For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)
Nothing can reduce the real meaning of Christmas: More than 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, God's only Son, was born in a simple manger.
Here are 10 ideas that can help us focus on what really matters at Christmas:
1. After returning home from our church's Christmas Eve service, we light the house by candlelight. Then we have a birthday party for Jesus. One child is selected to light the candle (the Light of the World) on the cake, one child begins the singing, one child serves cake to everyone, and the last of our four children hands out four presents that surround the cake. Before any gifts are opened, we talk about the blessings we've enjoyed during the year and about the gifts we have given to others.
Each child opens one of the four presents. All are the same: the figure of baby Jesus that belongs in one of four nativity sets. Each child realizes that Jesus is the best present ever and takes his/her baby to the manger where He belongs. We conclude the evening by reading the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke. (Contributed by Anne Coletti)
2. We ring bells as a family for the Salvation Army. This takes very little time and is always rewarding. We call the Salvation Army and tell them we would like to volunteer as bell ringers in December. We give them the amount of time that we are available and specify when we can ring the bells. While we ring the bells, we talk about where the money goes that we are helping collect. We also talk about the importance of serving others who are less fortunate than we are.
Ringing bells for the Salvation Army helps us show the value of Christ-like servanthood towards others. (Contributed by Gayla Grace)
3. One of our favorite Christmas activities is utilizing an Advent wreath and an Advent devotional. When the children were old enough to light the candles, they took turns doing that. As they got older, they read the devotions. Eventually, the kids became completely responsible for the Advent readings on some nights. There are a variety of Advent devotional books available these days.
We had an Advent wreath in my family when I was growing up. I hope my sons will pass this tradition on in their families. (Contributed by Elaine Crowell)
4. Before we had children, I noticed how so many parents tried to top their gift giving from the previous year for their children. Once my husband and I had children, we decided that they would get the same number of gifts that Jesus received—three. On Christmas Eve, we read about the birth of Jesus and talk about the three gifts He was given. The following morning, the three gifts for each child are under the tree, and we talk again about the real meaning of Christmas.
When the children were younger, they really enjoyed knowing they got three gifts just like Jesus, and now it's a great ongoing tradition. Doing this has helped us avoid the trap of making each Christmas "bigger and better" than the one before. It's helped us point our children back to Jesus' birthday and the Bible on Christmas morning.
Simple … but meaningful. (Contributed by Tracey Eyster)
5. As a family we often talk about the incarnation and how Jesus humbled Himself when He was born in a manger. We have enjoyed worshipping the Lord at home on Christmas Eve (sometimes travel makes this impossible). At times. we sing hymns and Christmas songs together as we gather around the piano. As we slow down the pace of life and enjoy Christmas Eve as a family, we take time to reflect on all God has brought us through during the year and thank Him for being our Savior. (Contributed by John Breitenstein)
6. We do not place presents under the tree until Christmas morning. This turns our focus away from "what am I going to get for Christmas" to remembering the birth of Jesus. No one counts gifts to see who has the most under the tree. No one keeps track of the size of the presents or the pretty paper. On Christmas morning the gifts are under the tree, and the children take turns handing them out. We watch as they are opened—one by one. Each gift is appreciated by everyone. It takes longer to do this, but it is definitely worth the time to be thankful and thoughtful and much less worried about stuff. (Contributed by Anne Coletti)
7. When our children were young, we filled a basket with straw and placed it next to the nativity set. During Advent, my husband, the kids, and I would do secret deeds to express our love to Jesus Christ. For example, we might cheerfully empty the trash, bake cookies for a lonely neighbor, or spend time praying for one another. We would secretly put a piece of straw in the manger for each secret deed. Then, on Christmas Day, as an act of worship we placed the figure of baby Jesus on the bed of straw. (Contributed by Mary May Larmoyeux)
8. Samaritan's Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. We have used the Samaritan's Purse catalog and allowed the kids to pick the things they want to give. Things like: feed a hungry baby for a week, family survival kit, blankets, soccer balls, Bible lessons for children, etc.
We also encourage the kids to put in some coins at the Salvation Army buckets when we enter stores. That keeps their focus on giving and being generous rather than thinking about what they can get for themselves.
There are so many opportunities to give. It really helps remind us that God gave us a great gift in Jesus, and because of that, we can bless others, too. (Contributed by Kris G.)
9. Since I'm single and my extended family doesn't care to celebrate the religious meaning of Christmas, I go to as many Christian Christmas programs as I can get to. Volunteering with the Salvation Army Christmas giving program is nice, too, because giving to strangers (especially children) in need really is the meaning of Christmas … after all, I was a stranger in need, and Christ left heaven to be my gift. (Contributed by Toni Ferguson)
10. I try to be especially mindful of what I read and write during the holidays, as it is so easy to be distracted by other things. The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 comes to mind. It takes a deliberate effort to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. One way I attempt to accomplish this is by creating my own poems about the birth of Jesus. Here are the first two stanzas from one of my Christmas poems:
Baby Boy of Bethlehem,
Is it true what they say?
You've come to save the world,
Not to judge it.
To heal the sick
And lift the broken hearted.
Baby Boy of Bethlehem,
Is it true what they say?
Your name is above every name.
You're Wonderful Counselor,
King of kings, Lord of lords,
Prince of peace.
(contributed by Linda Scisson)
Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Looking for help or inspiration this Christmas? FamilyLife offers several resources to help your family focus on Christ during your Christmas celebration. The Ever Thine Home® Christmas collection includes ornaments and other decorations help you honor Christ and proclaim your faith. The 12 Names of Christmas™ ornaments are designed to help you teach your children about Jesus is and why He came to live among us. And in When Christmas Came, Barbara Rainey reveals the substance of Christmas in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.