No matter where you live you will most likely see Christmas items on display this time of year. Grocery stores, shopping malls, and books stores are eager to offer their Christmas products to ambitious shoppers. Since we are surrounded by reminders of Christmas, parents and grandparents can use these weeks to tell children about some of the symbols, legends, and traditions that surround our favorite holiday.
The Christmas Tree
A story is told that the 16th century German preacher, Martin Luther, brought a Christmas tree into a house much like we do today. One night as he was walking in a forest, he saw stars shining through the tree branches. He was captured by its beauty and told his children this sight reminded him of Jesus who left the starry heavens to come to earth as our Savior. The lighted Christmas tree has become one of the most familiar symbols of Christmas.
The Candy Cane
The legend of the candy cane has been passed down through the ages. It tells the story of a candy maker who wanted to make a candy to represent the story of Jesus. The candy is shaped like a J for Jesus, but upside down it looks like a shepherd’s staff to remind us of Jesus our Shepherd. The red stripes remind us of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for our sins, and the white represents the purity of forgiveness. The origin of this legend is unknown, and it may be more fiction than fact, but it makes a great Sunday School lesson!
The Christmas Stocking
The origin of the Christmas stocking dates back to the 3rd century when St. Nicholas, a Greek Bishop, wanted to share his wealth with the poor. He had heard about a widower with three daughters who was worried the girls would not be able to support themselves after he passed away. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but only in secret. The legend says that he tossed three bags of gold into their open window at night, and one bag landed in a stocking. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings on Christmas eve, hoping they would be filled by St. Nicholas.
Angels are very much a part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1 we read that God sent the angel Gabriel to deliver a message to a young virgin named Mary. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. . . .you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (NIV). The night Jesus was born, God sent an angel to announce his birth to some shepherds. Then a host of angels appeared in the sky praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” Luke 2:14 (NIV).
Every nativity includes the baby Jesus lying in a manger. Luke 2:7 tells us that Mary wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. When the angel announced the Savior’s birth, he told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem where they would find him lying in a manger. The manger is where we find Jesus. The manger is not only a symbol of his birth, but also his humility. Jesus left his heavenly home and began his earthly life in a feeding trough for animals.
The Bethlehem Star
The Bible tells about a special star that shone the night Jesus was born. Some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him” Matthew 2:1-2 (NLT). These men who studied the stars and planets had seen an unusual star and knew a special King had been born in Israel. The star was a miraculous sign God placed in the sky to announce the birth of our Savior. It guided the wise men to Bethlehem and led them to the King.
The Christmas Story
The true Christmas story is found in the Gospel of Luke, and a few details are also given in Matthew. The story has been retold through the centuries by writers who want to share it with children in age-appropriate fashion.
My book, M is for Manger (Tyndale), tells the Christmas story in chronological order, helping young minds understand how and where Jesus was born. Bible verses are included on every page so readers will know where the events or prophecies can be found in Scripture. As children turn the pages and follow the letters of the alphabet, the events surrounding the birth of Jesus unfold before their eyes.
If God has placed children in your life, these stories and legends can help you share the message of Christmas with them—that God sent his only Son to be our Lord and Savior.
Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher, award-winning author, national speaker, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). She has written more than 100 books for children, three books for women, numerous magazine articles, and Bible study materials. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music.
She has written books for many popular children’s series, such as Little Blessings, BOZ the Bear, and I Can Read! She has co-authored Our Daily Bread for Kids, My Mama and Me, and M is for Manger with her daughter, Teri McKinley. She and her husband live in Florida.