Keeping CHRIST in Christmas

The number one way to keep Jesus Christ in your Christmas celebrations is to have him present in your daily life. As parents, we have a lot to do to prepare for Christmas. Many of these responsibilities include buying and wrapping presents, decorating the home, trimming the tree, preparing the Christmas meal, and making preparations to host or visit family and friends. While all of these things are important, let us not fail to honor our Savior first and foremost. Here are some simple ways to keep Christ the central focus of your life this Christmas season.

Observe Advent with your family: Advent is the time of reflection and preparation before Christmas. It offers the opportunity to pause and consider the state of our souls, not our shopping lists. Use an Advent calendar with your children to keep the focus on Jesus throughout the month.

Listen to Christmas music: Load up your iPod or pull out those CD’s that you’ve stored away all year. Just reflecting on the words can be a quick way to turn your thoughts back to Jesus' birth.

Set up a Nativity scene in your home: When you're stressed and busy, you can just glance around your home for a reminder of why we celebrate.

Decorate your tree with Christian ornaments: Replace the shiny silver balls, tinsel, and big bows with manger scenes, angels and other tangible reminders of the religious reason for the holiday. Consider creating a Jesse tree, which tells the story of Jesus' family tree, or a Chrismon tree, which is a Christmas tree decorated only with religious symbols.

Consider limiting your family gift-giving to 3 gifts per child: Just as Jesus received three gifts from the wise men, so also can your child receive just three gifts, and allow the focus to remain on Christ this season instead of on getting more, more, and more gifts.

Invite a friend or neighbor to church: Appeal to God’s promise to soften hearts to the gospel (Ezekiel 11:19) and ask God to open a door to opportunities with those you know. (Colossians 4:3)

Write a Christmas letter to a missionary: Many missionaries are unable to travel home for the holidays, so it can be a very lonely time for them. Write a special Christmas letter to a missionary of your choice, thanking them for giving their life in service to the Lord. If they have children, encourage your child to draw a picture or write a letter as well.

Read the Bible: We all think we know the Christmas story, but read the different versions in Luke (2:1-20) and Matthew (1:18-25) to consider what the Bible says about Christmas. Read the surrounding verses for an even better understanding, including Luke 1:5-56.

Establish a new tradition: You might want to try the “12 Days of Christmas Books,” in which you use books that you own in addition to ones that you might purchase or borrow from friends or the library. Choose books that focus on the birth of Jesus instead of Santa Claus or Rudolph.

Give a gift to a child in need: Consider purchasing a gift for a child who otherwise might not receive anything for Christmas this year.

Send out Christian Christmas cards: Consider using Christmas cards that include Bible verses or Christian artwork to remind yourself, and those who receive the cards, about the birth of Jesus--not the arrival of Santa.

Sing Christmas carols: Join friends and sing in your community or just sing together at home.

Watch a Christmas movie together as a family: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a family favorite – you may want to check your local cable listings to see when it is playing this year. Or choose another video that focuses on the true meaning of Christmas.

Visit the sick or homebound: Just as God gave the gift of his Son, so, too, your presence can be a true gift to someone who is alone or sick this season. If you have a loved one that is far away, plan a call or put together a care package.

Give a surprise gift of service to each member of your family: Jesus taught us to serve by washing the disciples feet. He also taught us that it is "more blessed to give than to receive," (Acts 20:35). The idea of giving an unexpected gift of service to members of your family is to demonstrate Christ-like love and service. You might consider giving a back rub to your spouse, running an errand for your sister, or cleaning out a closet for your mother. Make it personal and meaningful and watch the blessings multiply.

Prepare family devotions to read on Christmas morning: Before opening the gifts, take a few minutes to gather together as a family in prayer and devotions. Read a few Bible verses and discuss as a family the true meaning of Christmas.

Give God one very special gift just from you to Him: Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. David said in 2 Samuel 24:24 that he would not offer a sacrifice to God that cost him nothing. Perhaps your gift will be to commit to spending time with God daily. Or maybe there is something God has asked you to give up. Make this your most important gift of the season.

Bake a birthday cake for Jesus: What better way to honor the reality of Jesus's birth with a birthday cake? It's also a fun and entertaining way to teach children that Jesus came into the world as a baby, and to help the Christmas story come alive for them.