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 and video at , 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 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

(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

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 and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and

Let a Child Lead You

“The first testimony of Christ in this world came from an unborn child.”

When I read this the other day, it stopped me dead in my tracks for a moment. Think about that for just a second. Consider this miraculous story:

A barren woman is pregnant. This shouldn’t be. And yet she is. This woman, the wife of a priest, is beyond childbearing years and yet she is in her sixth month of pregnancy.

A virgin is pregnant. This shouldn’t be. And yet she is. This woman, daughter of a common man, has not yet reached childbearing years and yet she is in her first trimester.

The first woman’s husband cannot speak. The second woman’s betrothed cannot cope. Both, in their own way, are alone. Both, in their own way, need to hear from God that they are not alone.

He had sent angels, but the angels are silent.

He had sent signs, but the signs are silence as well.

But, as God so often does, He used a child. And not just any child, an unborn child, still in his mother’s womb, still forming but not yet fully formed, still hidden and not yet fully known.

A kick, a leap, a jump for joy as this unborn child beheld the other, his Savior, his Lord. The first mother instantly understood the testimony, instantly knew the truth and instantly proclaimed aloud, “You are blessed, mother of my Lord.” The second mother instantly felt relief, seeing her pregnant cousin, hearing the confirmation, knowing that God with us was within her.

A little child will lead them. 

Ah Church, never underestimate what your children have to bring you. Never underestimate their testimony of truth. Even in the womb, they can see things that you and I cannot. Their pure and simple faith bring to us great joy, if we will lend an ear and give them a voice.

The other day my husband texted me this message as told to him by our son: Four-year-old Christology – Jesus is Lord. First, he was a superhero, then he was a baby.

First, he was a superhero, God Almighty, the Great I Am. Then he was a baby, a fragile man, a little lower than the angels.

A little child will lead them. 

He could have come fully grown. He came as a child.

He could have come as a man among men. He came as a helpless babe.

He could have been strong and mighty…a superhero. He came as a baby.

And when he was grown, he welcomed the young, the helpless, the children into his presence with open arms and with great joy.

Listen to the children as they speak to you of Christ. Let their faith fuel yours. Let their leaps of joy confirm to you that indeed, Christ has come into the world. Let the contentment they experience as you hold them in your arms be the contentment you feel as you are held in His.

This Christmas, let a little child lead you, right into the loving arms of Immanuel, God with us, Superhero wrapped in swaddling clothes.

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 and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and

Telling The WHOLE Story at Christmas

Last night, I had the amazing opportunity to share with a group of local single young mothers through a ministry called Step by Step. The topic was “What Christmas is All About For Your Kids” and the heart was to share with them that Christmas isn’t about gifts but about THE gift and how to make Christmas the most meaningful for your kids.  Most of the moms who attend do not profess to be believers, so that made the topic a little trickier to address.

My heart was that if I were going to share the Christmas story most accurately, the women there needed to hear the bigger story, the metanarrative of Scripture, the whole all-encompassing story of love, hope, and grace that extends over time and that we are a part of today. They needed to hear The Story.  For those who follow my blog, you’ll recognize this from a post I shared during Lent. This is the same story but modified for Christmas.   I shared it with the moms who gathered as if they were their kids and each mom left with a The Story booklet and the four props used during the story.  If you are looking for a new way to tell the whole story of Christmas to your kids or those you serve, perhaps this can be helpful for you as well!

“The Story”

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

Gather your family together and pick one parent 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!!

For more information about

Check out to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author
Family(40).jpgChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 and is a contributing blogger at, Seedbed, and D6 Family

You’re Not a Horrible Parent

And with the stroke of midnight and the turning back of the clocks…it happened. Somehow we magically moved into the mysterious time we call the “holiday season.”  In just three days my Facebook feed has lit up with posts about Christmas, posts against Christmas, and posts pitting Thanksgiving and Christmas against each other. Christmas music has started playing on the radio and Thanksgiving turkeys are starting to show up in grocery stores.  The whirlwind begins.

Keep in mind, dear friends, that I LOVE the whirlwind. I embrace it like a moth to a flame. The busy isn’t busy to me – it’s rich and full and bursting with life. Time with friends and family becomes the essential instead of the extracurricular and food, fun, and fellowship the norm rather than the exception.

But the is also the time of year where I see Stress get a capital-S. Because while all those things above happen, so does all the other stuff that goes on year-round. It’s not like we hit the pause button on life so that we can celebrate; instead the celebration gets piled on already busy, stressed-out lives.

A recent study by Pew Research has found that in nearly half of two-parent homes, both parents work full-time.

pewresearchHow does that affect the family?  The same research found that:

  • Of full-time working parents, 39 percent of mothers and 50 percent of fathers say they feel as if they spend too little time with their children.
  • 59% percent of full-time working mothers say they don’t have enough leisure time, and more than half of working fathers say the same.
  • 56% percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding

One mother interviewed by the New York Times said this, “You basically just always feel like you’re doing a horrible job at everything. You’re not spending as much time with your baby as you want, you’re not doing the job you want to be doing at work, you’re not seeing your friends hardly ever.”

When we add in the holidays, and all the stuff I mentioned that I love, on top of this…for many it is overwhelming.

And then, if we add in on top of that the calling for parents to intentionally lead and disciple their kids at home, using this time of year to teach them about gratitude, serving others, compassion, self-sacrifice, and giving through things like serving at a mission or participating in a food drive or giving up presents…for many, it feels impossible.


Parents, may I encourage you?  

For a brief moment, before we are rushed headlong into this season, can I give you this small respite of grace?

You don’t have to do it all.

You don’t have to do it perfectly.

You don’t have to make all the best choices, provide the best experiences, or present the best opportunities.

(deep breath)

But, if you can step back and before it all starts simply say, “Jesus, this year, with our family and our children, show us how to invite you into our everyday holiday season. In what we are already doing, show us how to have You be a part of it.  Be present in our presence;” if you can do that, my bet is at least part of the weight will lift from your shoulders.

Some simple ideas, using those everyday moments from Deuteronomy 6:7 “when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” could transform your holiday season without you feeling like you do a “horrible job” at everything.  Things like…

When you sit at home:  Doing a Thankful Pumpkin at dinner (see “how to” here), Watching a Christmas movie and looking for Jesus in it (see ideas for movie night discussion here), Wrapping gifts for family members and praying for each one while you do. 

When you walk along the road:  Listening to Christian Christmas Carols and asking what part of the Christmas story it was about, Looking at Christmas lights and talking about how Jesus is our Light (check out this Christmas lights scavenger hunt if you have a long drive), Handing out Blessings Bags to those in need. 

When you lie down:  Create a wall of blessing that you add to each night at bedtime (just tack up a piece of posterboard and let kids decorate with stickers, pictures, etc. and list the year’s blessings, one each night/week), Start reading the Christmas story on December 1 until Christmas Day, Add one ornament each Saturday night to the tree that has special meaning to your family.

When you rise: Use an Advent Calendar and open a door each morning before the day starts, Pray together for everyone you sent Christmas cards to (one person or family per morning/week), Put Christmas cards in your kids backpacks (you can get packs for $1 at Dollar Tree) with notes of blessing for them all season long. 

(Want more ideas: Click here)

The reality is that the holidays are coming, will come, and will pass. Memories will be made. Life will happen. What January looks like for your family will in some way be dependent on what November and December looked like as they passed.

Don’t allow stress and shame steal the joy and opportunity of the season.

Realistically, no family can do it all. But realistically, we can all do something.

If we are unable to do “the big things,” let’s invite Jesus into all the little things and embrace the celebration for His sake.  It will look different for each home, as it should. But in each home, Christ desires to be the respite, the rest, the peace no matter what season it is.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 and is a contributing blogger at, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

Practical Advent: Celebration in the Everyday

Christmas; the time of year that encourages the greatest focus and reflection often becomes the time of year with the greatest chaos and confusion.  I’ve heard it said that church staff members list the Christmas season as the one they most dread at church.  Parents feel the stress of adding expenses and events to already constrained budgets and calendars.  While we are excited to celebrate the season, we dread the baggage that accompanies it.

Our family has tried through the years to put a new spin on the dichotomy of the season.  The month of December is just as crazy and busy for us as everyone else.  Our calendar is filled to the brim with celebrations, obligations and events.  It would be so easy to lose our focus on Christ and get enveloped in the stress so we have intentionally tried to find Christ in our everyday.

Instead of letting the season control us, we seek to harness the energy as a means to capture the journey of Advent and the spirit of the season to draw us into the ongoing story of Christmas.

Our Practical Advent may not “look” traditional, but it gives us focus and teaches us that Emmanuel (God with us) is present in our quiet times, our busy times, and our family times.

Here’s an example of what we do to invite Christ into our calendar all month long.

Advent Day 1 – HOPE, to wait expectantly.  This week we are going to have the opportunity to talk about hoping and waiting with each activity we do.  Look for HOPE throughout the week and remember we are WAITING for Jesus to be born on Christmas daychristmascookies

Day 2 – Baking Christmas cookies.  One of the hardest things to do on this day is to WAIT for those cookies to bake and cool so we can eat them.  How is this like waiting for Jesus?   We only have to wait 8 minutes.  The Isrealites waited 400 years!  How do you think they felt?

Day 3 – Christmas Cards.  How fun is it to HOPE every day that a card comes in the mail on Christmas?  When you go to the mailbox, you go expecting to find something there.  That’s how God wants us to wait on Him, with hope and expectation that He will be there and that He has something for us.

Day 4 – Elementary Christmas concert.  Sometimes these concerts can be very long and not fun to wait through but we WAIT in HOPE to see one face, the face of the one we love, our daughter because we love her and we want to see her and be with her.  With that same desire, we can HOPE during the long, hard times in life to see the face of Jesus, because we love him and we want to be with him.

Day 5 – Christmas Party #1 (in our case, a party for recent graduates).  Think about the people who graduated today.  They had to WAIT for 4 years to get their degree.  But while they waited, they also worked hard in the HOPES that after graduation they could use their degree for Christ.  While we wait for Christ to return, we don’t just sit around.  We do His work as the body of Christ and hope that our service here will grow His kingdom in heaven

adventwreathWhile this is just a quick sample of the kinds of things our family is doing this year, I hope you get the idea.

It’s not about cutting out the activities or getting stressed out about the busyness; it’s about inviting Christ into every aspect of our life.  Emmanuel – God with us.

In the next few weeks we will experience Peace by watching the Nativity Story, enjoying hot cocoa and cookies with company, and wrapping presents; Joy by making gifts for others, going caroling, and doing a Christmas Scavenger Hunt with friends; and Love by reading the Christmas story, thanking our family for their love, and worshiping on Christmas morning.

It’s not theologically deep and complicated and it doesn’t take long to share. However, the whole feeling of our celebration changes with this simple acknowledgement of Emmanuel and invitation to seek Him in the middle of our Christmas chaos.

More than likely, your calendar looks a lot like ours.  Elementary Christmas programs, church events, school events, Christmas parties, holiday baking, family reunions, gift wrapping, present shopping, tree decorating, and the list goes on and on.

Why not take advantage of the moments and look for Jesus in each one?

Just a little intentional thought on our part can lead to a beautiful transformation from a stressful, busy season to a hopeful, peace-filled, joyous, loving celebration of Advent and the birth of our Savior, Emmanuel, God with us.

Join the conversation on Facebook at ReFocus Family and Intergen Ministry.

For more information about practical discipleship in the home or transitioning to a more home-focused, intergenerational ministry at your church, go to ReFocus Ministry or “like” our Facebook page.

About the author

familyChristina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge 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 and is a contributing blogger at, Seedbed, and D6 Family.

“Doing” Sunday on Monday: Church at Home

What is Advent?

Yesterday, I asked a group of elementary-aged children this question.  Keep in mind that these children have been “raised” in church so the terminology of “advent” was not unfamiliar to them.  But the answers… oh, the answers… seriously, one of the reasons I love working with kids.

Advent is…adventwreath

… when you can’t find the angel for the top of tree and you look all over the house for it

… a fun trip into the jungle (I think he meant “adventure”)

… when you light candles on the tree branches that fall off the tree (as pictured)

… that thing you use to light Christmas lights

… the songs you sing at Christmas time

Admittedly there were some closer guesses, “countdown to Christmas” being the most popular one, but in reality, most of the kids had no idea about the heart and the wonder behind the season of Advent.  And that got me thinking?  Why?  I know for a fact that Advent has always been celebrated at this church.  Every year on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, candles had been lit and Hope, Peace, Joy and Love talked about.  Liturgical Scriptures were read and Advent vespers services were held.  But somehow, the whole meaning behind the celebration of Advent was missed by the children.

I’m not picking on my church.  I’m not even picking on Advent.  In fact, I don’t think I’m picking on anyone or anything but I am wondering, how much of what we do on Sunday has meaning for us on Monday?  You see, lighting the candle of Hope on Sunday doesn’t mean a whole lot to me or you (or to our kids) if we don’t talk about that hope, contemplate that hope, and celebrate that hope for the rest of the week.  Reading beautiful Scriptures of God’s promises and love for us doesn’t mean a whole lot if it stays inside the church walls and never makes it to our dinner table, our car ride, our community, and our job.  Singing a few hymns of Christmas joy won’t impact our lives until we consider the words and use them to praise God on our recliner at home as much as we do our pew at church.

Celebrating Advent is not something every church does or every family does.  I get that, I do.  But the reality is, if we are “doing” something at church and not “doing” that same thing the rest of the week, we are compartmentalizing our faith to a building instead of incorporating our faith into transformed lives.  I’m not saying you have to light an Advent candle every night.  But I am saying if you want your children to know about the Hope of Christ, you need to talk about it every day.  I’m not saying you have to sing Christmas carols in the car, but I am saying you need to model a life of worship everywhere you go.  I’m not even saying you have to read Scripture out loud in front of your family, but I am saying that Scripture needs to be a part of your everyday conversations with your kids.

I once asked a similar group of kids what church was.  My answers ranged from “A building we go to on Sunday” to “Where God lives.”  I know these are kids and “kids say the darndest things” but let’s be real for a minute.  If we live lives that say “Church is a building we go to on Sunday because God is there” how else are our children to interpret our faith?   What if instead we told our kids, “Church is the family of God and He is always with us so we are always in church?”  Not with those words, but with our lives.

Spontaneous worship.  Times of prayer.  Lighting of candles. Corporate worship.  Waiting expectantly in hope for the arrival of Christ.  These things don’t need to be limited to a place, a time, a special moment.  These things can be lived all year long and our lives can be a living testimony to a vibrant, growing faith.  Our kids still might not know what Advent is, but while we are searching for that lost angel or tramping through the jungle, we can do it while proclaiming Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as we anticipate more of Christ in our lives.