December 2015 Posts

7 Ways to Make Your Family’s Christmas More Christ-Centered

As we busily get ready for Christmas this week, we mustn’t forget the true meaning of Christmas. Hear from our Children & Youth Acquisitions Director, Linda Howard, as she shares some great ways on how to make your Christmas more Christ-centered!


Are you ready for Christmas? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions this time of year, and can be answered a multitude of ways. We talk about the presents we have – or have not yet – bought. We expound on how busy we are with church and other activities. We express our gratefulness for the ability to spend more time with our family during the season. We often even mention in passing that we are thankful for the manger and all that it represents to our lives.

All of the things listed above are great, but what if we considered answering the question in a different way? What if we marked our readiness for Christmas by the state of our hearts, not the number of presents under the tree? Have we, in our hearts, spent time at the manger pondering on the incredible gift God gave us over 2,000 years ago? Do we teach our children what Christmas is really all about?

I’d love to share some ideas to help you prepare yourself and your children for the miracle of Christmas.

1) Find an advent book or devotional to go through as a family.
I highly recommend Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp. It takes you through Christ’s entire family tree and reminds us of the beautiful plan God had from the beginning to bring His Son into the world for us.

2) Encourage your kids go through their toys/clothes and choose some that are in good shape to others who might be in need.
This helps them to focus more on giving to others, not just receiving gifts at Christmas.

3) Schedule a family night to serve at a shelter in your area.
Seeing others in need helps to put our own abundance into perspective and reminds us of the many blessings we have been given.

4) Our family has a birthday party for Jesus every year on Christmas Eve.
We make a cake for Him, we sing to Him, and make the night all about celebrating our Savior.

5) Consider reading the story of Christ’s birth as a family Christmas Eve, Christmas morning – or both!
We use the account in Luke 2:1-20. Take turns reading verses so that everyone feels like they are a part of the moment.

6) Attend your church’s Christmas Eve and/or Christmas services together as a family.
Worshiping together will help to forge a special bond between your family members?

7) Invite someone who does not have family in the area to join you for Christmas.
We have done that many years, and it has ended up being as much a blessing for us as it was for the friends who joined us.

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Thank you for being part of our Tyndale family. We are grateful for each of you, and we pray God’s blessings on you and your families over the next year!!

The Arc #9 – Christmas Traditions

In this episode we talk with Linda Linda MacKillop, an acquisitions editor on our Tyndale Kids team. We talk about everything from bacon wrapped turkey, to Christmas traditions. Enjoy!

Be sure to check out Kid Talk Tuesdays on the Tyndale Blog.

Download the episode on iTunes.

Kid Talk Tuesday: Yule Teaching Tools – Guest Post by Author Marianne Hering

Knowledge about Christ is the best gift you can give your kids this holiday season. Join us as author Marianne Hering shares some great tips on how to help your kids understand the complex scriptural theology around Christmas!

When I was a senior in high school, I took physics. I was one of three girls in a class of twenty-four students. I held my own and kept near the top of the class until the unit on electricity. At that point, mastery of Ohm’s law and the right-hand rule eluded me—I was several watts short of earning an A. Many of the boys, however, beamed with knowledge, but it wasn’t that their testosterone-enhanced brains were smarter. It was because of the Boy Scouts electricity merit badge and model train kits. Quite simply, while I was learning to sew and bake in the Girl Scouts, the boys were learning to build circuit boards. My mom and I bonded over quilting. The boys and their dads bonded over miniature electric engines.

When it comes to understanding complex subjects like electric current, experience is everything, and grasping complex theological concepts is no different. Don’t let your kids show up in a culture unprepared to explain their faith in logical terms. As Christian parents, we’re to teach our children handle the Word of God accurately, soteriology and all (1 Timothy 2:15).

Now, don’t run away just because I used the word “soteriology,” which sounds like something to kill with bleach instead of the study of salvation, the theological heart of the gospel. Christmastime is the perfect season to sow the seeds of theological competence, to give your child experience by explaining the complexity of Jesus and His incarnation. Use the following “Yule Teaching Tools” to help your family grasp the essential and startling beauty Scriptural theology crammed into the manger alongside the swaddling clothes.

1) Talk about miracles with precise language in your home and talk about God’s truth as revealed in the Bible.

A miracle is something supernatural that God does to teach us about His nature. A miracle shifts the universe, and the Bible is chock-full of them. You’re to base your faith on those universe-shifting miracles and teach your children to do the same.A miracle is not finding a front-row parking spot at Macy’s on December 24. A miracle is not chemotherapy killing cancer. A miracle is not a rainbow appearing the day you buried grandpa. A miracle isn’t even Uncle Joe giving up alcohol. Those are all good things to praise God for and to cherish in your heart, but they are not supernatural events that call attention to something specific God wants the entire human race to learn about Himself. So call ordinary and even extraordinary good things a “blessing”; but save the talk about miracles to biblical events. Jesus’ birth shifted the universe, and that account should be elevated above all other stories.

2) Pave the way for Easter, for understanding about our need for the “perfect sacrifice” by emphasizing Jesus’ spiritual purity and our propensity to sin.

It’s easy to point to “sinful people” as those who murder, plant bombs, or hurt children. Help your child understand that everyone, including moms, dads, teachers, and friends, are marked by sin because their spiritual template is Adam, the fallen man. That whole “Adam’s offspring” piece is one of the more complex concepts, but if a child is used to hearing about it at Christmas and Easter, that essential theological building block for understanding atonement (Romans 5:12-21) will be easier to put in place later.

3) Talk about the Trinity during Christmas and don’t apologize for it.

If you do, you give your kids a reason to shy away from appreciating the mystery of God, a power so great that words can’t describe Him fully. Children are especially well-suited and primed to embrace the Holy Three-in-One concept because they appreciate wonder. Once it’s established that Jesus is the Son of God and also God and the Holy Spirit was an essential partner in His birth, you’re then dealing with the Trinity. If you feel over your head, treat that theological construct the same way you would another concept you don’t fully understand. Can you explain a combustion engine? I can’t, but I don’t get embarrassed when I tell my kids that I’m taking the car to a mechanic to get it fixed. If your kids ask a question that you can’t answer, say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up.” Present the Trinity with confidence, and your children will accept it just as confidently.

So this Christmas, slip some candy canes into your kids’ stockings and a little theology into their noggins. My parents didn’t prepare me for the physics unit on electricity, and I was behind my peers. Looking back, it wasn’t a big deal and part of the 1980s culture. I know that they had their top priorities right. They made sure I understood about the “Light of the world” –knowledge I wouldn’t be able to learn in any physics class.

Marianne has written for children since 1987 when she joined the editorial staff of Focus on the Family Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines. In the 1990s she wrote six children’s mystery books and more than 40 Bible phonic readers (with co-author Margaret Wilber) for Cook Communications. Now a general book editor for Focus on the Family, she has turned her passion for children’s fiction into developing a series for beginning readers who love adventure. She is the editor of The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask about Christianity.

Kid Talk Tuesday: A Family Christmas Refocused – Guest Post by Author Brock Eastman

Guest contributor, Brock Eastman, encourages us to revisit the meaning of a family Christmas. One that educates our children why we celebrate and enables them to look beyond a commercialized holiday. Read on to be inspired by Brock’s heart for his family, Jesus, and his contagious sense of humor.

Photo Credit: JGoodlin photography


Travel by air. Travel by land. Travel by sleigh. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Gifts for every family member, co-worker, teacher and friend. Peppermint Mocha. Gingerbread Latte. Flavor from your childhood memories of Christmas now in your caffeinated drink as an adult. This is the ‘Holiday Season’ these days.

Entrusted by God as parents of four little souls, my wife and I strive to make Christmas more about why we celebrate, than the over-merchandised cash-in on the ‘Holiday Season’ thing we often find ourselves caught up in. Now I’m not the Grinch and I love yummy flavored coffee, traveling to see family, and getting gifts that will make others’ eyes light up and set smiles on their faces. Still my wife and I hope Christmas will be a time of family togetherness that reflects on the birth of our Savior in a manger. We want our kids to understand that Christmas is not only getting gifts, but of giving gifts. As God gave us his Son, as the Magi gave gifts to Jesus, and as Jesus gave His life for us. To immerse our kids in this idea, we’ve started several meaningful, but simple traditions that help us have fun as a family while learning the importance of giving.


Advent Calendar:
I can’t take any credit for this one, aside from taking part and being excited about the activity we’ll pull out of the drawer each day. My wife does a wonderful job creating and planning 25 Advent activities. Starting on December 1st, these activities range from bell ringing for the Salvation Army (yes all 6 of us) to making marshmallow snowmen on paper or going on a family hot cocoa date. Each year we have several activities we keep doing because we’ve found them to be family favorites, while others get replaced with new ideas. And though we’re a few days into December, it’s not too late to start. You can check out a full list below of the Eastman’s 2015 Advent Calendar to get ideas for your own calendar. And you’ll notice our activities aren’t always focused on the birth of Jesus. Pinterest is a great place to find ideas for Advent.

Advent Calendar Ideas:

1.) Decorate for Christmas
2.) Make a Christmas craft
3.) Open a new Christmas book
4.) Have a sleepover with friends
5.) Go on a hot cocoa date
6.) Hang Christmas lights outside
7.) Make and deliver cookies to the local fire or police department
8.) Bell ringing for the Salvation Army
9.) Visit Santa
10.) Have a family fun night. Eat at a restaurant or go play at an activity park
11.) Host or attend St. Nicking event
12.) Go watch the Nutcracker
13.) Enjoy ice skating outdoors
14.) Christmas shopping for siblings
15.) Go see Christmas lights
16.) Christmas parade
17.) Watch a new Christmas movie
18.) Receive a Christmas activity book
19.) Bake Christmas cookies
20.) Make Christmas ornaments
21.) Present wrapping party
22.) Have a fancy dinner at home with your kids
23.) Build a Gingerbread house
24.) Open new Christmas Pajamas
25.) Bake a birthday cake for Jesus (Christmas Day)


Christmas Reading List:
This one is my favorite and not because I’m an author. I love having my four kiddos on my lap and gathered around me while we turn the pages to a Christmas themed book. Ten to fifteen minutes before bed each night or at the dinner table to read a story together is all it takes. We have a wonderful time listening, looking at pictures, and discussing what will happen next in the story. It’s also a great way to help our kids relax before bed. My wife and I have amassed a collection of Christmas books over the last few years, (getting a few books is one of our Advent activities) but for those who may not have a personal library yet, consider going to your local public or church library and checking out a dozen or so books. You can make this an every other night event to get started, but I’m sure your kids will soon ask for a story every night even beyond Christmas. Our books aren’t only about Christmas, some are winter themed. A couple family favorites are The Nutcracker or Snow by P.D. Eastman (no relation, at least that I know of). And the books we read about the birth of Jesus are a reminder of the ultimate gift we celebrate at Christmas. Plus reading to your kids at bedtime or anytime will pay huge dividends later as you’ll see them excel in school and their imaginations flourish. If you need book ideas we’ve created a list for you.

Tyndale’s Recommended Christmas Book List:

1. M is for Manger by: Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley
2. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by: Ann Voskamp
3. When Jesus Was Born
4. God Made You Special by: Jennifer Holder
5. Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
6. Snow by P.D. Eastman


Three Gifts of the Magi:
Are your kids’ lists for Santa each a mile long? Has one of your kids ever said, “If you don’t get it for me, I’ll ask Santa?” America is a prosperous country and often that causes us to be more materialistic than we want, it’s simply; we see it, we want it, we get it, because we can. In light of this, my wife and I wanted to refocus our family’s celebration of Christmas with an idea that helps simplify our gift giving each year. We use the three gifts the Magi presented to Jesus at his birth as the basis for each gift our kids receive each year; yes that’s three gifts, but each one is intentional and meaningful. This tradition allows us to read of the three wise men and their journey to the manger in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12), and creates a tangible connection with the baby Jesus and your children through the gifts they receive and each gifts’ purpose.

  1. Frankincense: A gift for the body can be a shirt, shoes, perfume or something exercise related.
  2. Myrrh: A gift for the spirit might be a Bible, devotional, worship music, or might I suggest Adventures in Odyssey (disclosure, I was a producer for Adventures in Odyssey.)
  3. Gold: A gift of luxury. What’s the one thing your child wants; a doll, Legos, a dinosaur, a movie. This is the gift that fulfills their greatest want.


St. Nicking:
A fun event to do with a group of families on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, or by your family alone. First ask your church or a local shelter to find a family in need this Christmas. Be sure to ask the church or shelter for the names and ages of each family member. If possible find out clothing sizes (shirts, pants, shoes, etc), any specific interests (books, princesses, cars, penguins), and specific needs (winter hats, school shoes, Bible, or water heater.) Next invite everyone to your house for a St. Nicholas party. Assign one member from the family in need to each participating family. Next read the story of St. Nicholas aloud. We recommend The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving. With family members assigned, a list of suggested items in hand, everyone heads out to shop. We suggest 1 to 1 ½ hours for shopping. When everyone arrives back the wrapping party begins. It’s a Christmas party too, so have everyone bring cookies to share. Now it’s time to deliver the gifts. The key to a successful St. Nicking is the anonymity of it just like St. Nick. We want our kids to understand that these gifts are given without receiving credit. That brings me to an important point, if you have the address of the family send one car to deliver the gifts to the front door. The key is to not be seen, so ring the door bell and leave before they answer. If you do not have the address, ask the church or shelter to deliver the presents to the family without revealing your identity.

From my family to yours Merry Christmas and we hope you’ll enjoy trying out these new ideas this season. Whether you do them all or just one, the key is to remember to focus your kids on the real meaning for Christmas; the birth of Jesus. We’d love to hear if you’ve incorporated any of your ideas into this Christmas season.


Brock Eastman lives in Colorado with his wife, four kids, two cats, and leopard gecko. Brock is the author of The Quest for Truth series, the Sages of Darkness series, Showdown with the Shepherd in the Imagination Station series, and the novella Wasted Wood. He writes articles for FamilyFiction digital magazine and Clubhouse magazine. You may have seen him on the official Adventures in Odyssey podcast and on its Social Shout-Out. He was the first producer of and launched the Odyssey Adventure Club. Brock works for Compassion International, whose mission is to release kids from poverty worldwide. Brock enjoys getting letters and artwork from fans. You can keep track of what he is working on and connect with him at Website:

Twitter: @bdeastman

The Arc Podcast #8 – Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

In this Advent inspired episode, Joy and Adam discuss Christmas and Advent traditions and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. Plus, we hear a full chapter sample from the new audio book version of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.


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