What follows is a selection of activities, prayers and Bible study that can be done on Christmas Day or in the following days, either alone or with others. Our hope is that these would be a guide as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, and provide some suggestions for you and your family.


A CHRISTMAS PRAYER

Gracious and almighty God, as we remember and celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our hearts are filled with gratitude. Though we barely understand, we thank you that our Lord and Savior was born in a manger, humble and lowly, so that we might all receive and know Your love and grace. Would our hearts and lives be filled today with the truth of Emmanuel, God with us. Would Your light shine in the dark places of our lives and our world, and would You show us how to be a light to others. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

FAMILY ACTIVITIES

1) Ask each person who is celebrating with you to draw around his/her hand on a large blank sheet of paper and write his/her name on the sheet. Then take each of these “hands” and put them on display, either sticking them on a wall or laying them out on a table. Encourage each person to, at some point during the day, write on and around the hands on each other’s sheets words of affirmation or the things about that person for which they are grateful. Towards the end of the day, maybe over a meal, distribute the hands so each person can read the encouraging words written by friends or family.

2) Read Luke 2: 1-20. Spend time individually or as a family reflecting on the Christmas story. Think about each character and try to imagine what it must have been like to be that person that night. What would it have been like if you were one of the shepherds surprised by angels? Or Mary and Joseph, with a newborn, in a stable? Think about what you admire about different characters in the story.

A CHRISTMAS POEM

The Bells 
by Ruth May

Steeple bells peal and peal and peal
Ringing out glad tidings and great joy.
Echoes of angels fill the sky,
Drowning out the fishwives yapping,
the children squabbling—the air heavy
With the excitement of want.

Now forgotten, the silence of the Nativity.
That heaven-shaking, earth-shattering
Demand that all the earth stand still
To pause in wondrous cheer
as hope rides in on the thermals of eternity.

Halls are decked and mistletoe shines.
Lost in the remembrance of this moment,
Lives are polished to near perfection
On display for all to see.

Forgotten is the fear, the dirt and the shame.
Forgotten are the women who cried,
Forgotten is the screaming of a newly born child.
As Life begot Life in a manger.

Now wrapped in bows and shiny paper
The remembrance of a cosmic collision
as the Godhead came to earth.
Now found in the welcome of home,
the forgiveness of the broken.

Now stumbling over grace,
as shame is laid at the feet of a manger.
And love is held in the hands of a baby
bathed in the fractures of heaven’s light.

BIBLE STUDY

The Word Became Flesh — John 1: 1-18 (ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

Reflective Questions:

The Gospel of John begins with “In the beginning”—echoing the opening of Genesis, the first book in the Old Testament. What is John communicating by situating the story of Jesus this way?

John is demonstrating that The Word, Jesus, is over all of creation. The Word that created the world in the midst of chaos now pushes back the darkness in a new way and brings into being a new creation in which God says once more, “Let there be light!”

How did the darkness respond to the coming of this new light (vv. 5, 9-10)?
How do the places of brokenness and darkness within your own heart respond to the light of Christ?

At the Incarnation, when The Word became flesh in the form of a baby, a new light entered into the world. And all people are invited into this light: “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Anyone can become a child of God, and we are all invited into this new life.

How has the truth of this invitation changed you?
How might you extend this invitation to others?

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.  (Isaiah 9:2, ESV)

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Light is a dominant image in the story of Christmas. From the divine light that shines in the darkness of this world to the lights strung on our Christmas tree, Christmas is about light. But it is also about humility—a deity who so loved His creation that He came to earth, weak and vulnerable, in order that through His life, death and resurrection all those who believe in Him could have eternal life.

Christmas is about an eternal light, a cosmic earth-shattering light that breaks into the darkness and makes a way for all to follow. In a world of such darkness, broken lives and broken countries, Christmas reminds us that the light is still shining brightly. When we see images of war-torn countries on our televisions and in our newspapers; when we hear news of sickness, grief and tragedy; Christmas tells us that the creator of the whole universe is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” He is God with us, not God up in heaven watching our lives with vague interest; not God distant and far-removed. But God with us, God in our midst. The Message paraphrase of John 1 puts it this way: The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. God, The Word, took up residence in this world, moved into the neighborhood, broke into the darkness so that all who receive Him might know new life, new hope and new light for all eternity.

Spend some time reflecting and praying, either alone or as a family. Thank Jesus for His light in your life and think about how you can be a light in the world. Maybe spend some time today talking together about those in our world who are lonely or hurting, caught up in conflict and pain, and pray that they would know God’s light this Christmas and in the year to come.

May His light shine brightly in your life, even as you hold out this life-giving light to others.