By Danny R. Von Kanel
Christmas—it’s the magical holiday that radiates joy and goodwill every December. But yet, because of commercialization and our hectic lifestyles, the holiday has become a burden instead of a blessing to many.
Give your Christmas renewed meaning using the following ideas to bring the spark back to your celebration and make Jesus’ birth the center of your focus.
Choose a family theme
Use a theme in family conversations throughout the Christmas season; write it, post it, and live it in front of others. Possible themes include: Jesus is the Reason for the Season, Unquenchable Joy, Christ-Centered, The Ultimate Gift, or Journey to Bethlehem.
Convene a family meeting to discuss how you will carry out the theme. Allow all family members to offer their suggestions.
Host a country
Ask family members to pick a country and research how they celebrate Christmas, particularly as it relates to Christ’s birth. Pick a food item, game, or tradition of each country and incorporate it in your family’s celebration.
A good place to start is www.whychristmas.com/cultures to find how various cultures celebrate Christmas. If you know your country of heritage, use it as your focus. Understanding your roots and the Christmas traditions your ancestors practiced is a neat way to add extra meaning to your celebrations.
Adopt a child from Angel Tree (www.prisonfellowship.org/programs/angel-tree) or another organization. Put together a Christmas package for the child including the requested Christmas gift and items to stress Christ’s birth (nativity coloring book, inexpensive books on the Christmas story, etc.). Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan’s Purse (www.samaritanspurse.org) allows your family to submit shoe boxes full of gifts for needy children around the world.
Inspire Christmas values
Commit the family to watching Christmas-related movies or TV shows, particularly those espousing virtues of giving and love.
Movies such as The Nativity Story, The Ultimate Gift, Christmas for a Dollar, or It’s a Wonderful Life are fun. There is also Max Lucado’s The Christmas Candle or the recently released movie by Kirk Cameron, Saving Christmas.
Seek outside inspiration
Go as a family to a living nativity, a church Christmas musical, or a lighting display. Visible interactions with the Christmas story can help your family process the significance and meaning of the nativity.
One year, after leading my church congregation in putting on a living nativity, I witnessed a dramatic moment in one woman’s life. After I went outside to visit the nativity for the first time, she came and stood beside me. A few moments later, I heard sniffles. Realizing it was the woman beside me, I turned and saw her visibly weeping. In a moving way, this lady understood the Christmas story and the significance of Christ’s birth.
In any given community, churches are celebrating Christ’s birth though a variety of ways. Search your newspaper or the Internet for programs in your area. Do some research on the given presentation and, if possible, write out a study guide. Use the guide to discuss the presentation when your family returns home.
Lead family members to give to Jesus the same amount of money as their most expensive gift to a person. This may be given toward support of missions, a family in need, or a project that promises to affect lives for Christ.
Jen Hatmaker practiced a variation of this. On her blog she discussed her family’s goal one Christmas of “sharing our resources with those who need intervention to break the cycles of poverty and despair. This year, we are giving each of our children $100 to spend on the vulnerable. This is part of their Christmas present, because as you and I know, it just feels so awesome to be a part of Jesus’ redemptive story. We will give them some options, and they can distribute their money however they want” (jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/29/the-christmas-conundrum).
Make a commitment to simplicity
Refocus work schedules and extraneous activities to simplify and free up time to focus on Christ and Christmas. If you have a history of going to work early or working late, transfer that time to focusing your family on the meaning of Christmas.
Preplanning and intentionally focusing your time makes sure Christmas takes priority. Take a break from hobbies, sports, and physical workouts to take part in a workout of your senses—by smelling, tasting, seeing, feeling, and hearing all aspects of Christ’s birth.
Attend a candlelight Christmas Eve service
If possible, choose one in which the Lord’s Supper is held. Since you are seeking more meaning in this Christmas season, a time of remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection as well as his birth is appropriate and helpful in understanding the depth of Christ’s gift of salvation.
Speak the Christmas story
On Christmas morning before gifts are open, read the Christmas story from Luke 2. This was a tradition my mom and dad did at Christmas growing up. It was a reminder of our greatest gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. Seeing my father read from Luke 2 gave the story a special touch, for it reminded me of my heavenly Father giving his very best gift—his Son.
Saturate everything you do during the month of December with the name of Jesus. Say, sing, pray, mirror, study, cry, and laugh the name of Jesus. Let your family experience the overflow of your heart—reciprocating with joy. Nothing can affect your children more than seeing you as a parent truly celebrate Jesus Christ at Christmas time.
Christmas can become again a truly celebrative time for you and your family. As you implement these keys, a deeper understanding of God’s greatest gift will permeate throughout your family. With this will come another reason to celebrate.
Danny R. Von Kanel is a freelance writer in Franklinton, Louisiana.