Editor’s Note: Joel Renner is the CEO of RENNER Ministries. Alongside his father, Joel has actively participated for many years in nearly every facet of the daily operations of the ministry. Joel resides in Moscow, Russia, with his wife and two sons.

Merry Christmas!

It is getting cold outside, and in the next few weeks everyone will be celebrating Christmas, telling one another, “Merry Christmas!” and giving loved ones gifts. It is a wonderful time of the year. But even with all the excitement of the holiday, let’s not forget that the Christmas celebration is about the birth of our Lord Jesus.

I would like to tell you about our Renner family Christmas tradition. Maybe it is like your family tradition, or maybe your family celebrates a different way. Every year, the entire Renner family gets together before noon at my parents’ house (Rick and Denise Renner), and before we open any gifts, we read the Christmas story. Everyone gathers around, and each grandchild, parent, or grandparent takes a small part of the scriptures that tell the Christmas story and reads it out loud. During the reading, we also get to ask questions to one another — and Grandpa Rick Renner gets to make sure we answer the questions right!

Possible questions could be as follows (there are many more questions besides):

  1. How many wise men were there who came to see Jesus?
  2. Was the star that appeared an angel, a comet, or a star?
  3. How old was Jesus by the time the wise men came to see Him?

By the way, my dad Rick Renner wrote a book about Christmas that opens up many untold facts about the Christmas story. It is called Christmas — The Rest of the Story, and if you would like to order it, go to renner.org. It is basically the Christmas story with answers to all the questions that our family asks every year, giving wonderful detail to the Christmas story that you may have never heard before.

After our family is done reading and talking about the details of the Christmas story — this could take from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how much laughing we are doing — we then all get on our knees and pray. Our prayers honestly sound more like giving thanks to Jesus. It is hard not to be thankful after you read the Christmas story.

Next, one of us gets out a trash bag and another one of us starts to hand out gifts. We have a wonderful time! The gifts are fun and often practical.

After the gifts are given, which takes probably about 15 minutes (also depending on the fun we are having), very soon around noon time we go to the dinner table and have lunch. We all make a plate of food and bring it to the table. We bless the food, and as always, during this wonderful lunch, someone will ask (usually my father Rick Renner), “What are you thankful for this year?” We all go around the table talking about what we are thankful for, and after that, we eat a little more. Then someone will ask (usually my father Rick Renner), “What are you hoping for in the coming year?” These are important questions, and sharing with one another is a wonderful time of fellowship.

After lunch is over, we all clean up the table and kitchen and then take a little break. We come back for tea and coffee and to enjoy a wonderful dessert that Polina (my sister-in-law) usually makes while we fellowship some more. Soon after the dessert is gone, we all go home.

That is our Renner Christmas tradition. Maybe this tradition sounds a lot like yours, or maybe you have a totally different tradition. Regardless, I want to encourage you to think about what Jesus has done for us, take a moment to thank Him, and enjoy your day.

God Bless,

Joel Renner