10 Ways to Keep Christ in CHristmas
'Tis my favorite time of the year! There is plenty of joy and merriment in the air and around the table as Christmas day approaches. I'm all about the decorations, singing carols, and (most importantly) eating as many delicious cookies as possible. But with children around the Christmas tree who soak up everything they see or hear, and my own heart that's longest for a deeper Christmas experience, my hope is to make this season happy for us all, but also grounded in the real reason behind this most special time of year.
Below is a list of ideas on how we as followers of Christ can keep Him at the center of our holiday.
1. Attend church
This time of year churches offer their regular Sunday services amplified with lit up stages, caroling, and sermons readying our hearts for remembering Jesus' birth. Also, many churches host Christmas movie nights, couple date nights, festivals, live nativity scenes, and more to help you and your family get plugged in for the season and in the new year.
2. Go to a Christmas Eve service
The holiday is incredibly busy with traveling and spending time with family; I get it. For some, this might seem like a no-brainer, but honestly, I have missed quite a few Christmas Eve services over the years. Taking a moment to attend a Christmas Eve service, though, is a sacred way to pause in the midst of the hustle and bustle to set your mind on Jesus. It is a chance to gather with the body of Christ to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.
3. Read a Gospel or Advent devotional (or both!)
Starting in December, pick a Gospel and read a chapter each day--first thing when you wake up, on your lunch break, at the dinner table with your family, before you start your evening line up of TV shows, or before bed. Each Gospel is 28 chapters or less, so it is the perfect way to daily meditate on Jesus' radical life and ministry. You may even want to read with your spouse, children, best friend, or parents to share what Jesus has done in your life.
Another channel to engage your mind and heart this time of year is to follow an online advent devotional (many come automatically to your inbox, if you sign up), or pick up a hard copy from a local bookstore. There are plenty of authors, topics, and themes to choose from. You may even want to put out Advent candles to light throughout the month or a daily Advent calendar.
4. Get a Jesus birthday cake
Yes, I'm serious! I am also certain my family isn't the only one that sings Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas Day. If it's the birth of Jesus we are celebrating, then this is one special way to do that. It's a simple tradition, and most bakers won't bat an eye when you ask them to write, "Happy Birthday, Jesus," on the cake!
5. Put up a Nativity scene
The nativity scene is a quiet, yet powerful reminder of Jesus' birth. This year, I talked with my 2 year old daughter about our nativity scene and pointed out baby Jesus, along with mom (Mary) and dad (Joseph). She loves anything having to do with babies, so she was excited. But she also connected some dots and began singing, "Jesus Loves Me," as she stood next to the baby Jesus figure. My heart melted, and even though she could never fully understand yet who baby Jesus really is to her, I was grateful to take the time to share with her in a small way about Christ.
6. Pass the Oplatki
If your heritage is Polish or European, you're likely familiar with this tradition and already do it each year with your family. If you aren't, here's the gist. Oplatki is a wafer with a Christmas scene on it and every member at the table gets a wafer. Time is spent going to each person, one-by-one, breaking a piece off each other's wafer. As you partake from the other's wafer, you take a moment to say your love for each other, what you appreciate, and that all is forgiven as you enter the new year. The tears flow with joy (and sorrow) as the oplatki is shared. It brings a special warmth to your Christmas gathering, and is a heartfelt way to show love and forgiveness to one another as Jesus would.
7. Read Luke 2 or Matthew 1-2 before opening gifts
A long standing tradition in my family is that before we dig into the gifts, we first read the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Everyone reads aloud a few verses as we pass the Bible around and share our faith as a family. Together we find joy in the miraculous birth that has transformed each of our hearts and lives. It is a significant way for us to wake up on Christmas Day and keep our hearts focused on the One who was born to save us.
8. Balance the Santa hype
There are many families that choose to forego Santa altogether. Others show up at every Santa photo shoot they can find! My suggestion is to find your balance. I won't sit down with my child to write Santa a letter containing her Christmas list, but will I take her to get a photo with Santa each year? Absolutely. I have and will continue to do so. My encouragement here is to find a balance that works for your family. If Santa and Elf on the Shelf are what your kiddos look forward to most, perhaps consider how you can get Jesus back into focus for them and for you.
9. Give more than gifts
Shelters, soup kitchens, churches, and various organizations are working around the clock at this time of year to help others. Volunteer opportunities are rich, so don't be afraid to sign up and give of your time! I have spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas serving meals to the less fortunate. There is sweet joy and hope found in serving such beautiful souls and spending time talking to and getting to know them. Your presence, your time, and your listening ear go a long way for those who are in need.
10. Open your home
Do you know someone who lives far from their family? Is having a tough time with loved ones lately? Recently divorced? Open your doors to them. For years, my Mom made a huge meal on Christmas Day and invited anyone who didn't have a place to go on Christmas to our small apartment. She didn't have a fancy house and everyone ate on paper plates, but the Spirit was there and it made for the most merry memories ever.
As Christians, this time of year is significantly more for us than getting pictures with Santa and going to an ugly sweater party. My hope is that this list gives you some new ideas on how you can keep your family's celebrations and traditions Christ-centered.
Author: Pamela Palmer