Growing up, my family had a simple Christmas tradition that emphasized the true reason we celebrated Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we would each open our stockings which typically contained smaller trinkets and treasures, ranging from practical things like toothpaste to quite the antitheses, candy! We would typically open our main gifts on Christmas Day, but before opening those, my dad would read to us – or have us each read by turns – a portion of the account of the birth of Jesus from Luke. We did this for as long as I can remember. As a young child, I can recall sitting through that agonizingly long second chapter of Luke, anxiously waiting to open my first gift.
This Christmas, I’ll be joining my family again, and I fully expect we will read the Christmas story together before unwrapping gifts. And I’m sure it won’t seem so long this time now that I’m an adult. However, this outward “tradition” if you will, while by no means a requirement, was/is a simple, yet practical, outward way of putting Christ first. A symbolic way of demonstrating that he is both the cause and giver of celebration. This served to cement (as my parents intended) the real reason behind the celebration of Christmas, the birth of our Savior.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Last minute Christmas shopping, emergency trips to the grocery store to get that forgotten ingredient for that special family recipe, hours spent wrapping gifts, a delayed packaged ordered online, that person in the parking lot who just stole “your” spot – literally the list could be endless. Without intention, you could very easily forget about Jesus, you could forget about making memories, you could not realize that even if you can’t afford as many gifts this year as last year, the best gifts are family.
This Christmas, try to implement some simple activities into your holiday plans that emphasize the important things of Christmas. Additionally, try to weed out those activities stressing you out that just might be placing too much of an emphasis on materialistic things anyway. To help you get started, below is a list of simple ways you can emphasize Jesus throughout the remainder of the Christmas season.
- Be polite to everyone you encounter. It doesn’t matter if they just stole “your” parking spot or picked up the last item on the shelf you needed at the store.
- Get a nativity scene and place it somewhere prominently in your home. As prominent as your Christmas tree and presents.
- Implement some type of Christmas reading of the birth of Christ.
- Encourage your children to be givers by giving a gift to a child in an impoverished country.
- Discuss with your family God’s greatest gift and how he expects us to share his gift with others.
- Invite someone to share in your Christmas dinner who might not be able to afford their own.
- Make a special, simple gift for people who you see regularly but don’t normally get gifts for e.g. your pastor, or neighbor. Some years, my family would get a little surprise gift for our mailman.
- Attend church on Christmas Eve. A candlelight service is really special, and can especially have a big impact on kids.
- Carry the generosity and sharing attitude over into the New Year. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year…, right?