Be a Living Illustration to Your Kids*
I have a friend who once stayed with me during the Advent season. On Christmas Eve, it was late, and I noticed that the light was still on in his bedroom. When I opened the door to see if everything was okay, I found him kneeling by his bed, Bible open, head bowed and praying. The sight of him having a late-night devotional made his Christian testimony all the more real to me. Catching him off-guard and hearing his barely audible prayers before God convinced me that his professed faith was more than mere belief — and seeing him humbled before the Lord that wintery night impacted my life forever.
Now, I’m not saying that we should have a quiet time this Advent term just to impress our sons and daughters or with the hope that someone will discover us on our knees before God. But to expect our children to have an Advent devotional life when we don’t is ludicrous. As in other areas, modeling the right behavior gives our words their “certificate of authenticity.”
There is nothing like a personal demonstration by Dad. And you’re “it.” In Andrew Murray’s book, “How to Raise Your Children for Christ,” he simply says: “Not in what we say and teach, but in what we are and do, lies the power of training. Not as we think of an ideal for training our children, but as we live do we train them. It is not our wishes or our theory, but our will and our practice that really train. It is by living the Christ-life that we prove that we love it, that we have it; and thus will influence the young mind to love it and to have it, too” (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House, 1975, p. 12).
You can have incredible spiritual influence on your children by setting aside about a half hour each morning for a quiet time during this period of Advent. Have available a Catholic Bible, notebook and prayer list. The whole idea here is to start each day of Advent focused on Christ, as one of His disciples. By keeping this daily appointment with God you demonstrate your commitment to do his will over your own. This will be a wordless sermon to your son and daughter about your dependency on Christ and your desire to trust in him throughout Advent.
During your quiet time, allow God to speak to you through His word. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Let all four areas — teaching, rebuking, correcting and training — become regular key points of Holy Spirit-led introspection and self-examination as Advent continues to unfold.
Remind yourself that your appointment is with God, not just to study the Bible or to be able to say, “I had my daily devotional time during Advent.” Therefore use the Bible as a tool to encounter Christ and to better understand the wonder of his birth on Christmas day.
(*This article is adapted from Dr. O’Donnell’s new book, “What a Son Needs from His Dad” published by Bethany House/Baker Publishers.)