Christmas at Ian and Mary Grant’s house

Parenting experts Ian and Mary Grant are inspiring and encouraging families throughout New Zealand with their best-selling books, seminars and programmes. The couple, married for 42 years with 8 grandchildren, founded The Parenting Place. More recently Mary set up Faith4Families and Ian founded Fathers Who dare Win. For their work with families and youth Mary has been awarded the Queen’s Medal and Ian, the Queen’s Service Order, as well as being named Senior New Zealander of the Year in 2013. The list of achievements for this dynamic couple are too numerous to list.

Today, Mary draws back the curtain on a Grant family Christmas, offers some sage advice on passing on faith to the next generation and shares about their love of the Bible.

Christmas Eve

When our children were young, Christmas Eve was our special time, a quiet, yet magical few moments as a family in anticipation of the following day. The Christmas tree would be lit, children in their pyjamas with pillowcases hung on ends of beds. We would turn down the lights bring out the sparkling grape juice, the Christmas mince pies and the Bible story book. As we ate and drank by candlelight, we would share our year’s best memories, and then read the Christmas story. We’d each pray, thanking Jesus for coming and what he meant to us, before heading to bed.

A love for the Bible

Both Ian and I had parents who were first generation Christians and gave us a love for the Bible. I remember family prayers, readings around the dinner table, Bible picture books, Bible stories, favourite Bibles and Sunday school exams, where we learnt whole books of the Bible and were quizzed on them. Ian’s earliest memories were learning a daily Bible verse from the promise box in the middle of the table.

Our love for God’s word didn’t waiver over the years and I think it was to do with our parents’ genuine faith and enquiring minds, which they encouraged in us. We enjoyed vigorous family discussions, they read widely and as we grew older, talked about difficult questions and the reliability of the Bible, but most of all they had a living faith. They believed God was faithful, read their Bible, lived by it, and included us in it all.

And now as retirees Ian and I still keep up the tradition of reading through the Bible each year via a morning reading and prayer time together.

“Passing on faith to the next generation is a message still close to our hearts and one of our life passions to help parents do this in a contagious and natural way.”

Bible engagement resources

We are blessed to, these days, have many different resources, including some wonderful publications put out by Bible Society.  The free Christmas booklets and the beautiful book The Well Good News of Christmas are a gift to our families and such delightful resources to have around the Christmas tree to read to the children leading up to the big day.

God tells us to engage our children with eternal truths, not just at church when they are sitting down with their arms folded, but during the relaxed family times, when we are out walking, at bedtime, in the car and at mealtimes.

Deuteronomy 6 says … These commandments…. are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” And Psalm 78 exhorts parents to teach about God’s mighty deeds and his statutes…’ so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.’

Passing on your faith at Christmas

“Of all the ways we care for our children, it could be said that, for Christian parents, passing on our faith is the most important.”

We are the ones who can pass on the wonderful Jesus story and the truth about the God who ‘does stuff’. Not just by living it but by talking about it at every opportunity, and when our children are most receptive.

Luckily for us, kids usually love anything special you do as a family so traditions are a great way to teach, and Christmas is one of those.

In fact, according to Dr Curt Thompson, traditions create hope. The memories from enjoyable traditions release endorphins or “feel good” hormones, and the anticipation of these recurring traditions wires us to become stronger and more hopeful people.

Even if you haven’t experienced them in your own childhood, you can start traditions of sharing God’s story for your own kids. Children love the familiarity of traditions, as well as knowing they are part of a bigger story.

Parenting tips

I once asked our children what their best childhood memory was and they all agreed it was the family time each morning around the breakfast table. Ian would read from Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible Story Book, and ask the two or three questions at the end. The children would share anything they were concerned about and we would pray together before they left for school. There were always a few fun questions thrown in by Ian and the children left the house buoyed for the day.

Because as a young parent, I struggled to find resources for family times centered around the Bible, I have spent my retirement years writing a resource faithbox with Rev Nikki Watkin. This is a weekly family time in a box based on surprise, fun and family sharing sequentially teaching through the Bible. It is geared to be used during that window of opportunity we have in the primary school years.

A current project is now Family Faith Talk Trigger cards. These are designed to keep the conversation going children get older and tackle some of the bigger questions.

Ian and Mary Grant

For more Christmas resources available from Bible Society, you can download our Christmas catalogue here.