. Take heart from the truth shared here.

Perhaps you’ve had a good year. You’ve seen God’s hope and joy, you’ve experienced joy and celebration.  You have seen the wrong fail and the right prevail. If so, be the voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men.

If you are like me, you’ve seen both this year.

There’s been days of great joy, moments of deep loss; you’ve cried for our world and rejoiced in kindness shown to others.

We are in the midst of a story being played out in the world around us, a story that finds its center in the event we will celebrate at Christmas – the birth of our Savior, of Love Incarnate, the Prince of Peace.

And the story continues in us. But never forget this truth, God is not dead nor does He sleep. He is Immanuel, God with us. As we minister to the church, as we disciple our children, as we share our hope with all who ask for the reason for our joy, we join the story and continue to be the Love of God reaching into the world.

May your Christmas be blessed, rich and full of love.

More than likely, things won’t go according to plan, kids will be kids, and life will be life. But I hope in the middle of whatever happens, your heart will find rest in the Wonder of Christmas and your soul will find peace on earth.

Merry Christmas friends!


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.

Why I Don’t Like Church Christmas Programs

Is there anything cuter than kids in a Christmas play?  I mean seriously, don’t we just love seeing the kids sharing their songs, saying their lines, quoting their Bible verses and wearing all the Christmassy things?  And, of course, there’s always that “one” kid who unwittingly steals the show with their over-enthusiastic lines or their under-enthusiastic singing.  Or the one who is just a little bit off on the motions or the one who is pretending to conduct in the back row.  I mean, who doesn’t like seeing kids perform in church?

Me.

What?!?  I’m a children’s pastor. Isn’t that against the rules?

You guys, bear with me but, yeah, I usually don’t like them very much at all. I love that the kids talk about Jesus. I do think that they are beyond adorable and I want to hug every single one. But what I don’t like are the many implications that often come with it; things that go unsaid, but speak volumes to children and adults about the place of children in “big church.”

Four Reasons I Don’t Like Christmas Programs

  1. They define the role of Children in Worship – They are performers. They are cute. Everyone likes to “see” them. Everyone wants them on stage.  But children are much more than that. They are active, vital, necessary members of the body of Christ. If they are only invited into worship to “perform” guess what worship/church becomes for them?  A performance. And when they get tired of performing or they aren’t cute anymore, they move on to bigger and better things.
  2. They define the role of the Children’s Pastor – Many or most who work in Children’s ministry, rarely spend much time in “big church.”  The role is unseen; serving downstairs or upstairs making sure children are loved, rooms are covered, volunteers are appreciated, parents are affirmed, janitors are appeased, visitors are welcomed, and families are encouraged. But the only time a children’s minister is seen in church is when he/she bring the children up to put on a show. It creates a very limited view of who children’s ministers are.
  3. They define the role of the Congregation – When the children perform, all the feelings are there! The kids are sweet and cute and the church loves to see them in church. But it is a passive reception; the kids give, the church receives. There are no active, ongoing relationships. Many don’t even know the children’s names. They are the “girl in the red dress that sang so loud” and the “boy in the tie who sat on the steps.”  It creates an environment of “us” and “them” and when the performance is over, everyone returns to their posts.
  4. They define who is and who is not “the Church” – This is the same reason I despise the term “big church.”  There isn’t a big church and little church in God’s kingdom. There’s just church.  We, all of us, old, young and in-between, are all members of God’s body, part of the Church, His Bride. We affirm this at baptism or dedication. The whole congregations commits to being one body. And then, we go our separate ways, big and little, for the year, until it’s time to perform again.

christmaschurchI know that not every church is like this.

Please know that I realize that for some churches the program is more than a performance. For those churches, the children are involved in church all year long as participants and not just performers and the Christmas program is an extension of a greater story. I am beyond blessed to serve in a church like this.

But many of the reports I hear from Christmas programs across the board can be summed up like this, “All year we are invisible, but today…Today we shine.”  And that makes me sad.

What can be done?

Well, for one, we can start making the children part of the larger corporate worship more frequently, giving them a name and voice and relationships rather than just being cute and adorable.

Create space for adults to interact with children on level ground rather than as active performer and passive recipient.

Define roles differently – children as saints of God and adults as children of God; the children’s director as pastor and shepherd of God’s flock not keeper of kids; the congregation as a family of all generations not a division of age groups and ministries.

Christmas programs are in and of themselves not the issue.

I mean, let’s face it, they are part of the regular church experience and, come on, the kids are really cute!

But if that’s all they are, if that is the only time they are seen and the only role they fill, then Christmas programs are the issue. If that’s the only time the children’s minister is a part of corporate worship, it’s an issue. If a culture of “us” and “them” is perpetuated or if children are guests in the service rather than family at the table, then it’s an issue.

Christmas is a time we celebrate Love coming to earth…as a child. Our programming, no matter how cute or adorable it is, should be a continuation of that story through the community and family that is the church.


For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page. Join our conversation at theReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry group on Facebook. 

About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and ChildrensMinistryBlog.com.