The central miracle and mystery of the Christian faith is the incarnation of Jesus Christ — when God became flesh and blood. The prophets called Jesus "Immanuel," which means "God with us." More than with us, He also became one of us, because Christ shares our genetic code as a member of the human race.
Why would God become human? The Bible tells us that Jesus humbled himself in order to rescue a broken and rebellious humanity. "Christ Jesus ... being in very nature God ... made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8). Through His sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus restored humankind's ability to experience intimacy with the Almighty. We celebrate Christmas as a reminder of that moment in time when God became one of us and lived among us.
Many religions believe in a deity who remains in heaven. Some have even believed in gods who die and rise again. But Christianity stands alone as the faith of "God with us." Most attacks on the Christian faith throughout history have been an attempt to refute the Incarnation because Satan hates what was accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Today, there are many views regarding who Jesus Christ was and is. Our children will encounter those who describe Jesus as a great moral teacher, an important prophet or a mere legend. It is our job as Christian parents to teach them the truth — that Jesus is the God-man who died for our sins and rose from the grave so that we might be with Him for eternity.
Below, you will find age-appropriate activities and other tools for presenting this truth to your children. Whether they are preschoolers, grade-schoolers or teens, you can make the concept of "God with us" real and relevant to them this Christmas season.
— Kurt Bruner
Bring up the name of a friend or relative who is a favorite guest in your home and ask, "Why do you look forward to her visits?" Children will describe behaviors: "She makes us laugh"; "she brings gifts"; etc. Suggest that these behaviors are ways your friend shows her love.
Then create curiosity by saying, "There's someone who loves you so much. He wants to spend time with you and be very special in your life. Who could that be?"
Capitalize on your child's curiosity by exploring the following points:
- Jesus loves you so much, He became a child and then a man to show God's love to you and others.
- Draw your child's attention to photographs in your home. Explain that, just like your child, Jesus had parents, friends and family. Encourage your child to name some of the people in your photographs. Help your child name the important people in Jesus' life.
- Look into a mirror with your child and ask what he sees (eyes, smile, fingers). Remind him that Jesus was once his age, having the same features.
Close by thanking Jesus for coming to earth.
— D'Arcy Maher
Dump a pile of uncooked pasta, with one piece being a different shape, on the table. Take turns using an upside down cup to capture as many pasta pieces as possible and have each player slide the cup away from the center to create his or her own pile. Keep playing until the dumped pasta in the center is gone. Have each person poke through the piles to see who has the one piece of pasta that is different.
Explain, "This one piece of pasta is like the rest, but it's also different. That makes me think of Jesus. He is God's Son, but He was also human. He became one of us. He joined our pile. Jesus is God and man, and He's made a way for us to be with God forever."
— Susan Martins Miller
Mealtime moment with your tween
Tell your tweens that Jesus is God and man. Once He came into the world, nothing was the same. When they understand that God became human, they may see things in a new light. Discuss this idea with them:
- What are some things that Jesus did while on earth that showed He was God? (Answers might be that Jesus turned water into wine, gave sight to the blind, fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, etc.)
- Can you or I do any of these things without God's help?
- What are some things that Jesus did while on earth that showed He was a man? (Answers might be that He walked along the road, felt hunger, slept, was wounded, etc.)
- Are these all things that we can do or that can happen to our body?
- Who is the only person who is both God and man? (Jesus)
— Susan Martins Miller
Q & A with your teen
"Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13. Then, more pointedly, He asked, "Who do you say I am?" (16:15). It's a question everyone must answer.
Who do your teenagers say Jesus is? Do they fully comprehend the meaning and significance of the Incarnation? Use the following questions to open a conversation with your teens.
- What do cultural Christmas traditions, such as Christmas carols or gift giving practices, say about who Jesus is? Who do your peers and teachers say Jesus is? Who do you say He is? Hopefully your teens will answer like Peter did: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Remember that adolescence is a period of owning faith, so allow your teens room to process this spiritual tenet.
- Why is the Incarnation so important? What difference would it make if Jesus were only a great man? Discuss the concept of God's great love compelling Him to become man and dwell with humanity.
- How can our family experience and represent the truest characteristics of the Incarnation — humility, sacrifice and redemption — during this Christmas season? Together, look for opportunities to reflect God's love to others.
— Jeremy V. Jones