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Celebrate Jesus at Christmas sounds like a great idea. But sometimes it just seems impossible. The pull of the lights, gifts, cookies, parties, and activities can be overwhelming. In this post, I share several ideas for drawing away from the pull of presents to the Presence of the One we worship.
Christmas. A word that can bring up the wildest extremes of emotion: guilt, dread, overwhelm, joy, delight, enthusiasm. It is easy for the significance of the holiday to get lost in the gift-giving, cookie-baking, and party-attending that occurs at this time of year.
As fun as many holiday-associated activities are, they should never detract from the true meaning of the season for believers: a celebration of the coming of the Son of God. He came to show and share His love for us – His unconditional, unimaginable, unexplainable love.
Many families choose to focus on Jesus at this time of year by celebrating Advent, using an Advent calendar, or having a countdown to Christmas that centers on the Savior.
My own children were from time to time part of this tradition, although we never had any consistency in celebrating Advent. There were likely many reasons for this – some even valid – but the fact remains that I think this is one area where I let my children down. We tried to focus on Jesus but didn’t always succeed.
Now that I’m a grandmother to little ones, I see more clearly how important it is to remove the attention from the gifts and glitter to the God-Man. Here, then, are 15 ideas for doing just that.
Celebrate Jesus at Christmas with Advent Traditions
- Have an Advent calendar – any type, including the cardboard ones with chocolate candies that you bought at the grocery store. Any type of Advent calendar can be used to focus on the time before Christmas – the time of anticipation – and then focus that anticipation on the excitement of the coming King who would be a Baby.
- Make an Advent calendar. This would have to be done in November but could be as simple as a construction paper chain with verses about Jesus on each link. Making your own Advent calendar, and using the same one year after year, is how memories are made and traditions are built. Give your children the gift of traditions centered on Jesus.
- Light an Advent candle each Sunday. This can take the form of a traditional wreath of three purple candles and one pink, or just having four candlesticks with four white candles that at lit each succeeding Sunday in December. To read more about the tradition of the Advent wreath and the meaning of the candles, check out this link.
- Read Christmas picture books. Aim for two a day, one for fun and one for Jesus. Your local library can keep you supplied throughout the season. I would also encourage you to buy one or two new Christmas picture books every year until you have a library of your own that you can joyfully share with your children and grandchildren.
Celebrate Jesus at Christmas with the Word and Worship
- Do an Advent study for yourself, with your spouse, or with your entire family. There are plenty to choose from – simply Google ‘Advent Bible study.’ Or try a simple outline such as the one found here.
- Read an Advent devotional daily on an app such as YouVersion or in print form. No downsides to being in the Word more at this time of the year – or any time of the year. You could incorporate a short devotional after dinner or do it the last thing before bed. Find a devotional the entire family can enjoy. I like this one, which we did as a family a couple of times.
- Read a verse each day about Jesus’ names, character, or titles. Use the list compiled by BlueLetterBible.org to guide your reading. Some advance preparation is necessary, as the list has far more than 24 verses! Or, wait for my monthly topic guide on the Names and Titles of Jesus which will be posted on November 27.
- Sing and play Christmas music. Enjoy the traditional Rudolph, Frosty, and Jingle Bells, but also make room for songs that celebrate the coming of the Savior. Teach traditional Christmas carols to your children and then sing one or more together every evening after dinner in December.
- Attend a worship service on Christmas Eve, even if your church doesn’t have one. Don’t worry about going to a different church – so many people only go to church at Christmas that you won’t stick out! But attending a Christmas Eve service, especially if there are a lot of carols sung, focuses our attention on what really counts at this time of year.
Celebrate Jesus at Christmas with Gift-Giving
- Participate in gift-giving to the needy. One idea is to put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child (due November 11 in my church). Another is to adopt a child from an Angel Tree. Or you could give to your church’s or community’s food bank, clothing closet, or turkey drive. You could also take this a step farther and adopt a child through Compassion International and gift give all year long.
- In gift-giving limit the number of gifts. I’ve seen both three and four as numbers that families stick with. Three gifts – representing the three gifts Jesus received – could be one want, one need, and something to read. Four gifts – because some people just like even numbers – could add something to wear.
- Limit gift-giving for your spouse to what can fit in a Christmas stocking. My husband and I do this, now that we’re empty-nesters, but we had friends who did it all their married life. The rationale is to take the focus off gifts and onto Jesus. Besides, as adults, we often buy whatever we want.
Celebrate Jesus on Christmas Day
- Celebrate Jesus with a birthday cake. This is one tradition we faithfully kept – my kids would ask for it as they got older, just to make sure I didn’t forget.
- Read the Christmas story before opening any presents on Christmas day. Keep first things first! This is one tradition, along with the birthday cake, that we faithfully kept. Conclude with prayer, praising God for sending His Son to be our Savior.
- Pray after opening all the gifts. Pray for the gift-givers, give thanks for the love the gifts represent, and pray for those who will be receiving your own gifts today. Close the prayer time with singing all the carols you can remember to celebrate the day.
This list just barely scratches the surface of what you and your family can do to honor Jesus at Christmastime. Be creative in coming up with unique ideas for your own family. I’d love to hear some of your ideas! The key is to keep the focus on Him, not on us, our children or grandchildren, or the many activities or the season. Just on Jesus.