“Shalom, peace be with you”

Introduce your children to the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom is traditionally used as a greeting. Shalom Aleichem means “Peace be with you.” Although many people use the term casually, as we would say “hello” or “good-bye,” the word Shalom has a much deeper meaning.

Explain that Shalom is a sense of wholeness and well-being that exists when we are at peace with God and others because we have allowed God to forgive our sins and replace our sinful human nature with His new nature (Romans 8:5-8). Everyday circumstances occur that require us to ask God to send His Holy Spirit to bring Shalom into our lives. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is wanting things “my way” or our sinful nature that tempts us to want to repay evil for evil, to be first and to have the biggest and the best for ourselves. But Jesus tells us that the first will be last. He teaches us His way: to share what we have, to give generously and to forgive others readily. Following our sin nature fosters discord, but Jesus’ way promises peace.

Through familiarizing your children with the significance of this word, you can expand their vocabulary and their understanding of God’s role in bringing peace into our lives. For younger children, you may want to complete these activities over the course of a few days. If you prefer, these activities can be done using the word peace instead of Shalom.

  • Begin by asking your children to imagine that they are in the Garden of Eden. Pretend to be walking around together, looking at all of the wonderful plants and animals God created. Point at butterflies flying by, pet an otter and perhaps go for a ride on a tiger. Highlight what a privilege it would be to walk and talk with God as Adam and Eve did. Emphasize the reverence and awe you would experience being in the presence of God. Tell your children that because Adam and Eve had not yet sinned, they were able to be in God’s presence and experience complete shalom.
  • Ask your children if they know how Adam and Eve ruined the peace that existed between themselves and God. Liken this to a child sneaking a cookie. A child who has taken a cookie without asking permission does not want to be seen by a parent.
  • Pretend to be Adam and Eve hiding from God. Explain how the snake tricked you into doing it and tell God how sorry you are for eating the fruit He asked you not to eat. Dramatize crying after God asks you to leave the garden. Sit down and pretend to pull weeds and dig up the hard dirt outside of the Garden of Eden. Illustrate that just as we hate weeds in our garden, so God hates sin. While continuing to pull the pretend weeds, explain that in order to bring restore peace between God and man, God chose to send His Son, Jesus, into the world to die for our sins. Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins. He did this so that anyone who asks can have their sins forgiven and find peace through having a relationship with God (John 3:16, John 14:6 and 1 John 1:8-9). Read aloud Jesus’ promise from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
  • Next, encourage your children by explaining that when we choose live with Jesus’ attitude in our hearts we experience the peace He promises.

After explaining “my way” versus “Jesus’ way” to your children, have them role-play situations where they can practice. Have your children practice saying: “I am feeling upset about ______________. Instead of (yelling/crying/hitting/sulking/whining), I will pray and tell God about the problem. Then I know that Jesus’ peace will protect my heart and mind from having a bad attitude.” Here are some example situations:

  • Make playdough cookies decorated with playdough chocolate chips/candy, and pretend to bake them. After they are “done,” hand them out. Be sure to make a big production of giving one child a bigger cookie with more candy on it. Ask the child who was given the less appealing cookie how they feel. Explain that Satan tempts us to get the best for ourselves. Ask what they think Jesus would tell people to do (Luke 6:30-31, 38, Acts 20:35, 1 John 3:16-18).
  • Have a race or a contest. Someone will win and someone will lose. Ask how the loser feels. Ask if they think most people would want to be first or last in a competition. Further open the discussion by saying, “Most people do want to be first instead of last, but what did Jesus say about being first (Mark 9:35)?”
  • Pretend that you are playing in the park or having a snowball fight. Someone splashes mud on you or throws a snowball in your face. How would you feel? People might say that you are entitled to get upset and seek revenge when someone wrongs you. To contrast this attitude, ask the question, “What do you think Jesus would do if someone hurt Him?” Promote further dialogue by asking, “How many times do you think Jesus would want you to forgive someone for bothering you (Matthew 18:21-22)?”

Close by pretending to bring out a large, beautifully wrapped gift. Have your children guess who the amazing gift is from. After the guesses have been completed, explain that gifts usually do come from people who love us. Ask if they know who loves them more than anyone else. Explain that God’s love is bigger than the sky (Psalm 108:4) and that Shalom is such a great gift, only God can give it to us. Make it clear that it is God’s Holy Spirit living in us, which can bring peace to our lives (Galatians 5:16-26). Tell them the good news that God is delighted to give us Shalom (His peace) when we ask Him to. Pray together and ask for the good gift of the Holy Spirit to bring peace to your family.

Challenge your family to use the word Shalom as a greeting, but also as a way of saying, “I forgive you,” “I want the best for you, not myself,” or “I share with you in the joy of your success.” Explain that whenever a family member says Shalom to another, they are saying, “I choose to let God bring peace to this relationship.”

Discord detectives

This activity is based on James 4:1-3. Explain that some police officers work as detectives. Their job can involve looking for clues to help them find the truth.

Begin by reviewing potential causes of discord (lack of peace) in your home. Ideas listed in the Bible include selfishness, envy, teasing another person, being hot tempered, stirring up anger/ provoking, lack of sympathy, lack of love, impatience or intolerance.

Explain to your children that they can be “discord detectives.” For even more fun, wear detective-type costumes. When someone spies discord, the detectives must discover clues to help find out what caused the discord in the first place.

Be sure your children understand that it very important to correct others gently and to offer grace and forgiveness readily (Galatians 6:1, Colossians 3:13, Matthew 18:35). The verses listed in the memory verses section can be a helpful reference. Once the reason for the discord has been uncovered, ask God to forgive the person who caused the conflict. Pray as a family and ask the Holy Spirit to fill all of you with His love. See Galatians 5:25-26 and 1 Corinthians 13:5 for further reference.

Note: If your children do not have the maturity to handle this exercise, they can be discord detectives while viewing an appropriate DVD or video.

Relevant Scripture

1 Corinthians 13:5 “[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Galatians 5:25-26 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

James 4:1-3 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

I’m a star!

Prepare some fancy food beforehand by cutting regular sandwiches into tiny squares. Serve them on fancy plates along with veggie sticks, cheese and crackers. Pour glasses of water or juice and plan to serve them with lemon or orange slices as a garnish. While you are preparing the food, have your children begin collecting dress-up clothes and old sunglasses. Finally, you will need to cut out black paper circles to cover the lenses in the sunglasses. Ensure you have a roll of tape handy.

Have fun dressing up with your kids. Pretend to be movie stars or other famous figures such as athletes or musicians. As you play, explain that many people who star in movies, concerts or in sporting events become so popular that whenever they go out in public, people swarm around them, asking for their autograph or to have their picture taken with the star. To avoid being recognized by the general public, popular figures sometimes wear dark sunglasses as a disguise. Give each of your children a pair of sunglasses to put on as well, to conceal their identity from the “adoring public.” Take turns strutting around the house and being “mobbed” by fans (other members of the family) who persistently request autographs or photo opportunities.

As your kids begin to tire of this pretend play, explain that stars are often invited to nice restaurants. Restaurant owners like to have these popular people visit their restaurants regularly, because then other people want to eat there too, making the restaurant famous. Pretend your kitchen table is a fancy restaurant and have your kids “order” special food. While you are enjoying your snacks, use the questions for discussion to guide your conversation about the dangers of popularity.

Questions for discussion
  • Would you like to be famous some day? Why or why not?
  • Is anyone in our family famous?
  • As much fun as it is to be the centre of attention, why might popularity be dangerous?
  • In what ways do you think famous people are tempted to sin?
  • When might you or I be tempted to think we are “pretty good”?

At this point have your children tape black circles over the lenses of their sunglasses.

  • What can you see now?
  • How is pride like the black paper on your glasses?
  • If you or I think we are righteous, what are we then tempted to do?
  • Are you fooling anyone if you say that you are not a sinner? (1 John 1:8-10)
  • Is anyone really righteous?
  • How does God view our righteous acts?
  • Who do you fool when you think that you are “really something”? (Galatians 6:3)
  • Whose actions are you to “test” or judge? (Galatians 6:4)
  • Should you say good things about yourself? (Proverbs 27:2)
Key concepts

There are advantages and disadvantages to being famous or popular. Certainly it is fun to be invited to parties and to have other people give you a lot of attention. But one of the disadvantages is that popularity can tempt a person to begin to think too highly of themselves. If you are always the centre of attention it is easy to start thinking, “Everybody likes me so much; I must be pretty special.” Even if we are not famous, there are still ways that the sin of pride can sneak up on us. For example, if we are very good at a particular sport or activity, we can start to feel proud of ourselves.

Another way we can be prideful is when we start to compare ourselves to others, judging the sin we see in their lives. Pride is like the black paper on our glasses, because it “blinds” us from seeing our own sinfulness. Just as popularity can “blind” famous people from seeing that everyone is as valuable as they are, so pride makes us unable to see our own faults.

If we are proud of our own righteousness (thinking we are someone special), we fool ourselves. The Bible tells us that nobody is righteous and that we all have sinned. Each of us is to be concerned only about our own actions. God doesn’t want us to judge others for their actions. Instead, He wants us to look at and evaluate our own hearts. The Bible also tells us that we should let others praise us, rather than praising ourselves.

Close by praying and asking God to give you all humble hearts that desire to honour Him, instead of trying to gain attention and recognition for yourselves.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 27:2 “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

Romans 3:22-24 “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 6:2-5 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”

1 John 1:8-10 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives.”

Proud and humble stuffies

This is a fun role-play activity. Your children will demonstrate “pride comes before a fall” using their dolls or stuffed animals.

Begin by explaining that being proud is thinking that you are more important or more valuable than others. Prideful people are also known for walking around with their “noses in the air.” They think so much of themselves that they look down on others. The Bible tells us that flattering ourselves, which means focusing on how wonderful we think we are, leaves us unable to detect or hate our sin (Psalm 36:1-2).

Set up something for the stuffed animals or dolls to trip over. This can be done by tying a string between two chairs at about knee height of the stuffed animals you will be using. Take turns having the stuffed animals walk along and brag about how attractive they are or how good they are at some activity. As the stuffed animal approaches the string, make it trip and fall down. Say “Oops! Poor Stuffie! Pride comes before a fall.”

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 36:1-2 “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Celebrate the joy of Christmas

The purpose of Christmas is to remember Jesus’ birth, so why not celebrate it outside the traditional season? Most children love Christmas and would not object to some Christmas festivities being added to the family schedule any time of year! The ideas provided here focus on the joy surrounding the birth of Jesus and on the enjoyment found in giving. Whichever activity you choose, you can use the discussion questions and related Bible verses to highlight the “Christmas-Jesus-Joy” connection.

Serving others

Organize a stocking stuffing event as a way to have family members bless each other with non-material blessings. Have each family member hang a mini-stocking. Put each person’s picture on their stocking, then have each family member write a note or draw a picture for every other family member, telling or displaying something they appreciate about them. Encourage your kids to be creative and provide assistance as needed. When you open the stockings, do so one person at a time, allowing time for each person to share what the other family members have written or drawn. To make the occasion even sweeter, you may want to hand out candy canes (or flavoured hard candy sticks) to savour while you enjoy the sweetness of your together time.

Fun with food

Make mini-gingerbread “stables” out of graham crackers. Use one cracker for each side wall, one for the roof and one for a back wall. Leave the front side open. While your kids are decorating the walls and interior, ask your kids what they think Jesus was like when He was a child. Have them think of a “Jesus-like” character trait that each type of candy, cereal or dried fruit can represent. For example, cinnamon hearts can serve as a reminder that there is joy in a home when family members are loving toward each other. Another child might say that a gummy blue whale reminds him to be generous and share his toys.

To make the icing for your gingerbread stables, you will need:

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla or peppermint extract
2 ½ – 3 cups of icing sugar

Use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites until they are fluffy. Add the flavouring, along with half a cup of powdered sugar. Beat the mixture until it’s smooth. Keep adding icing sugar, half a cup at a time, until the icing forms stiff peaks. This icing is ideal for decorating as it hardens quickly. If you are not going to use it right away, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate it.

Serving others

To allow your children to experience the joy of giving, plan to surprise someone with a gift of some Christmas baking, out of season. Prior to deciding who you should share your baking with, ask God which family friend, relative or neighbour is in need of extra encouragement. Use the experience as an opportunity to talk with your children about how joyful they feel when they bless another person with a gift. Compare this to the joy they feel when they receive gifts.

Nativity drama

Set up a Nativity scene and have your children act out the Christmas story while you read it aloud. Household items like brooms, towels and bathrobes can serve as props and the cast’s wardrobe. As you read the Christmas story, let your kids play a variety of roles using props of their choice. For example, they might choose a mop to be a donkey, a laundry basket as a manger and a tissue box as a wise man’s gift.

Creative crafts

If your children enjoy crafts, have them make a “baby Jesus in a manger ornament.” As they work, use the opportunity to discuss the joy of the first Christmas. Share with your children the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Remind your kids that through Jesus, God gave the whole world the gift of salvation.

To make one manger ornament, you will need:

a circular mini-grape vine wreath (6-8 cm or 2½ – 3 inches in diameter)
a wooden bead (1.5 cm or ½ inch in diameter)
strips of cloth (cut from an old tea towel)
a piece of string or ribbon
an ice pop stick
straw of any sort
felt markers
a low-temperature glue gun

  • Begin by gluing a layer of brown cardboard on the bottom of the grapevine wreath to create a manger. Spread a layer of glue in the bottom of the manger and have your child fill it with craft moss, shredded yellow paper or tissue, yellow yarn or Easter basket grass, making a cozy manger.
  • To make baby Jesus, draw closed eyes and a little mouth on the wooden bead. Glue one-third of an ice pop stick to the back of the bead to serve as a “body,” then have your child wrap strips of cloth around and around the stick until it looks like a wrapped-up baby. Secure the end of the cloth with a spot of glue.
  • Glue another smaller strip of cloth over the baby’s head to cover the bead hole.
  • Finally, glue the baby in the manger and tie a ribbon to the top of the wreath so you can hang it up.

Note: This baby Jesus ornament can also be used in the shadow box for the kick-off craft of this lesson.

Drive time

While you are travelling in your family’s vehicle, sing Joy to the World and talk about ways that Jesus brings joy to your lives. Put your ideas into song with your own Jesus-centred remake of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Here’s a sample to jump-start your own ideas:

On the first day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, His Spirit to live in me.

On the second day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, two helping hands…

On the third day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, three cups of kindness…

On the fourth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, four jugs of joy…

On the fifth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, five reasons to share…

On the sixth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, six packs of peace…

On the seventh day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, seven sacks of smiles…

On the eighth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, eight gobs of goodness…

On the ninth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, nine loads of love…

On the tenth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, ten tons of trust…

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, eleven pounds of patience…

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Jesus gave to me, twelve jars of gentleness…

Questions for discussion
  • What is your most favourite Christmas tradition of all?
  • If you could play a part in the Christmas story, which character would you like to be?
  • What do you think it would have been like to have Jesus as a brother?
  • How does Jesus bring joy to your life?
  • How does knowing Jesus change the way you treat others?
Relevant Scripture

Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Luke 2:10-12 “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ ”

Luke 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

The most wonderful wedding

Gather some fancy clothes or dress-up clothes and help your children plan a pretend wedding. As an alternative, have the children dress up their stuffed animals to be in a wedding party instead. (Boys may be more easily enticed to participate if there will be cake and other goodies after the wedding ceremony.) To provide inspiration, you may want to watch your own wedding video or DVD with your children.

While you are dressing up, talk about how a bride makes herself beautiful for the groom. After the ceremony is over and you are having “wedding cake” (a sweet snack of your choice), read some of the verses listed below. Talk about the most amazing wedding that will ever take place – the wedding that will happen when Jesus returns in person.

Relevant Scripture

Revelation 19:6-9 “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” ’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ ”

Isaiah 61:10 “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Receiving kindness

Make a point of talking with your kids about responding appropriately when someone is kind to him or her. Examples of situations that can make children uncomfortable include:

  • receiving compliments about his/her clothing or abilities
  • being offered food that he/she does not want to eat
  • opening a gift that does not appeal to him/her
  • being invited to play with another child

Help your kids come up with a plan on how to say thank you when someone compliments his or her clothes, artwork or abilities. Practice a proper response for when they are invited by another child to play. Explore ideas as to how to politely decline food and say a sincere thank you for an unwanted gift.

Using role-play will give your children the confidence to respond kindly, without hurting the feelings of those who have been kind to them. To add interest to the role-play, stage a puppet show and have your children use their stuffed animals or dolls as the actors.

Kind solutions

As parents, we all get many reports of unkindness, otherwise known as tattling. As these reports come in, refer your children to 1 Peter 4:8.

The key message to convey is that the Bible tells us God can put His love in their hearts to help them be kind and patient with others (Galatians 5:22-23).

Emphasize that we can show love to others by being patient instead of easily angered and by letting others have their way rather than demanding what we want (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Luke 6:31). Summarize by explaining that when your children respond with kindness in difficult situations, they are demonstrating God’s love.

Work with your children to come up with some suggestions for solving problems cooperatively, and practice the solutions in role-play situations.

Some helpful questions to ask when a child is tattling on another, are:

  • Have you tried to solve the problem by talking to ________ [the other child]?
  • How can you show kindness in return?
  • Did ________ hurt your body or your feelings?
  • Was it on purpose or by mistake?
  • Could you ask them to wait until you are finished playing with the toy to have a turn?
Relevant Scripture

1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

It’s cool to be kind

Challenge your children to be kind instead of paying back wrong for wrong, and encourage them to bless those who curse them (1 Thessalonians 5:15, Luke 6:28). Talk to them about what to do when others are unkind to them. Help them plan a response ahead of time. You can further add to their learning by doing some role-playing.

Here are some examples you can use:

  • Someone takes the toy you are playing with. Instead of grabbing it back forcefully, have your children try saying, “I was playing with that. Can I have it back please?” to solve the problem.
  • A friend says, “Where did you get that dress” (implying that the dress is not very nice). Although it might be tempting for your child to tell her that she doesn’t like her clothes either, have your child review a different response, such as “I’m sorry you don’t like my dress; I really like the colour of your outfit.”
Relevant Scripture

1 Thessalonians 5:15 “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

Luke 6:28 …bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Emotional Charades

At mealtime, on a bus, or waiting in a line up, play the Emotional Charades guessing game. Emotional Charades is played like the traditional Charades game, except the players act out an emotion of their choosing. Each person takes a turn acting out a feeling. Other family members guess what they are “feeling” based on what they see. Examples include mad, scared, happy, sad, angry, excited, contented, etc.

The purpose behind this game is to help children watch out for and consider the feelings and emotions of those around them. You can also practice looking out for others who look down or discouraged. If you do see someone who is anxious or sad, model kindness for your children, and say some kind words to encourage the person who is down. To follow up, you can use the questions for discussion to enhance mealtime conversation.

Questions for discussion
  • Did you notice anyone feeling sad, lonely, left out, injured or upset today?
  • What did you do for them?
  • What could you have done?
  • Did anyone else help them?
Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 12:25 “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”