Christmas is finally here – a warm and welcome sight in a year where the ‘weary world’ is truly ready to usher in the season with eager and open hearts. Because this year has been so difficult for many of us for various reasons, it might be tempting to tilt our focus on things that don’t point to why we celebrate Christmas. We might want to buy even MORE toys for our kids, put up MORE lights around the house and yard, and bake even MORE cookies to devour while watching even MORE Christmas movies! While I am wrestling with doing more of these inevitable traditions, I want to share some ideas for how families can wrap around favorite traditions to truly help celebrate our Savior, Jesus—now more than ever.
- Celebrate with scripture: Many families read the “Christmas story” from one of the gospels on Christmas eve or morning. While this is a beautiful tradition, let me encourage you to maximize it by reading scripture each day leading up to the BIG day! This can be done through an Advent reading plan or by creating a Jesse tree that highlights stories throughout scripture that have prophecies and promises of the Savior to come. A quick google or pinterest search will lead you to numerous choices for these kinds of reading plans. My family has enjoyed making a Jesse tree for many years by coloring simple ornaments that represent each story and hanging them on a tree made with sticks in a flower vase!
- Celebrate with symbols: Help children of all ages learn about Jesus by calling attention to the Christmas symbols that surround us during the season. Here are a few ideas:
- Hot chocolate with candy canes: As you enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, add a candy cane treat to stir up the goodness! Candy canes represent the shepherds who came to visit Jesus who, no doubt, carried a staff. Even better, they represent that Jesus is our shepherd and we are his sheep. The red represents his blood shed for us and white reflects how he washes our sins away.
- Decorating the tree: Most of us put up Christmas trees (either a real one carefully chosen at a farm or tree lot; or an artificial one put together each year). As your family places ornaments on the tree, talk about the meaning of an evergreen tree (even if yours is artificial!) and focus on how Jesus gives us everlasting life. Place a star on top or as an ornament and talk about not only the star of Bethlehem that guided the wise men, but also how Jesus is the light of the world!
- Three gifts: Some families choose to give their children three gifts that represent the three kings who brought Jesus gold, frankincense and Myrrh. While the wise men brought Jesus gifts, Jesus himself is the ultimate gift to us! Don’t miss the opportunity to talk about the gift of salvation this season as you unwrap gifts under the tree.
- Celebrate with service: Jesus came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, and serve the poor. His last command to us was, “go make disciples.” Christmas is a wonderful time to be the hands and feet of Jesus through serving others. Help your family find ways to serve in the community around you such as gathering items for a food bank, donating to a homeless shelter or writing letters to those in nursing homes. Even though it may be difficult to serve in person this year, we can still show the love of Jesus through our resources, talents and prayers.
Though many of these traditions are nothing new to us, perhaps this is the year we slow down and truly rest in the simple things in order to prepare our hearts for celebrating Jesus in all that we do for Christmas. Let this be the year we don’t miss a single opportunity to count every blessing and every trial as pure joy. Afterall, this unspeakable joy comes from Jesus himself.
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 1 Peter 1:8 KJV