Now that our son Jack is nearly 2 and communicating using words and phrases, my husband and I have been pondering how we’ll teach him about Advent and Christmas.

Last December, Jack wasn’t sleeping through the night, so we weren’t in church much. We observed the season by reading Christmas stories, listening to carols and trimming our tree. Sleep-deprived as we were, we managed to bundle up our baby on Christmas Eve and attend worship. Too bad Jack spent most of the service in the nursery. I wonder how much he took in.

This December, however, we can converse with him about baby Jesus. But I worry about what to say to help him begin to understand our faith.

When I think back on my childhood Christmases, I remember being in church a lot with my mother, the organist and music director at our Lutheran church. Our Decembers were always accompanied by Advent hymns and Christmas anthems, extra choir rehearsals and midweek Advent worship. Somehow, amid all this music-making, my mom made time to buy and wrap gifts and decorate our home. Looking back, I’m amazed she did it all.

Even though—or perhaps because—we practically lived at church during the month, I don’t think we talked about the meaning of Christmas very often. We didn’t have to. We knew the words to “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World” by heart. We knew the stories in the songs.

Mom showed us the spirit of Christmas in the joyful way she approached the music of the season; in every interaction she had with musicians and members of our congregation; in the quiet, reverent way she lit the Advent wreath on our table. Even during what was likely the most stressful season of her job, she was kind and patient, modeling Christ in the way she gave generously to our church and to our family.

Maybe teaching Jack about Jesus’ birth isn’t so much about finding the right words to tell the story, though that’s still important. He’ll learn as we show him—through the same activities we did last year and more (like getting to worship)—and allow the Spirit to work.


  • Teaching children, no matter their age, about Advent and Christmas can be as simple as immersing them in your family traditions. Don’t worry about using the perfect words. Your children will learn through actions—yours and their own.
  • Sing together: Do you have a favorite Christmas or Advent hymn from Evangelical Lutheran Worship? Teach your child the melody and lyrics. Then discuss the story in the song.
  • Light a candle: Each evening at dinner, light the candles on your Advent wreath to mark the passage of Advent and the growth of light. Follow this with prayer.
  • Give a gift: With your child, select a charity (such as ELCA World Hunger) and make a donation in honor of a loved one.
Erin Strybis
Erin Strybis is a freelance writer based in Chicago and author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (Morehouse Publishing, March 2023). Find more of her stories at her website and on Instagram.

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