I love Christmas. I loved Christmas as a kid, I loved it as a single adult, and I love it most now that we have kids. Each year gets more and more fun as our kids get older and are better able to understand and anticipate the holiday.
With increasing fun, each Christmas has also brought with it a greater responsibility for me to teach my children the reason for the season. It is of great importance to me – and to most Christian moms I’d imagine – to make certain that our children not only feel and experience the FUN and EXCITEMENT of Christmas, but also the significance, relevance, and depth behind the holiday. This is hard! With all the hustle to buy presents, attend Christmas parties, bake cookies, and answer never-ending questions about exactly how Santa does what he does, it would be easy to get through the entire season without actually teaching our kids why we celebrate. In order to not overlook Christ in Christmas, we have to be intentional – we have to think about what we want to communicate to our children and how we are going to do it.
For this month’s guest post, I asked Valerie from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom to write on some of the ways she is purposeful in the holiday season. I asked her how she keeps Christmas in her family CHRIST-focused. Read her post below and then hop on over to Team Cartright to read my guest post (on something totally not Christmas related – my twin story!)
How to Keep Christmas Christ-Focused
by Valerie Plowman
As I have become a mother, I have found the Christmas season to be far less magical and a lot more stressful than it was in my childless days. Christmas Day, of course, is a magical time watching my children and their joy. I am talking about the weeks leading up to this magical day. The time and effort that goes into preparing for this day can easily leave me feeling like the Grinch.
As children, we were able to focus more on the happy feelings of the season, but as adults, we have shopping, wrapping, cooking, and planning to do. This is the “most wonderful time of the year,” and yet so many find themselves more stressed and depressed than any other time. Sometimes it gets hard to feel that Christmas spirit with all that is going on.
I desperately want that spirit, however. I don’t think Jesus Christ would want the celebration of His birth to lead to anxiety and depression. I want a Christ-Focused Christmas for myself, and I want it for my children. I want them to be inspired to look to Christ and His life and to lift others around them the way Christ lifted others in His life time. The biggest “trick” to keeping the Christmas spirit with you is to decide to have it with you. Here are some ways to make that decision easier.
1-Prepare Ahead of Time
This past Fall, my sweet great-aunt was deeply frustrated by the Christmas stuff being out so early. I know that is a common complaint among people. For me, however, it is fantastic. This helps me with my goal of being ready for Christmas early. I try to have my shopping done before the end of October if possible. I have everything in place before Thanksgiving hits so I can better enjoy the holidays. I spread the work involved out across several months instead of several weeks. That way, I can focus on the reason for the season. Read more about how to get ready for Christmas here
2-Have Meaningful Traditions
We have our cutesy traditions that are fun for family, but don’t point us to Christ necessarily. Those are things like decorating a ginger bread house each year, or getting an ornament that represents the past year. These aren’t bad traditions; they bring us closer to each other and strengthen our family bond. Those are definitely gifts to Christ.
This is the season, however, celebrating His birth. When it is my son’s birthday, we focus on him, not on everyone but him. Therefore, we also have meaningful traditions that help us focus on the birth of the Savior of the world. One of those is a new tradition for us. It is going to see the Christmas Carol musical. It helps remind us to be charitable and loving toward others. Another tradition we have is listening to Christmas music. We have it playing most of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it helps bring a sweet spirit to our home. Another is the Straw Bed for Jesus, which I will discuss below.
3-Have a Service Plan
There are so many ways you can implement service into your Christmas season. I love ideas that keep you focused on service every day rather than just a one-time deal. One of our favorites is a Straw Bed for Jesus
. Each day, you discuss the service you did that day and add a piece of straw to the manger. Your goal is to have a soft place for the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day.
This year, we are also doing the #LIGHTtheWORLD Christmas Initiative
. The idea is you do something each day to emulate the life of Christ. It helps you stay very Christ-focused each day of December leading up to Christmas.
Another fun one we have done many years is to do a 12 Days of Christmas for a family or individual. One year, we did a widow. For the 12 days before Christmas, we give a gift to the individual or family, along with a scripture. We have also done this with nativity sets, so each day we give a piece to a nativity set, ending the last day with the Baby Jesus.
This year, we also chose some gifts to donate to the refugees in our area.
There are so many ways to serve. Think of a way that would be meaningful to your family and also be possible for your current life season.
4-Read Meaningful Stories and Scriptures
Read Christmas stories and also scriptures that talk of the life of Christ. You can read a small bit daily to help keep your heart focused in the proper place. Some people do a book advent and read a different Christmas book each day leading up to Christmas.
The magic formula in life: Simplify. What is it you can cut back on to help you stay Christ-focused at Christmas? For me, one of these things is not participating in the Elf on a Shelf. I already feel busy enough; I don’t need one more thing to worry about each day. This isn’t to say anyone who participates in the Elf on a Shelf is neglecting the Christmas spirit. We all choose to cut different things. For me, it is the elf. For you, it might be Christmas cards. Maybe you won’t make every single party and recital on the calendar. Evaluate your to-do list and decide what just isn’t necessary. What is causing you stress and/or taking your efforts without providing adequate payout?
Christmas can be, and should be, a time of great joy. These five steps can help you prioritize and keep your focus on feeling the Christmas Spirit the whole season through.