“Dad’s passivity with all of us was deafening. The lack of his direction was heartbreaking,” shares Robert Lewis. He calls his father the invisible dad who was present but rarely engaged.
As a father, I want my children to remember a visible dad fully involved in their lives. The holiday season provides ample moments for dads to engage their children. So, how can dads maximize holiday experiences and pass on spiritual truths to our families?
Every year November and December offer plenty of occasions, or holidays, for talking about the Lord. The original derivation of the word holiday comes from the words holy day. Christian dads can seize opportunities all around them for recognizing Thanksgiving and Christmas as holy holidays.
God, as a Father, wove the remembrance of special days into the fabric of His people’s existence. He instructed the Jews to set aside certain days and weeks of the year for these holy days. The sixteenth chapter of Deuteronomy includes specific instructions on how to observe three of them: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Lord’s lessons then serve as models today for how God’s people can approach our holy days.
According to this chapter in Deuteronomy, several activities are to be included in these celebrations:
- Sacrificing to the Lord
- Remembering what God has done in the past
- Feasting on good, rich foods
- Worshiping together with other believers
- Giving and sharing with other people
- Rejoicing and celebrating
These ancient Jewish instructions speak to any modern-day fathers who want to influence their families for the Lord. We too can learn from the book of Deuteronomy and apply its words in principle to our lives.
As we plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas, here are seven ways we as dads can intentionally lead our wives and children to Jesus.
1. Create a Thanksgiving tree.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I tell my family, “Get out the construction paper. It’s time to make our Thanksgiving tree.” Don’t worry; it’s a simple project. We cut out a brown trunk, making several tree limbs. Then each child cuts leaves out of various colors. The goal is for every person present at our house on Thanksgiving to have five leaves.
Following the Thanksgiving meal, we pass out the leaves and pens. Each person writes one thing for which they are thankful on each leaf. After a few moments, we go around the table and read our leaves. They don’t have to all be spiritual or serious things. A typical year includes gratitude for health, salvation, and our church as well as action figures, the treehouse, and tickets to Dollywood.
We tape the tree and leaves onto a prominent wall in our house, leaving it up for several months. It serves as a regular reminder of God’s blessings.
2. Lead your family in singing holiday hymns.
My wife and I love Thanksgiving and Christmas music. One easy way to instill an appreciation for holiday music is to use songs devotionally in family worship. During the holidays, introduce one song a week. Print the words or copy the music from a hymnal and pass the copies out after supper on Sunday or Monday. Each day at a family meal, take time to talk about the truths in the song. Use one of the many resources available that tell the stories behind the hymns. Sing the hymn or carol as a family several times that week.
One year during November we used, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”.” Then we sang that song as a table blessing many times through the year.
3. Make a prayer garland.
The week after Thanksgiving, gather some red and green construction paper. Cut out twenty-four strips. As a family, choose twenty-four people and ministries for whom you want to pray. Write one prayer target on each strip. Using a stapler, make a garland and hang it in the family room. Once a day, let the children take turns tearing off a prayer strip and leading your family in prayer for that person or ministry. One year our family sent notes every day to each recipient. Your children will anticipate tearing off their strips.
4. Practice the art of celebrating.
Dads, lead the way in rejoicing and celebrating this festive season. Don’t be a Grinch; be a celebrator! Get excited as the family picks out Christmas decorations, lights and ornaments. Turn on the Christmas CDs and fill your home with music. Bring home little treats of candy or small gifts to share with your family throughout the month. May the walls of your house ring with Dad’s laughter and good cheer.
John Ortberg so rightly said, “If we don’t rejoice today, we will not rejoice at all. If we wait until conditions are perfect, we will still be waiting when we die. If we are going to rejoice, it must be in this day.”
5. Worship together with your church.
In Biblical times, celebrating the festivals meant coming together with other believers in worship. Be careful not to let the rush of the Christmas season keep you from taking your family to church. Join in the festive activities offered by being a part of a local congregation.
Last year our children’s Sunday school class performed a live nativity the Sunday before Christmas. My eight-year-old son Dawson was one of the three wise men. After Christmas, I asked the children to share their favorite events of the holiday season. Dawson immediately exclaimed “playing a wise man at church.” Let’s not underestimate the impact that participating in a church family activity during December has on our children.
6. Share with others.
Sharing and giving characterized the festivals of the Jews. God instructed them to make allowances for the servants, the poor, and the foreigners that were “within your gates” (Deuteronomy 16:11). During our own holidays today, we can share in several ways:
- Give gifts to each other and people outside of your family in the spirit of generosity.
- Teach small children to make or purchase small gifts for their siblings.
- Invite someone to your home to share a meal. Look for a widow, widower, student, or anyone far away from home and be hospitable. Last year, our family housed two Japanese students during the Christmas season.
- Make a financial gift as a family to a mission agency or missionary family.
7. Read the Scriptures and pray together at home.
I believe the most powerful method the Lord has given parents to influence their children is the simple practice of family worship. In our sophisticated, high-tech age, we may be tempted to forget the spiritual potency of opening the Bible, reading it to our families, and leading them in prayer. God made it very simple: pick up the Word of God, share it with our families, and lead them to the throne of grace.
Charles Spurgeon said, “If we want to bring up a godly family . . . let us seek to train them up in the fear of the God by meeting together as a family for worship.”
Opportunities abound during the holidays to teach our children spiritual lessons. Let’s be on the alert, dad, to impact our families for the Lord Jesus.
Copyright 2014, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.