Christmas traditions are at the heart of every family's unique celebration of this blessed holiday. But with the secularization and commercialism of Christmas, it's easy for Christian families to get caught up in the hoopla.
The "reason for the season" is no longer evident in many of our schools, businesses, and even homes. Nativity scenes have been replaced by huge depictions of Santa, Homer Simpson (dressed as Santa), and the Grinch (you guessed it, dressed as Santa). "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" has replaced "Away in a Manager." And even our "merry Christmas" greeting has been replaced by a noncommittal "happy holidays."
Without effort, even Christians can leave Christ out of Christmas. While the circumstances and experiences of the world around us can easily distract us from making room for Christ at Christmas, we can, with intentionality, shine in contrast every bit as bright as the Bethlehem star so many years ago.
We can choose to keep Christ in Christmas in the things we say and do. As we do so, others will see and hear the true message of Christmas: a Savior was born for all of humanity.
There are countless ways Christian families can worship together at Christmastime. Following are some ideas that will help your family keep Christ in Christmas.
Spread the gingerbread gospel. This is a fun gingerbread-house project to do with kids of all ages to teach them that Jesus is preparing a place for us and that we can live forever with him one day. Allow teenagers to handle the intricate parts of the house building with younger siblings adding the finishing touches. You can pick up a gingerbread house kit at craft stores.
Invest in nativity play sets. Collect a variety of nativity sets and place them around the house. For young children, Little People® or Playmobil® make nativity sets that are age-appropriate. For older children, ceramic is a good choice. Sets can often be picked up for next to nothing at yard sales or after-Christmas sales. Have the children act out the Christmas story as Mom or Dad reads the account from the Bible. Read it daily so it sticks, and allow the children to play with the nativity set as often as they like.
Have a brainstorming meeting to discuss how your family can help those in need this Christmas. Perhaps you can be a "Secret Santa" of sorts to a struggling neighbor. Or spend some time with your tweens and teenagers, volunteering in a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. Maybe you all could visit residents at a local nursing home. Our family has found that nursing home residents love it when our children, ages 6 to 16, visit.
Focus on Christ-centered activities. The whole family can attend or participate in Christian Christmas concerts, plays, and cantatas. Last year our family attended a Christmas play at a church of a different denomination, and we had a wonderfully blessed time during the production and afterward as we got to know fellow believers.
Use Christmas cards as prayer cards. Place Christmas cards you receive in a basket in a central area in the home. Each night, pray for people who sent cards. In addition, as your family prepares outgoing Christmas cards, say a prayer for each person. Kids of all ages can be involved in saying simple prayers and making homemade Christmas cards with depictions of the nativity scene, the Bethlehem star, and the wise men.
Enlist the help of your tweens and teenagers in helping to string lights inside and outside the home. Take the whole family for a drive around the community to see all the lights at night. Talk about how Jesus is the "light of the world" (John 8:12) and how Christians are to "let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:16).
Decorate a "names of Jesus" tree. On Christmas Eve, decorate a tree with the names of Christ. Have your tweens and teenagers make a game of seeing who can find in the Bible the most names for Christ, such as Prince of Peace, Light of the World, Messiah, Bread of Life, and Redeemer.
Have the whole family act out the Christmas story. Even the very youngest child can have a part to play—you do need a "Baby Jesus" character, after all! Make the production as simple or as elaborate as you'd like. Perhaps grandparents or neighbors could be invited to watch. Such a production could also be a wonderful tool for sharing your faith—or at the very least, a reminder of what the holiday season is really about.
Make the gift-giving connection. Christmas gifts are about so much more than getting stuff. Our kids have always known that the gifts they receive are in celebration of Jesus' birth and that "whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father" (James 1:17). God gave us the ultimate gift of his son, but an unopened gift is of little use and brings no enjoyment. Have your children opened the "gift" of Jesus? Discuss with them how they can open their hearts to receive the gift of Jesus.
Throw a birthday bash for Jesus. Kids of all ages love birthday parties but seldom have the opportunity to plan one. Put the kids in charge and allow them to plan a celebration in honor of Christ. Teenagers can bake and decorate a cake. Tweens and younger siblings can make decorations and hang them around the house. The whole family can join in singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.
While these are just some of many ways we can practice family worship at Christmastime, it is not the method but the heart the Lord looks at. No matter how you do it, my prayer is that your family will seek Jesus as the wise men and shepherds did so long ago.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.