It’s coming! The holiday season is right around the corner. Now is the time for selecting a family devotional for the Advent season, before the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season begins. With the busyness that comes with every December, it’s all the more important for families to take time to focus on the true meaning of the holiday season.
The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional is a new four-week devotional by Marty Machowski, best-selling author of the popular Prepare Him Room Advent devotional and curriculum, and many other family favorites. The Light Before Christmas combines devotions on the theme of light and darkness with the story of eleven-year-old Mia and her grandmother as they prepare for Christmas.
In this interview with Marty, he shares more about this new devotional for the Christmas season.
Q: Please introduce us to your new family Advent devotional, The Light Before Christmas.
The Light Before Christmas is an Advent devotional with a companion Sunday School Curriculum that provides a family with four weeks of devotions to lead their children through during the Advent season. In addition to exploring the biblical theme of light, the devotional includes a fictional children’s Christmas story, activities, and suggested songs for families to sing together.
The goal is to provide a fresh look at the story of Christmas by studying light, one of the greatest themes of scripture. While many people look to the Gospel of Luke for the traditional story of the birth of Jesus, the apostle John describes the birth of Christ as the coming of the Light into the world. Later in his letter John tells us, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). So, the Christmas message of the Gospel is the story of the coming of the light. That is a unique way of looking at the Christmas story. And given how so many decorate with lights at Christmas, an apropos way to connect our children with the true meaning of light at Christmas time.
Q: December is such a busy time that many families give up on a family devotional for Advent before they even get started. How much time do families need for the devotionals each week?
The Light Before Christmas provides all a parent or caregiver needs at their fingertips to lead their family through three ten-minute Bible studies each week. So, ten minutes a day is all that you need to take your family through this easy-to-use Advent curriculum.
Q: The Light Before Christmas was written for families with children between the ages of 4–11 in mind, but will older (and younger) children be engaged as well?
While The Light Before Christmas was written for families with younger children, the gospel truths it contains along with its rich reflection on the topic of light will give teens and adults plenty to think about. The Christmas story of the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem is a story custom designed for younger children to love. While the elements of the story draw in children, teens and adults love the story too! Think about it: You have angels appearing to shepherds in a field to announce the coming of the newborn King, you have a star guiding wise men from the east to the young child, you have a baby born in a stable because there is no room in the inns. With all these fun elements, you will draw in the whole family during the Advent season.
Q: Why did you choose to include the fictional story of Mia alongside the Bible study?
Like my previous Advent devotional, Prepare Him Room, I wanted to give families a unique experience to share during the Christmas season. The fictional story accomplishes two goals. First, it provides a story that has never been told before in the history of the world—so it makes the devotional fresh. Secondly, it provides a vehicle to help children see how the theology of the study applies to their daily lives. As Mia embraces the truths her grandmother teaches, the reader sees how the truth of the gospel in the light of Christmas applies to their lives too.
Q: What is the significance of Mia’s grandmother being blind?
While Mia’s grandmother is blind on the outside, God has given her eyes to see the truth of the gospel. The Bible uses the analogy of blindness to talk about our sinful condition. For example, in 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul tells us, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Mia learns that while her grandmother is blind, she has been given eyes to see that Jesus is the Savior of World and believes in him as her Savior.
Q: What are the elements of each devotional? What are some of the activities that are included?
Each of the four weeks of The Light Before Christmas has three devotions and begins with a chapter from the family Christmas Story. The first activity is creating your own Advent wreath. From there each day’s devotion starts with a “warm up” opening activity. This may be an object lesson, a fun fact to explore, or a song to sing. From there, you read through a Bible passage and then read a short devotional reflection on that passage. Next is a question you can ask to draw your family into a discussion on what you’ve just learned. In addition, there are four traditional Christmas hymns to learn and sing, one for each week of Advent. Close each devotional with prayer, and then have one of your children blow out the Advent wreath candle(s).
Q: Where do we first see the metaphor of Jesus as the light in the Bible? How does the theme of light weave its way through the Christmas story and God’s plan of salvation?
Isaiah prophesied of the future coming of light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).
The Apostle John, in his Christmas story talks about this light coming into the world when he says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:5–8).
Jesus told the religious rulers, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Beyond Jesus coming as the light of the world we have the light of the star that led the wise men and the glory of the Lord that shown on the shepherds when the angels appeared to announce the birth of Jesus.
Light is a theme woven through the whole of the Christmas Story.
Q: How will children be able to relate light as it is discussed in the Bible to how we use light in our celebration Christmas today?
Families decorate with lights at Christmas and put stars on the top of their Christmas trees. Connecting these traditional elements to the rich biblical imagery of light in connection with Christmas can provide a runway for the gospel children will remember all of their lives.
Q: Can you tell us more about the Sunday school curriculum? What is included in the lessons each week?
The Sunday school curriculum follows the same theme of light to teach children about the Christmas story. It is designed to complement the family devotional and provide a four-week curriculum for churches to use to partner with parents.
The curriculum includes lessons, song suggestions, crafts, and object lessons for teachers to use to help communicate the Bible lesson.
Q: The devotional and curriculum were, of course, written to be used together, but do they have to be? For example, can a family reap the full benefit of the devotional even if their congregation doesn’t use the curriculum? Will the children in Sunday school still understand all that is discussed if their family isn’t doing the devotional at home?
The Light Before Christmas Advent devotional can be used as a stand-alone devotional even if your church does not teach through the companion curriculum. While both cover the same material, there is no reference to the church curriculum in the lessons in the devotional so that your children won’t feel as if they missed anything.
The Light Before Christmas: A Family Advent Devotional
This four-week Advent family devotional by best-selling author Marty Machowski combines devotions on the theme of light and darkness with the story of eleven-year-old Mia and her grandmother as they prepare for Christmas.