This summer, I wrote an article that asked, “What if our formational efforts became rooted in the home . . . in ways that are both intentional and fun?” Since then, I have been on a hunt to discover some fun activities that can simply engage the family in a child’s spiritual formation. Fast forward to December and the family traditions we engage in, and I remembered one simple idea we do in our family.
About 25 years ago, I stumbled on an idea originally created by author Emilie Barnes. In her now out of print book More Hours in My Day, she suggests a wonderfully simple idea for forming faith at home while baking Christmas cookies. Here’s is an adapted version of Emilie’s “recipe”:
What You’ll Need:
Christmas story cookie cutters (see suggestions below)
Your favorite rolled cookie dough recipe (here is a simple recipe for making and decorating cookies—note that the dough needs to chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling)
What You’ll Do:
Christmas is the time we retell the story of Christ’s birth—God coming to live among us. Many of us adults have heard this story a hundred times, but children may have only heard it a few times. While you cut out cookies and decorate them, talk together about what each shape represents and how it plays a role in the Christmas story. (It might be fun to create a manager scene!) Here are some shapes and wondering questions to get you started.
I wonder what this shape represents. What is your favorite part of Christmas? What do you think is God’s favorite part of Christmas?
I wonder what the angels saw when they came down from heaven. Does anyone remember where angels showed up in the Christmas story? What did they say?
Shepherd’s Crook (aka candy cane shape)
I wonder what the shepherds thought and felt when they saw angels in the sky. I wonder what they thought when they first saw Mary, Joseph, and Jesus at the stable. What do you think they said to them? I wonder who the shepherds told first about what they had seen.
People (aka gingerbread shape)
I wonder how many people we can name from the Christmas story. I wonder what Mary thought when she held baby Jesus. I wonder how Joseph felt. Imagine if you were there that night. I wonder what you would have said or done.
What do you think about when you see a heart? What does the Christmas story tell us about love? I wonder where we see God’s love in the story of Jesus’ birth.
I wonder how a cross might be connected to the Christmas story. I wonder why Jesus came to earth. How does Jesus show his love for us?
I wonder what a dove represents. Does anyone know? Where do we hear “peace” in the Christmas story? I wonder what peace feels like here on earth.
Have you ever noticed that people light a lot of candles at Christmas? I wonder why. I wonder how the light of a candle might remind us of Jesus.
I wonder what the wise men thought when they saw the star. What do you think the star looked like to make it stand out from other stars?
Bake, and enjoy! And as you do, continue the conversation. Asking a question like, “What do YOU wonder about the Christmas story?” can open up all kinds of exciting possibilities.
P.S. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be fun for kids and grandparents (or aunts and uncles) to gather via Zoom while baking cookies. The children can be making cookies and the adults can be asking the wondering questions, exploring the Christmas story together.
Mimi Larson is Faith Formation Ministries’ Children's Ministry Catalyzer. If you have questions or challenges about faith formation in children, welcoming children in worship, choosing curriculum, equipping volunteers, empowering parents, and more, contact Mimi at [email protected].