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Jesus can often get lost in the typical hustle & bustle of the holiday season. It may seem like an impossible task to truly celebrate Jesus at Christmas. But you can – it just takes some planning, some prayer, and some swimming upstream against the culture.
Learning to celebrate Jesus at Christmas can replace some of the stress that often accompanies the season with peace and joy. But it can also impact your daily life all year. Because celebrating Jesus is the privilege and call of every Christian.
Why We Need to Focus on Jesus
Christmas is a complicated time for many people – maybe you. The emotions you experience can swing every which way: excitement, guilt, dread, pleasure, overwhelm, joy, delight, depression, enthusiasm. And they can all come in one day!
Perhaps you associate Christmas with terrible memories or treasured ones. Or maybe the loneliness of being a single mom is so much harder at this time. Maybe you want so desperately to give your children a magical celebration, but your bank account isn’t cooperating. Or maybe you are overjoyed with the thought that this year – finally – all the grown kids along with their spouses and the grandchildren will be together on Christmas.
Whatever you are facing this holiday season, focus on this truth: we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus’ love. His love for you caused Him to choose a humble birth to poor parents in an oppressed nation. To grow up in that oppressed nation, being misunderstood by family and his closest companions. Then finally being crucified.
Yes, Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. But His birth would be pointless were it not for His coming cross and resurrection.
So no matter how difficult Christmas is for you, remember this: you celebrate Christmas because of Jesus’ love for you.
As you decide what you will do to celebrate Christmas this year, remember Jesus. As you bake cookies, decorate the tree, donate to various charities, listen to Christmas music, and wrap gifts remember Jesus. Ask yourself continually, “Is Jesus pleased and glorified by this choice?”
While you are planning all those fun activities be sure to add some that are focused specifically on the “Reason for the Season.” Many families celebrate Advent traditions. But if that isn’t what your family does, there are plenty of other options for focusing on the spiritual truths of Christmas.
Below are 15 ideas you might want to consider. One more thing – if you’ve never celebrated Advent before, that doesn’t mean you can’t start now!
Celebrate Jesus with Advent Traditions
- Have an Advent calendar – any type, including the cardboard ones with chocolate candies that you bought at the grocery store. Any type of Advent calendar can be used to focus on the time before Christmas – the time of anticipation – and then focus that anticipation on the excitement of the coming King who would be a Baby.
- Make an Advent calendar. This would have to be done in November but could be as simple as a construction paper chain with verses about Jesus on each link. Making your own Advent calendar, and using the same one year after year, is how memories are made and traditions are built. Give your children the gift of traditions centered on Jesus.
- Light an Advent candle each Sunday. This can take the form of a traditional wreath of three purple candles and one pink, or just having four candlesticks with four white candles that are lit each succeeding Sunday in December. To read more about the tradition of the Advent wreath and the meaning of the candles, check out this link.
- Read Christmas picture books. Aim for two a day, one for fun and one for Jesus. Your local library can keep you supplied throughout the season. I would also encourage you to buy one or two new Christmas picture books every year until you have a library of your own that you can joyfully share with your children and grandchildren.
If you want some more ideas for celebrating Advent, check out this post.
Celebrate Jesus at Christmas with the Word and Worship
- Do an Advent study for yourself, with your spouse, or with your entire family. There are plenty to choose from – simply Google ‘Advent Bible study.’ Or try a simple outline such as the one found here. The dates there are from 2017, so just adjust for this year.
- Read an Advent devotional daily on an app such as YouVersion or in print form. There are no downsides to being in the Word more at this time of the year – or any time of the year. You could incorporate a short devotional after dinner or do it the last thing before bed. Find a devotional the entire family can enjoy. I like this one, which we did as a family a couple of times.
- Read a verse each day about Jesus’ names, character, or titles. Use the list compiled by BlueLetterBible.org to guide your reading. Some advance preparation is necessary, as the list has far more than 24 verses! You can also find devotionals and Bible studies on the names of Jesus.
- Sing and play Christmas music. Enjoy the traditional Rudolph, Frosty, and Jingle Bells, but also make room for songs that celebrate the coming of the Savior. Teach traditional Christmas carols to your children and then sing one or more together every evening after dinner in December.
- Attend a worship service on Christmas Eve, even if your church doesn’t have one. Don’t worry about going to a different church – so many people only go to church at Christmas that you won’t stick out! But attending a Christmas Eve service, especially if there are a lot of carols sung, focuses our attention on what really counts at this time of year.
Celebrate Jesus at Christmas with Gift-Giving
- Participate in gift-giving to the needy. One idea is to put together a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Another is to adopt a child from an Angel Tree. Or you could give to your church’s or community’s food bank, clothing closet, or turkey drive. You could also take this a step farther and adopt a child through Compassion International and gift give all year long.
- In gift-giving limit the number of gifts. I’ve seen both three and four as numbers that families stick with. Three gifts – representing the three gifts Jesus received – could be one want, one need, and something to read. Four gifts – because some people just like even numbers – could add something to wear.
- Limit gift-giving for your spouse to what can fit in a Christmas stocking. My husband and I do this, now that we’re empty-nesters, but we had friends who did it all their married life. The rationale is to take the focus off gifts and onto Jesus. Besides, as adults, we often buy whatever we want.
Celebrate Jesus on Christmas Day
- Celebrate Jesus with a birthday cake. This is one tradition we faithfully kept – my kids would ask for it as they got older, just to make sure I didn’t forget.
- Read the Christmas story before opening any presents on Christmas day. Keep first things first! This is one tradition, along with the birthday cake, that we faithfully kept. Conclude with prayer, praising God for sending His Son to be our Savior.
- Pray after opening all the gifts. Pray for the gift-givers, give thanks for the love the gifts represent, and pray for those who will be receiving your own gifts today. Close the prayer time with singing all the carols you can remember to celebrate the day.
This list just barely scratches the surface of what you and your family can do to honor Jesus at Christmastime.
Be creative in coming up with unique ideas for your own family. I’d love to hear some of your ideas! The key is to keep the focus on Him, not on us, our children or grandchildren, or the many activities or the season. Just on Jesus.