A mentor mother and great friend of mine, Pattie, spoke at one of our MOPS meetings in Wellington last year about keeping our Christmas traditions Christ-centered. I was so moved and inspired by her ideas that I thought I’d pass them along to all my lovely blog readers. We have not implemented all these traditions, but what creative food for thought for creating our own Christ-centered traditions including and/or beyond her suggestions.
1) Use 25 plastic (especially with younger children) Christmas balls and a paint pen and write one Attribute of Jesus with coordinating scripture on each. Put all the ornaments in a basket beside the tree. Each day, starting on December 1st, put a ball on the tree as a family. Talk about the attribute and read the scripture – this is like an advent calendar.
2) The "good and perfect gift". Wrap a gift that contains seven items that each represent a promise of God. This is the last gift to be opened on Christmas morning. Each child gets to take out an item and guess what it means. The attached verse will give the answer. For example: an eraser reminds us of god's forgiveness of our sins...
3) Its fun decorating the tree as a family each year. Why not give this special time even more meaning by hanging a special ornament last. The last ornament hung brings the focus back to what we are truly celebrating at Christmas - this is the Christmas nail. The nail reminds us of the ultimate reason Christ came as a tiny baby in a manger, He came to die for us.
4) Matt 5:14 says, "You are the light of the world, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket." - Let your children make handmade ornaments (angels etc...) and attach them to cookie plates for your neighbors and friends, perhaps with a special verse attached as well that captures the meaning of Christmas.
5) II Corinthians 1:3, 4 says that God is the source of every mercy and it is He who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. Keeping Christ in Christmas is comforting others. - help others during this time by decorating their tree, shopping for them, wrapping their gifts, baking goodies for them or WITH them etc... If it is someone in a nursing home - miniature trees(7") with miniature mangers can be a special treat to set on the bedside table - visit again after Christmas and take it down and store it for them.
6) Telling others the Christmas story through your gift is a great way to keep the focus on Christ. Teenage nieces are difficult to buy for but a Nativity piece each year (with some money) helps them to think about what Christmas is and will eventually provide them with their own set.
7) If you have your own nativity set put it under your tree next to your gifts to remind your family that Jesus is the first and greatest gift of Christmas. They even have stuffed nativity sets for those of us with younger children. You could move Mary and Joseph around the house as they travel to Bethlehem and let your children look for them. Leave a treat at each new stop along the way for your children to find. Set Baby Jesus out with Mary and Joseph on Christmas morning.
8) Don’t ask them what they want for Christmas! This is Jesus birthday so we limited gifts to one gift when they were growing up from us. It seemed that they still had plenty (relatives) but we never set them under the tree - only the one gift for each child. When it is their birthday we celebrate it big.
9) Before opening gifts we read from the Bible or a devotional and each person shares what gifts from God have been most meaningful to them.
10) On Christmas Eve we would go to church and then come home and have "snowballs". This was vanilla ice cream that we would soften and mix in white chocolate and then roll balls in coconut and refreeze. We would put a candle in the balls with a bit of pretty greenery (with lights out) and light the candles and sing "Happy Birthday to Jesus". The white represented His holiness and purity -even at birth!!! Then we would pour homemade raspberry syrup over top to represent His blood in dying for our sins - great time to read prophesy and explain it!!
These are some great ideas eh! Thanks Pattie! It can be a challenge in our culture to keep Christmas Christ-centered. I'll admit, Travis and I struggle with the whole notion of Santa. We both have such fond memories of "believing" when we were young. But at the same time, it is so easy for kids to see Christmas as all about what they might get and the "magic" of Santa, which easily overshadows our celebration of Christ's birth. Whether we celebrate with Santa or not though, the bigger temptation is greed and material focus. We don't pretend to have it all figured out, in fact we're no where close to knowing exactly what's best. But we'll continue to pray about it, seek the Word and wise counsel and thank goodness for God's grace along the way! But we shouldn't just do this about Christmas and other holidays, Amen! Every day of our lives, every decision we make should be approached this way. Christian freedoms can unfortunately be a dividing place for us as fellow believers as we are tempted to judge our brothers and sisters in an effort to make ourselves feel more secure in our own convictions, so let's be careful of that. But I know that, as Christians, we all can agree that we have been given the greatest gift imaginable in Christ, a gift we don't come close to deserving, a gift we didn't earn or buy, a free and beautiful and perfect gift! That's something we should be celebrating 365 days a year, not just on December 25th! Blessings to you this Christmas season! May this special time of year bring you a deeper love for our Savior, and consequently a deeper love for the people He came to save.
Always learning, always growing, never arriving,