by Samantha Mitchell
Our First Nativity Set
I popped open the children’s nativity set that I had found at one of our favorite discount stores. I put together the stable, and I started setting up Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the angel, sheep, shepherds, and wise men. I couldn’t wait to walk through the story of Jesus’s birth with my 17-month-old son and let him play with the childproof figurines.
Before I could complete my task, Silas grabbed the stable and began to take it apart. I corrected him and tried again. And again. Eventually, he got distracted by other toys and I quickly set all the pieces in their correct spots. I called Silas over to tell him the glorious story of our Savior’s birth.
A toddler tornado attacked the stable once again. Then he went for the other pieces. I resigned myself to the demolition, laid on my back in the floor of his room, held the box with the story over my head, and continued to read.
Maybe Next Time. . .
A few minutes later, he lay in the floor and put his head between my eyes and the box. He wiggled and squirmed until he found the perfect cozy spot—his head on top of mine. I persisted with the reading, my vision a bit impaired and my heart a bit disappointed but humored. Once I put the box down, Silas forcefully drove a toy nail from his work bench directly into one of my front teeth. It was time to move on to the next activity.
Silas is not yet able to fully comprehend the story of Jesus’s birth. He doesn’t have the maturity to quietly, carefully, and correctly play with a nativity set. His attention span likely won’t last the length of the biblical account.
So why attempt this at all?
As Silas’s mom, I have been charged with the mission to disciple him. While he may not be developmentally ready for some of the activities we do, he is able to perceive and learn patterns. He knows when he wakes up, the first thing we do (after a diaper change) is eat breakfast—and the first word out of his mouth every morning is “bite.” He knows that when it’s time for “bites,” he goes to the table. He knows when it’s time to pray, he folds his hands.
My goal during this season is to establish rhythms in our family that point Silas to Jesus at an early age. I want him to see me spending time in the Word. I want to pray with him. I want to engage him in Scripture, either with a children’s Bible, an oral story, or an activity like a nativity scene. I want him to learn the name “Jesus” even before he can comprehend His fullness. I want his Christmas excitement to be about the Christ we celebrate..
During this fun, rambunctious toddler season, here are a few quick tips to keep your eyes on Jesus!
- Ask the Lord which rhythms to cultivate in your family
- Do not expect perfection
- Expect interruptions
- Remember that the goal is to point your child to Jesus in each moment, not to complete a task
- Pray that your child will learn what he can, and trust God with how He works that out in his heart and life
- Ask God for patience during the process, and grace for when you’re tempted to be disappointed
May the rhythms of your heart and home this Christmas season continually shift your gaze to the Word who became flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14).
Read more from around the web on discipleship during the holidays: