The way Christian families celebrate Christmas sends a strong message to our children – and a watching world. My husband and I decided early on that we wanted our family’s Christmas season to reflect a celebration of Christ and not mirror our culture’s version of Christmas.
The following are all Christ-centered traditions that bring our family’s focus to the sweet truth of the Christmas season -- that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). Some of the items on the list are activities, some are events and some are just our way of doing Christmas, but all assist our family in celebrating a Christ-centered Christmas.
Starting on December 1, we read devotionals and hang ornaments on a small tree called a Jesse Tree. The name is taken from Isaiah 11:1, in which Jesus is referred to as a shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse, the father of David. The ornaments on the Jesse Tree tell of Jesus' ancestors, and of the events leading to Jesus' birth. What I love about this Advent tradition is that from December 1 through Christmas Day, we are reading devotionals that clearly illustrate how Jesus is woven throughout the entire Bible – not just the New Testament. You can look online to see how to make or buy your own Jesse Tree.
My husband and I began this tradition the first year we were married -- mainly because we couldn't afford any other traditions -- and it’s my favorite “event” of the season. One night in December our family goes out to dinner and our conversation consists only of blessings. Beyond ordering our food, the only words we can speak are blessings -- not one word about anything else. Every sentence we utter starts with “The Lord has blessed us/me....” To be honest, the first time we did this I thought it would be corny. But, I came away from that dinner feeling better than I had in a long time. It’s been a tradition ever since and our kids enjoy it, too.
Giving Gifts to Those in Need
The night of our Blessing Dinner, we take our kids with us to shop for children who are in need. We let our kids choose gifts for kids who are their age and gender and who would likely not have any gifts for Christmas. A great addition to this activity is reading the story of the real St. Nicholas and his generosity to those in need.
Live Nativity Scene
For the past five years we have taken our family to a live nativity scene at a local church. The event includes a live walking nativity scene tour, cookie decorating and a live petting zoo. The story of Jesus’ birth is clearly and beautifully portrayed in this free event that is executed with excellence. The live nativity scene always sets the perfect tone for the season.
“Love Your Neighbor” Gifts
The week before Christmas we deliver small gifts to the neighbors on our block. We put little jars of candy with a scripture proclaiming Christ’s birth in our red wagon and deliver Christmas cheer to our neighbors. We have been amazed how this one small, inexpensive, easy gesture has brokered so many sweet interactions with our neighbors.
Unbreakable Nativity Scene
We’ve had the same plastic nativity scene for about eight years and it’s a great way for our kids to see and touch the story of Jesus’ birth -- how appropriate as our Savior came to this Earth to be hands-on for us! Our set is made by Little People and you can find it online.
No Gifts Under the Tree Until Christmas Morning
We love giving and receiving presents, but we do not want them to be the focus of the season. For that reason, we don’t put any presents under the tree until Christmas morning.
Birthday Party for Jesus
On Christmas morning we have a big breakfast followed by a birthday party for Jesus – cake, candles, singing and all! Then, my husband reads from Luke 2 in the Bible. Lastly, we go to the Christmas tree and open our presents.
To be clear, Jesus isn’t looking for events or traditions as we celebrate Christmas. You could do all of the items listed above and not have a worshipful Christmas. Conversely, you could do none of the items above and have an absolutely worshipful Christmas. Christ wants YOU this Christmas season. You, Believer, are His gift from God (John 17:2, 6, 9, 24).
And He is our greatest gift of all.
As we enter into the Christmas season, I pray our hearts, minds and energy would not be spent on the hustle and bustle of the season, but on The One whom is worthy of celebration.
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