Christmas Ideas

Ideas for Christmas

Bible Reading Options

  1. Starting on December 1, read through the Gospel of Luke, one chapter a day. There are 24 chapters so you will finish on Christmas Eve.
  2. If you only have one or two opportunities- Read Luke 1:26-38 on Christmas Eve and Luke 2:1-14 on Christmas morning.
  3. Bring family and friends to the Mambrino Baptist Church candlelight service on December 22 at 6 pm. Selections from the Old and New Testaments are read with hymns and carols telling the story of redemption. You can then use the readings to follow up and talk with others about the gospel.


  1. Jesse Tree ornaments, Advent guide, and Advent candles
  2. Buy your child an ornament that represents an accomplishment or trip for that year. Eventually, you will have a record book of your child’s life to be celebrated and remembered each year at Christmas.
  3. Find a family book that will become your family’s Christmas tradition. Having a grandfather or grandmother read the story can be a good way to get the generations together in one room.
    1. Woyciechowski, Susan. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a fictional story about a widower whose heart is softened as he carves a nativity scene.
  4. Saint Nicolaus Day- tell the story on December 6 and have the children put out a sock before bed. Put money in the sock overnight (some people add chocolate coins) and then decide as a family who to help with the money. Give the gift anonymously.
  5. Get your family and friends together and go caroling to neighbors. Especially be on the look out for elderly neighbors and use caroling as a way to get to know your neighbors and then follow up with an invite to a meal and gospel conversation at your home.


  • Piper, Noel. Treasuring God in Our Traditions
    • Best overall book helping us think through traditions from daily routines to birthday and Christmas to Easter.
  • For Adults
    • Ask, Christopher. Repeat the Sounding Joy: A Daily Advent Devotional on Luke 1-2
      • Daily advent devotional working through all of Luke chapters 1 and 2. Well suited for an adult. Suggested verse of a song and prayer with room to journal.
    • Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas
      • An interesting read for the person interested in history and songs (both Christmas hymns and popular Christmas songs).
    • Ferguson, Sinclair B. Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent
      • Solid devotional for an individual with reflection and prayer. A family used to longer daily readings could use this in family worship.
    • Gant, Andrew. The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs
      • Another interesting read for the history and music lover with some detail about music theory.
    • Keller, Timothy. Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ
      • Apologetic of Christmas explaining why Christmas matters. Classic Keller form in which he engages culture with the truth. For the seeker or reader in your family.
    • Lambert, Dean Meador. The Advent Jesse Tree
      • Meador does a good job making connections to Christ. This Advent Jesse Tree includes child and adult readings for each day as well as suggested hymns, scripture readings, and prayers. Ornaments available through
    • Piper, John. The Dawning of Indistructible Joy
      • Shorter daily Advent readings well suited for the coffee table or for the person who likes to sit in the living room at night by Christmas tree light
    • Tripp, Paul David. Come Let Us Adore Him
      • Longer daily readings best suited for the individual
  • For Families with Older Grade School Children
    • Light in the Darkness
      • The full text of Luke 1-2 as a graphic novel
    • Ciuciu, Asheritah. Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional
      • Written for use with Advent candles (4 readings to start each week of Advent) then daily readings. Discussion questions, suggested activities, prayers, and additional readings provided.
    • Guthrie, Nancy. Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
      • Daily family devotion with discussion questions, suggested prayers, and a place to journal. Could be used with an Advent candle but was written as a stand alone devotion.
    • Ytreeide, Arnold. Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent
      • A long Advent candle chapter book that starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. Minimum of 15 minutes a day to read each chapter. Parents will want to read ahead to screen content for younger children.
  • For Families with Grade School Children
    • Lambert, Dean Meador. The Advent Jesse Tree
      • Meador does a good job making connections to Christ. This Advent Jesse Tree includes child and adult readings for each day as well as suggested hymns, scripture readings, and prayers. Ornaments available through
    • Pawlak, Katie. God with Us: A Family Advent Celebration
      • Will need some theological clarification. One of the best set of ornaments with color copies provided in the book and felt or wooden ornaments available online. Few Christ-connections in the first half. Lambert’s advent guide is stronger but Pawlak’s ornaments are more attractive.
    • Reaoch, Barbara. A Jesus Christmas: Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas
      • Great for Advent candles or stand alone family devotion. Daily readings, discussion questions, prayer, and room for doodling or journaling.
  • For Toddlers
    • James, Scott. The Littlest Watchman
      • Three resources available here. The Family Devotions and Advent Calendar would be a good start to the Advent tradition. Readings and talks are short. The calendar is made to be opened and small cards punched out to hang on an advent tree or banner. The book The Littlest Watchman is a fictional story that could be used to start advent each year.
    • Mitchell, Alison. The Christmas Promise
      • Simple board book with advent stickers sold separately. A good introduction to the tradition of Advent
    • Thornborough, Tim. A Very Noisy Christmas
      • Simple Christmas story for children ages 5 and below.

For those who sew

  • James, Darcy. Let’s Make a Jesse Tree!
    • Guide for making felt ornaments or pieces for a quilt. Devotions are meager and seashell is used for baptism.

You can skip these resources

  • McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Jesse Tree
  • Marcellino, Kathryn. Jesse Tree Ornaments: Advent Coloring Activities and Craft Projects
    • Roman Catholic
  • Voskamp, Ann. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
    • Beautifully done but the devotions are strange (Noah’s flood was God’s tears, human hearts are leaning away from God, and confuses covenant with Abraham). Weak on Christ-connections.

I Am Accepted Therefore I Obey

I made this point before we celebrated the Lord’s Supper on 10/27

This is a false gospel:

I obey, therefore I am accepted.

Looking to the crucified and resurrected Christ, the true gospel fuels this way of living:

I am accepted, therefore I obey.

As one person mentioned, “This is classic Tim Keller,” and that is exactly right. I am very much indebted to the clear gospel thinking of Tim Keller. His books, Counterfeit Gods, The Meaning of Marriage, Gospel in Life, and The Reason for God, have made a profound impact on my understanding of God and the gospel. I return at least one a year to this sermon, “Blessed Self-Forgetfulness” and try regularly to examine myself using this article, “All of Life is Repentance.”

When my heart is hard and legalistic or guilty and weighed down, I look to Tim Keller to unpack the gospel is fresh ways. I hope you see the influence.

Discuss Acts 5:17-29

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. Moving forward, what will it look like for you to obey Jesus?
  3. Where are you tempted to be jealous of others?
  4. Have you experienced legal or physical opposition because you are following Jesus? How did you handle it? How can you get ready for more opposition in the future?
  5. Where do you see God working around you that is funny or ironic?
  6. What sins are tripping you up as you try to obey Jesus? How should repentance, obedience, and accountability look in this situation?
  7. If you are a Christian, who taught you the words of life? Pray and thank God for that person. Consider writing a note to say, “Thank you.”
  8. If you are a Christian, who are you seeking to teach so that he/she will know and follow Jesus? Pray for boldness and opportunities.
  9. What specific steps do you need to take so that you are better prepared for opposition (regular Bible reading, Scripture memory, dependent prayer, encouragement, getting better established in the faith, etc.)? Who can you ask to help you with this?

Signs, Wonders, and Multitudes

Text: Acts 5:12-16

Main Point: The ministry of the apostles formed the foundation of the church.

The church is built on the foundation of the apostles with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (Eph 2:20).

My goal today is to lead us through a careful study of Acts 5:12-16 so that we can understand what God was doing, then faithfully apply the Word of God to our lives as individuals and as the church.

I. Significant signs and wonders

Following the swift and fair judgment of Ananias and Sapphira, comes the account of verse 12, “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.”

Let’s start with a definition. Signs and wonders are miraculous displays of God’s power over his creation. Wonders are unusual events that stand out to the watching world while signs are unusual events that point to a greater reality. A wonder makes you wonder and a sign points to something greater. Let’s look at the various types of signs and wonders.

Types of signs and wonders

  • Physical healing (5:15-16; 3:7)

Look down at verse 15. Multitudes were being saved, “so they carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns round Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

In chapter 3 we saw the healing of the man born crippled. The resurrected Jesus was working powerfully through the apostles such that a number of sick people were made well. This healing ministry parallels Jesus’ ministry and that’s Luke’s point; Jesus’ work continues. Listen to Mark 6:53-56, “When they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, they laid the sick in the market-places and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”

Seeing that Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, and the apostles are the foundation, what we expect to see is wonderful miraculous physical healings and

  • Casting out demons (5:16)

Look back at Acts 5:16. It is not just the sick who are being made well, also those afflicted by demons are healed. Here we need to note that there is a distinction between being sick and being afflicted by a demon. It is true that the demonic can manifest itself physically like the woman who Jesus healed in Luke 13. A disabling spirit caused her to be physically bent over. Can spirits cause disabilities? Yes. Do spirits cause every disability? No. John 9:3 and Exodus 4:11 tell us that God causes disabilities. We must be careful not to label every disability as demonic and we must be careful to include the reality of the demonic in some illnesses.

I will admit here that I have little experience with this level of demonic affliction. My goal is to know the Word of God and apply it to these situations, should they arise. Like a faithful ER nurse, we don’t wait until a person is bleeding out to start studying how to apply a tourniquet. We commit ourselves to knowing all the Word so that we are ready to apply the Word to every circumstance.

Let’s move on. Signs and wonders include physical healing, casting out demons…

  • Cross-cultural unity and fellowship (5:12; 4:32)

Look with me at the middle of verse 12, “And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.” All together doesn’t mean they all showed up at the same time. This word identifies outward unity (showing up in the same place) that is caused by inward unity (sharing a like mind).

The disagreements and divisions of our day are nothing new. The Sadducees and Pharisees of the first century had some serious disagreements. It is the unity of the people of God that makes the surrounding people wonder. Well, it should be the unity of the people of God that makes the surrounding people wonder.

In Acts 4:32 we see that, “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”

One approach to this verse is to say “Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, is exaggerating here; no group that big (in the thousands) could be that united.” The other approach, the accurate approach, is to say “Luke records the unity of the church and it causes us to wonder. How could that many different people from different cultures be that united? It’s crazy! It’s wonderful!”

A powerful witness out in the world is based upon a deep unity in the church. The us-four-and-no-more mentality that cares only for one’s immediate group is one reason we don’t see more people added to the Lord. Listen, this deep level of unity and fellowship is based on the power of God. Unity and fellowship are as miraculous as physical healing and casting out demons. Of course, you can’t love that many people that deeply. You need God for that level of cross-cultural unity and fellowship.

Here is the next early church sign

  • The judgment of Ananias and Sapphira

Ananias and Sapphira lied to God by lying to the church and God put them to death. This sign points to the holiness of God and the holiness of God’s people. In our men’s Bible study last week we looked at 1 Peter 1:15 and 16, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” The holiness of God’s people causes the watching world to wonder. Listen, the more we are like the world, the less we are able to win the world. We are called to be wonderfully different, wonderfully holy.

More review and quickly now; another sign and wonder is

  • Radical generosity

The 21st century is like the 1st century; people are characterized by radical selfishness. When the church sells property and gives generously then the world begins to wonder what’s up.

Then there is

  • Boldness in persecution

John and Peter’s boldness in chapter 4 made a lasting impression on the Jewish leaders. The church prayed for boldness, the Lord answered, and the world took notice. It’s one thing to be bold when you are in the position of power. It is quite another thing to be bold when you are being persecuted. Boldness in rough times is a sign and wonder. Lastly, there is

  • Tongues

In Acts 2 we see the believers speaking in foreign languages they had never learned. They are not in a church gathering speaking in tongues. No, they are out in the public square speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues was a clear proclamation of the mighty works of God.  There are some types of signs and wonders. Now let’s consider the purpose of signs and wonders.

The purpose of signs and wonders

  • Signs and wonders are a physical display of spiritual truth

A sign points to a greater reality. The raising of a crippled man points to the greater reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Jesus’ healing of a paralyzed man points to the greater reality of his ability to forgive sins (Luke 5:24). While the physical is wonderful, do not stop there. We must look to the resurrected Jesus who stands behind these miracles.

  • Signs and wonders are also a power encounter preparing the way for the gospel to be preached

The healing of the crippled man in Acts 4 provides the opportunity for Peter to preach the gospel to the people. The miraculous prison escape coming up in Acts 5 provides an opportunity for the apostles to preach the gospel. The miraculous blinding of Elymas in Acts 13 was influential in Sergius Paulus believing the gospel.

I like this purpose also

  • Signs and wonders bring relief

Think of the man paralyzed for over 40 years, begging for his daily bread, and he is suddenly healed. Think of the woman bent over for 18 years. Think of the blind who were healed and the lepers. The miracle of repentance leads to times of refreshing (Acts 3:20). The miracle of healing also makes life more bearable. These miracles point forward to a better day.

  • Signs and wonders give us a picture of what life on the new earth will be like

Church, we need to have the categories of already and not yet in our minds when we read the Bible. The signs and wonders performed by Jesus and the apostles point forward to the wholeness we will enjoy at Jesus’ return. Already there is a glimpse of the life to come, but the glorious freedom of resurrected bodies is not for us today. The glorious freedom from the affliction of demons is not for us today. Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Yes, there will be sweet times of refreshing experienced in this age. Already we have begun to experience some of the life to come. Jesus’ life demonstrated the power and goodness of that day, but don’t fool yourself into believing you should have heaven on earth. Signs and wonders point us to what life on the new earth will be like.

Now back to Acts 5:12, “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.” Let’s talk about

The regularity of signs and wonders

The verb tense of the word “done” points to many signs being done continually or regularly by the apostles. Remember, this is no surprise because the ministry of the apostles formed the foundation for the church. Look at the text and ask yourself, “who was performing these signs and wonders?” Acts 5:12 and Acts 2:43 say the miracles were done, not by all the believers, but by the apostles. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 the apostle Paul defends his ministry by reminding the people that the signs of a true apostle were performed among them with signs wonders and mighty works. Even in the 1st century, right there in the days after Pentecost, it was mainly the apostles who were performing miracles. Signs and wonders were not performed by all Christians or most Christians or even some Christians. The New Testament reveals that Jesus worked miracles through all the apostles and a few Christians. Don’t expect your shadow to heal anyone.

Let’s apply all this to

Signs and wonders today

John Stott’s commentary on Acts is helpful on this point (102-104). Stott reminds us that miracles are by their very nature unusual and uncommon. Miracles have never been everyday occurrences. Stott writes, “Certainly the thrust of the Bible is that miracles clustered round the principal organs of revelation at fresh epochs of revelation, particularly Moses the lawgiver, the new prophetic witness spearheaded by Elijah and Elisha, the Messianic ministry of Jesus, and the apostles, so that Paul referred to miracles as ‘the things that mark an apostle’” (102). Big groups of miracles show up when God is doing big things in salvation history. Miracles accompany God’s advances in the covenants. This means we are in the meantime. Since miracles were uncommon among the billions alive at these high points in history, we should not be surprised when miracles are extremely rare among us today. We set our hope on the grace that will be brought to us at the return of Jesus Christ.

Stott helps again, “If, then, we take Scripture as our guide, we will avoid opposite extremes. We will neither describe miracles as ‘never happening’, nor as ‘everyday occurrence’, neither has ‘impossible’ nor as ‘normal’. Instead, we will be entirely open to the God who works both through nature and through miracle” (104).

Now you have a way of handling the Word of God concerning signs and wonders. Think about all of salvation history, think about the immediate time of the passage we are studying, and think about how it relates to today. Miracles are powerful signs pointing us to the life to come.

Let’s look now at life together

II. The multitudinous multitudes

Acts 5:12-16 talks about a number of different people. Here is a sticky question: Who is the “they” of verse 12? “They were all together in Solomon’s Portico.” Is this a reference to only the apostles, all the believers, or all the people? The NIV supplies the word believers but believers isn’t in any of the Greek manuscripts. I think believers is correct, but we need to own the fact that “believers” is an interpretation not a translation. Let me give you the big picture and that will make the case for understanding “they” as the church. Who was among the multitudes?

  • There were spectators

So, the apostles are working miracles and the church is gathered in Solomon’s Portico for teaching and evangelism. Look at verse 13, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” There was a group of people watching from the edges. When the healings start to increase, these people rush to bring the sick and afflicted. No one faults them for that. But though physically healed, there is a hesitancy to join the church. Some of this fear would come from the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Some of this fear would come from the arrest of Peter and John.

Listen, the desire to be made well is not the same thing as the desire to be made righteous. A person can ask Jesus to take away the sickness while refusing to submit to Jesus. You can want the splendor and glory and goodness of heaven without repenting and believing in Jesus. An appreciation for the things of God is not the same thing as dependence upon the Son of God.

There were plenty of spectators who held the Christians in high esteem but dared not join them. There were spectators and

  • There were participants

Look again at Acts 5:14, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Spectators are not added to the Lord; they stand back and admire. Participants are believers; they join in. Chapter 2, “All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Chapter 4, “many of those who had heard the word believed…now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (4:4, 32). Chapter 8, “when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women (8:12). Chapter 11, “a great many people were added to the Lord” (11:24).

Belief refers to content; you believe something therefore you are a believer in that thing. The church is made up of men and women who believe Jesus reconciles us to God by taking our sins and giving us his righteousness. We are believers in Jesus; believing Jesus restores us to God. Belief in Jesus is dependence upon Jesus. Therefore, believers are said to be added to the Lord. Spectators are not added to the Lord. Believing in the Lord is being united to the Lord.

Now, is Luke here in Acts 5:14 talking about joining the church, which is the body of Christ, or is Luke talking about spiritually being united to Christ through faith? My understanding is that believers are united to Jesus by faith and they join the church which is the body of Christ. The church is explicitly called the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 3:6; 5:23; and Colossians 1:24. Saul learns that to persecute the church is to persecute Jesus (Acts 9:5). So, believing in Jesus runs on a parallel line with joining the church. And how are people added to the Lord in the book of Acts? How are people added to the church? Believers are added to the Lord through baptism. Once a disciple of Jesus is made, then that disciple is baptized (Mt 28:19).

Here’s the big question

III. Where are you?

Are you angry at God because he has not given you your miraculous heavenly healed body? If that is you, I encourage you to do two things: pray for healing now but set your hope on your healing that is to come. We must keep the already and the not yet straight in our minds and hearts. It will keep you from bitterness.

Are you spectating? You appreciate healing, holiness, unity, and generosity, but you don’t want to be numbered among Jesus’ people. You’d rather play it safe with the world and hang out on the fringes of the church then believe in Jesus such that you are added to the church? If that is you, be warned today, spectators are not saved by Jesus. Spectators are spit out by Jesus. Listen to Jesus, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, he will spit you out of his mouth. Jesus is standing at the door and knocking. (Rev 3:16, 20) Stop playing the game. Give Jesus ownership of your life. Believe Jesus takes your sin and gives you his righteousness.

Believe in Jesus and seek to be added to the Lord through baptism. Repent, believe, and be baptized. May God work the miracle of the new birth among us today.

Discuss Acts 5:12-16

  • In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  • Of this list of signs and wonders, which one speaks the most clearly to you that there is a God: physical healing, casting out demons, cross-cultural unity and fellowship,  judgment of sin, radical generosity, boldness in persecution, tongues?
  • What questions do you have about the demonic? How can you start finding answers?
  • Who in the church is different from you? What can you do to build up that person?
  • Share an encouraging example of generosity or boldness in persecution.
  • What spiritual truth is declared through signs and wonders?
  • Signs and wonders point to the life to come on the new earth. What do you look forward to the most about the resurrection life?
  • What is the role of signs and wonders in your life today?
  • If a stranger watched you for a month, would he say that your Christianity is best characterized by being a spectator who admires Jesus or a participant who is dependent on Jesus?
  • What makes a person a believer? Are you a believer?
  • Have you joined the church the baptism? Explain what happened when you did or explain why you have not been added to the church.