Christmas is for the children

Advent calendar

“Christmas is for the children.”

Certainly it’s true that children embrace Advent and Christmas in a way that few adults are able to do. And little wonder, when there’s so much for them to get excited about!

There’s the timeless story of the Nativity, with the shepherds and the angels, the wise men and the star, Mary & Joseph journeying to Bethlehem and finding ‘no room in the inn’, the stable with its animals, and the baby Jesus, laying in a manger.

There’s Father Christmas, in his workshop in the frozen north, with the elves preparing the presents that Santa will deliver on his magic sleigh, pulled through the air by a team of reindeer, guided by red-nosed Rudolph.

There are all the Christmas decorations, the trees and the tinsel, the baubles and the lights, strung across streets, hung from the houses, winking from the windows.

There are Advent calendars to count down the days, with windows to open revealing pictures or chocolates, each open window a sign that Christmas is getting closer.

There are cards to make and to send & receive, perhaps via a post box in the school foyer (does this happen anymore?!) There are carols to sing and perhaps a play to perform (be that a traditional Nativity or something more ‘unusual’!)

There are treats and sweets and good things to eat, and of course there’s the anticipation of Christmas morning, with the thrill of presents to unwrap (recognising that, sadly, not every child is so fortunate).

So yes, Christmas is for the children. But must it be only for the children? Couldn’t it be for us adults too – for the child within us all?

Because we need ‘the spirit of Christmas’ just as much as the children do – and arguably more so.

It’s all too easy to become weighed down by the inevitable cares and concerns of adulthood – to become jaded and hardened and cynical.

How much more do we need the things that Advent and Christmas offer us: the anticipation and the excitement, the wonder and the awe, the joy and the laughter, the mystery and the magic?

Now, some might contend that the Christmas celebrations far too commercialised, that they ignore ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, that what they offer is artificial and superficial, rather than true mystery and magic and joy.

And perhaps there is some truth in this. But as adults are can become so closed to such childlike things that we need something to open us up again.

The ‘artificial and superficial’ of Advent and Christmas can help to change our minds and soften our hearts, and so make us more receptive to the real thing,

Of course, you cannot pretend to a childhood naivety that you no longer possess. You cannot truly see Christmas as a child.

But perhaps you could start by recalling your childhood, and remembering what you found special about Advent and Christmas?

Perhaps you could revive some Christmas traditions – or create some new ones?

Perhaps you could allow the children themselves to show you this season afresh, through a child’s eyes?

Whatever you do, try to set aside your adult reservations and scepticism, open yourself to the ‘spirit of Christmas’ and seek out opportunities to enter into all the good and childlike things this season has to offer.

'It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.' Charles Dickens, 'A Christmas Carol' Click To Tweet

(See here for a few suggestions of materials that might help you journey more intentionally through the coming season.)


Materials for Advent and Christmas

Advent resources

Prompted by Tanya Marlow’s Advent Resources 2016 post, I thought I’d share some of the things I read and watch and listen to during Advent and Christmas. Even if none strike a particular chord, perhaps you could consider what might help you journey intentionally through the coming season?

Email series

Each Advent since 2013 I have signed up for Brian Draper’s Advent 20 email series. The daily reflections and suggested responses inspire and gently challenge, and help me to keep my focus amidst all the busyness. The series is shaped by the replies Brian encourages and receives, and which he shares with those taking part. In this way there is very much a sense of us as an online community, travelling through Advent together. I’m looking forward to this year’s journey – why not join us?


For the past couple of years I have appreciated the daily poems and reflections of Haphazard by Starlight by Janet Morely, but this year I am looking forward to Malcolm Guite’s Waiting on the Word (both books mentioned by Tanya). I wish I had the time and head-space and heart-space for both!

Advent calendar

I don’t think there’s been a year when I haven’t had an Advent calendar (and I’m almost 52!) As well as taking me back to the excitement of childhood, it’s good to notice and mark the days’ passing. I like a calendar with a traditional nativity scene (as my mum got me when I was a child) ideally with images from the Christmas story hidden behind the windows, and certainly no chocolate!

We also have an Advent candle, which we try to remember to light each day – and to extinguish before it burns down too far!


I aim to watch the BBC mini-series The Nativity in weekly parts throughout Advent (although, if I remember correctly, I did once end up watching it all at once on Christmas Eve!) Some might argue with the way the tale is told (particularly, perhaps, Joseph’s reaction) but for me it brings the various (sometimes conflicting) strands together in a way that emphasises the reality of it all – even if it didn’t happen exactly the way it’s depicted.

Nativity!, Elf (of course!) and Arthur Christmas have also become family traditions – and each, in its own way, reflects something of the spirit of the season (as well as being great fun!)


On Christmas Eve I listen to the A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge on BBC Radio 4, whilst wrapping presents with a Whisky Mac to hand.

For traditional carols with a more contemporary twist I enjoy Annie Lennox’s Christmas Cornucopia (as does my teenage daughter, but not my wife or sons!)

I will also be listening to two CDs by the early music vocal ensemble, Stile Antico – Puer natus est: Tudor music for Advent and Christmas and (recently ordered) A Wondrous Mystery: Renaissance Choral Music for Christmas.


However you spend the coming season, may you have an enjoyable, meaningful and blessed time.