Nehemiah 8:10-18 (NIV)
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.
The Christmas season provides moments for fathers to engage their children. How can we maximize this time to pass on spiritual truths to our families? The original derivation of the word holiday comes from the words holy day. Christians can seize opportunities all around us for recognizing Christmas as a holy holiday. God 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 as holy days, such as the Feast of Tabernacles. Nehemiah led God’s people in the celebration of this feast as they remembered His guidance and protection during their desert wanderings.
Those lessons serve as models for today. According to this chapter in the book of Nehemiah, celebrations can include remembering God’s past works, hearing His Word, feasting on good foods, and worshiping with believers.
Frank McKibben said, “This is Christmas; not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ.” We all need to remember that.
As dads, we need to lead the way in celebrating this Christmas Eve. Don’t be a Grinch; be a celebrator! Get excited about the season for your family. Turn on the Christmas tunes and fill your home with music. May the walls of your house ring with your laughter and good cheer. I also believe the most powerful method the Lord gave 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 potency of opening the Bible, reading it out loud, and leading the family in prayer. God made it so simple: pick up His Word, share it with our families, and lead them to the throne of grace. This is perhaps how we can best pass on the joy of Christmas to our families.
I want us to consider these questions on this Christmas Eve:
- How are you seeking to rejoice in Christ during this season?
- How are you leading your family in worship?
- If you are not a father, how could you lead your loved ones?
Now that my son Matthew is 3 years old, I am planning on starting a family tradition of reading the Christmas story to my family on Christmas Eve. Since he has such a short attention span, I am planning on reading this story in the car to Stephanie and Matthew as we are driving from church to grandpa and grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve.
I have not yet decided if I am going to read straight from the Bible or from one of the Christmas story books we have at home. If I do read from the Bible, this is what I plan on reading:
Luke 2:1-20 (NLT)
The Birth of Jesus
2 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
The Shepherds and Angels
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
I hope that you too feel led to do something special with your family this Christmas Eve to help your family remember why we celebrate Christmas. It can leave a lasting impression on everyone in your family.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!