How do we keep Christ in Christmas THIS year?
I find that we need to ask the question every year, because every year is different. And since I am a lover of tradition, I need to be careful not to get stuck in what we always do.
Because THIS year is different.
And so, we reevaluate. Here are some of the things that we will be doing this year to keep Christ as the focus of our celebrations. After all, it is HIS birthday! And wouldn't it be silly if we had a birthday party for one of our children and never mentioned or acknowledged them?
1. We read "The Advent Book" by Jack and Kathy Stockman~ I would love it if every family had a copy of this book. I know there are plenty of advent options out there and many of them are fantastic. But I have found that at Christmas time, I need to simplify. It is not the time for me to do daily crafts with the kids or prepare a new activity every day. I have tried these things and I burn out. But we have been reading The Advent Book as a family for 10 years now. It is THE thing that allows us to stay consistent and focused on Christ. Each day, the kids open beautifully illustrated doors to discover scripture behind them. By the time Christmas day rolls around, they have memorized the verses and can tell you the whole Christmas story.
2. We focus on Giving~ We teach our kids that the whole point of Christmas is to celebrate the best gift that has been given- the gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Because we have been given this most incredible gift, we give to others. We give in many different ways. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Operation Christmas Child- every year, we pack shoeboxes for children who are living in difficult areas in the world- in places where access to clean drinking water is hard to come by, where helping children to make it to their 5th birthday is a goal, and where piles of wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree are unheard of. This year as I shopped with Gibson, my four year old, we talked about what it would be like to wake up on Christmas morning and not have any gifts waiting for you. That is why we give. Because we want children to know that they are loved- in a small way by us, but in a huge way by the God of the universe, who sees them and knows them and invites them into relationship with Him.
- Local ministries- we live in Rochester, NY. The needs and the opportunities for giving are endless.Our church supports several ministries that seek to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in our communities. Every Christmas, we look for ways to donate food, clothes and gifts. We never have to look very far.
- Neighbor gifts- our family lives in a parsonage that sits behind our church building. We have to go out of way to see our neighbors and so at Christmas time, we make a gift of some sort and then deliver them to our neighbors. It is a way to connect with the people who live near us and to let them know we love them. The kids love delivering the gifts and our neighbors can't help but smile at the boundless energy of my little ones!
- Gifts to each other- we have always told our kids that their gifts are from us, so each year they pick out gifts for everyone in our family. We want our children to understand that it IS more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) and as a result this is an emphasis in our home. We take time to listen to what others want and we take joy in finding the perfect gift!
3. We sing Happy Birthday to Jesus~ the simplest way to keep Christ in Christmas is to treat His day as His day. What would you normally do for someone's birthday? Do that for Jesus. I always make our favorite cookies- Buttermilks. We go all out with the decorations. We make sure our kids know that it is all for Jesus.
4. We use our gifts to honor Jesus~ these are our gifts to the birthday boy- using the gifts we have been blessed with for the glory of God. Lindsay danced in the Nutcracker and has orchestra concerts this week. We could look at these things as filling up the calendar or we could say that God has blessed Lindsay with the ability to dance and to play her instrument. Participating in these things is a way for her to honor Jesus. I love to bake and to write and to take pictures. And so, I seek to honor Jesus with these gifts. Ethan and Gibson love to make things. And so we find ways for them to do this. My husband leads the Christmas Eve service and plays Silent Night on his guitar. Every year, he offers his talents and abilities as a gift to Jesus.
5. We pray for wisdom~ for some reason, even with our desire to focus on Christ, we can easily become distracted by all of the things we. have. to. do! We become stressed when it rains on the day we plan to pick out our Christmas tree. We cry when the dishwasher breaks the day before family is expected to arrive from out of town. We are late getting our Christmas cards out. We waited too long to get a much anticipated gift and it is no longer available. The schedule can easily get out of hand at this time of year- even (and maybe especially?!) with good things. And so, we beg for wisdom, asking God to give us the ability to know what to focus on and what to let go of. Because we do not want to get to December 26th and feel like we completely left Jesus out of our celebrations.
For me personally, my favorite way to keep Christ in Christmas is music. I love to sing and so we have Christmas music playing non-stop. I love hearing my children sing!
O, come all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O, come ye, o, come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels,
O, come let us adore Him,
O, come let us adore Him,
O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
How do you keep Christ in Christmas?