What comes to mind when you think of Christmas?
Christmas songs, family gatherings, gift giving, Jesus birth, lots of sweets, snow, Christmas cards, parties… the list goes on and on. It’s just a busy time of year! Children especially love Christmas – they love receiving gifts and the fun activities associated with Christmas. For most of my life, I’ve looked forward to the Christmas season. It’s only been the last several years that I’ve found that I’m not as excited as I used to be. I think as a mom there is always so much to do during the Christmas season: baking cookies, writing Christmas cards/letters, decorating, shopping and buying gifts, planning activities and the food for the family gatherings, etc. It’s hard not to get stressed out by the Christmas holiday! And it’s especially hard to keep the focus on Jesus as the reason for the season!
No one really knows the true date of Jesus’ birth. There were several celebrations that centered around the winter solstice during Roman times. So once Christianity became Rome’s official religion in the 4th century, leader’s chose to absorb pagan traditions rather than ignore them. They decided to pick a date to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and they chose a date that was near the pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice: Dec. 25th, and they called it Christmas. Initially, Christmas was a Christian holiday to honor the birth of Jesus. It has since evolved into a combination of religious and secular traditions and festivities, celebrated around the world.
Because it’s gotten to be a more commercialized holiday, with a lot of secular traditions, believers need to work extra hard to keep the focus on Jesus in their family traditions. As we raised our children, we tried hard to make Jesus the emphasis as we celebrated Christmas. I want to share with you some of the ways we did that, as well as some other ideas as to how you can keep Jesus first in your Christmas preparations and celebrations.
- Read through the story of Jesus birth in the book of Matthew or Luke; and then read through one of these books as a family throughout the month of December.
- Study the names of Jesus as a family using my devotional: “The Names of Jesus” (request the FREE PDF “The Names of Jesus” using the request form on my website)
- Tell your children that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Celebrate by making Jesus a birthday cake and singing happy birthday to Jesus! Ask them what they might want to give Jesus for His birthday (Ideas: do something nice for someone else, write him a note, sing a praise song to him, or check out this cute video of our children as I asked them this question…. watch And just a suggestion, don’t hand them each a gift to hold while you talk with them about this… as you can see it was a distraction when I did that! I don’t know what I was thinking!) Our oldest two kids put this video together a few years back and also added some of the recordings we had of them singing… it’s hilarious!
- Sing songs about Jesus each day and talk about his great love for us, that He would come to this earth and live among us and then actually die to pay for our sins.
- Watch the Jesus movie, or the Nativity story as a family.
- Memorize Matthew 1:18-25 as a family; recite it to your extended family when you get together for Christmas.
- When you hang your Christmas stockings, hang one for Jesus and suggest that you all fill it with notes to Him.
- I’m getting on a soap box here, but I would suggest that you DON’T teach your children about Santa Clause as the one that brings them their gifts. Santa Claus has evolved into almost a god-like being, and is really a distraction from the focus on Jesus. Only God truly knows whether we’ve been naughty or nice! Santa Claus originated from a real man, named Saint Nicholas and his story would be a much better one to share with your children. It helps to explain why Santa Claus has become part of so many Christmas celebrations. (http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml) One tip though, if you teach your children that there isn’t really a Santa Claus that brings gifts, make sure they know not to share that bit of news with their friends without permission first… our neighbors weren’t very happy with us when our daughter informed their daughter that Santa Claus wasn’t real!
- Limit your gift giving ~ not only does this distract from the focus on Jesus on the actual day you celebrate Christmas, but it is a distraction throughout the month of December as you shop and prepare. Children don’t need a lot of gifts, it’s overwhelming for them! IKEA put out a youtube video in which they asked kids to write letters to their parents as to what they wanted for Christmas. Amazingly, most of the children said what they really wanted was more time with their parents!!
- Consider simplifying what you do for traditions at Christmas… talk with your spouse about what traditions are really important to continue and what you might be able to cut out so you can spend more time together as a family. Maybe you can cut back on how many Christmas cards you send, or make less cookies, or whatever it is that might be causing stress or taking the emphasis off of Jesus.
- Find out if there is a live nativity scene somewhere near where you live and go as a family. This makes the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth come alive!
- Find a way to help others as a family: adopt a needy family and get them gifts for Christmas; give a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child; help serve food at a homeless shelter; the list is endless as to opportunities available to serve others this holiday season.
- On Christmas morning, spend time praying together and thanking God for the gift of Jesus. Re-read the Christmas story, or let your kids recite the story from memory if they memorized it.
- For homeschoolers, there are so many opportunities to incorporate Christmas preparations into your homeschool day !
- Do a unit study on Christmas (https://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php?id=037593&subject=Curriculum/2&category=Unit+Study+Adventures+by+Amanda+Bennett/481)
- Do a study of how Christmas is celebrated around the world. (http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2013/11/christmas-around-the-world-unit-study.html)
- Have your children draw pictures and write letters to each of their grandparents as a gift for them for Christmas
- Bake cookies together and give them to others
- Get together with other homeschool families and go caroling ( to a nursing home, or in a neighborhood)
- For your art or home economics, make gifts for others such as gifts in a jar (hot chocolate mix, cookie mix, etc.) or salt dough ornaments, scripture verses written nicely with a picture, etc. Go to Pinterest for more ideas!
- Help the children prepare a play depicting the story of Jesus birth that they can present to family members on Christmas day.
- Encourage your children to do random acts of kindness each day as a gift to Jesus, and then have them each share what you did each day while you are eating dinner.
- Find manger scene crafts on pinterest to do together.
- For history, study the time of Jesus birth more in depth. What was happening in the world at that time? How did Jesus birth and life impact the world?
- For music, do a study on Christmas songs written throughout the years. Who wrote them and why?
- Read some good books related to Christmas:
- The First Nightby B.G. Hennessy
- The Story of Christmasby Patricia A. Pingry
- Christmas Angels: Read and Shareby Gwen Ellis
- Room for a Little One: A Christmas Taleby Martin Waddell
Pray and seek the LORD on how you can make Jesus the center of your Christmas celebrations this year! I’d love to share my free devotional “The Names of Jesus” with you! You can even do a unit study on the names of Jesus using this devotional. Just send me your e-mail and I’ll send it your way. Have a blessed Christmas!