And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
— Deuteronomy 11:19
Decades have passed, but we Renners are still reading the Christmas story as a family tradition before we open gifts. Every Christmas, our immediate family members come to our home in Moscow, where all the grandchildren excitedly wait to open their presents. But just as our sons had to wait until the Christmas story was first read and discussed, we have continued this family tradition — only now the whole event takes place in the Russian language, since that has become the primary language of the Renner households in Russia!
We read the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke — all in Russian — and then our ever-growing group of grandchildren interacts and joins the conversation about what we just read about the birth of Jesus. As questions are asked, the older ones eagerly lift their hands to be acknowledged, and they each participate in a wonderful discussion about Jesus and all the events that surrounded His miraculous birth. One hand shoots up into the air — then the next and the next as our grandchildren compete to give the right answers to questions, such as:
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- Where did the wise men come from?
- Why was Herod so paranoid about Jesus being born?
- How old was Mary when she became pregnant?
- How did she become pregnant?
- What was the job of a carpenter?
The list of questions goes on and on. And if any child dare approach the gifts before this conversation is concluded, they are quickly corrected by the other grandchildren, who have come to love this as their favorite part of Christmas Day!
In fact, this family tradition has become so interesting that no one gets in a hurry to move on to the time of opening gifts. The children realize that the gifts will still be there regardless of how much time our story takes. We have so much fun talking about the Gospel message that no one ever becomes anxious about opening the gifts. The big event of our Christmas morning is the story of Christmas and the fun challenge of trying to out-answer everyone else with the correct responses to the questions that are asked!
Deuteronomy 11:19 says, “And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them [God’s words] when thou sitteth in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
In the Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, the word “teach” is the Greek plural form of the word didasko. This word emphatically means that parents have the responsibility to teach their children how to live by God’s law and ordinances and to have a working knowledge of His Word. According to this verse, parents are to take every opportunity to teach their children. Deuteronomy 11:19 says we’re to speak God’s Word when they rise, when they walk by the way, when they lie down, and when they rise again. One of the foremost responsibilities of parents is to impart the teaching and traditions of the Word of God to their children.
People often ask what Denise and I did to raise such godly sons — and, now, godly grandchildren. The answer is that we took Deuteronomy 11:19 very seriously. Denise and I didn’t hold a daily Bible study with our sons — but in the process of living life, we pointed out creation and the Creator, the love of God, His plan of redemption, and so on. We constantly and habitually reminded our children of God Almighty and His goodness in our lives. And we applied this same principle on Christmas Day.
What a wonderful day to speak truth to your children or grandchildren — to make the Word of God the highest priority of the day on Christmas morning. The impact and the memories will last a lifetime as you make it a fun and meaningful time together — and then move on to open presents, partake of special foods, and enjoy precious time with family for the rest of the day.
I’ve taken three days to exhort you on this subject because I believe it is such a serious tradition for a Christian family to build into their lives. If you do not already have such a tradition, today I want to encourage you to think about what kind of Christmas customs you can establish for your family to practice on this important holiday!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I continue to be stirred by this exhortation on the importance of deliberate traditions and habits to place God’s Word first on a daily basis. Teach me how to make practical applications of Deuteronomy 11:19 every day in every area of my life beyond this holiday season. I ask You to show me how to start new traditions for our family that can be passed down to ensuing generations. I also ask You to help our family really think through what kind of Christian tradition we can start and continue year by year to keep You and Your Word the focal point of all that we do. Once we get started, give us the strength of will to keep it up perpetually and pass it on to other generations. Most of all, we want not only a Christian tradition but also a daily lifestyle that will honor Christ and bring Him glory!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I create deliberate habits to bring God’s Word into my daily life and the lives of those around me. This year I’m going to seriously consider what kind of Christian traditions I can begin in my family and will move forward to initiate a godly heritage in my home. There’s no better time to start than now, so I plan to get started this Christmas season!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What other kind of Christian traditions have you heard of that people practice with their families?
- Have you ever considered taking Communion as a part of your Christmas Day events? When would you do it, and how would you talk to your family about this sacrament of Communion?
- Once you start a tradition, you want to make sure it is one that you can continue year by year, so really think this through before you get star Why not write it down and discuss it with your spouse — or, if you’re single, with another relative or close friend? It’s important not to make a big announcement to your children that you don’t follow through with each year.