However, I realized last year that, in my own mind, I have made Christmas more about lights and hot chocolate and presents than about Jesus. And really, for the Christian, that is the whole purpose of Christmas, right?! We are celebrating the fact that God came down in human flesh in order to be our Savior. We are celebrating the most important birthday that ever happened! Yet, many of us don’t really think about Christmas in those terms. Or, if we do, we talk about it just as much as we talk about Santa and what we want for ourselves. Really, I have to credit my husband with taking the lead on this. Last year, he brought up this fact, and suggested that we should really set up traditions for our family now that are Christ-centered and Christ-exalting. But last year, by the time we talked about it, I was so stressed out buying presents and doing all of the normal, Christmastime things that I just didn’t have the time or money to change everything. And, honestly, sadly, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to. But, when Christmas was said and done, I really felt like as Christians, as parents, we have a responsibility to teach our kids and be intentional in everything we do, including Christmas. (Not that we have to be sticklers and take away all of the fun things about Christmas, of course!!! But, that we need to come up with fun and exciting traditions that are centered around Jesus and His birthday and the fact that He came and rescued us! There is no better thing to celebrate!) Also, as our kids, especially Micaiah, are getting older they are understanding more the idea of Christmas and celebrations. And, as he gets excited about the season, I want Jesus’ birthday to be front and center! (Since Christmas stuff is already up in every store in town, we have already started talking about Jesus' birthday. Every time we see Christmas decorations, Micaiah gets really excited and tells me to, "Look!" at everything! And, that is an opportunity for me to say, "Do you know why we celebrate Christmas? It's Jesus' birthday! We celebrate His birthday because God sent him down to be our Rescuer!") Of course, like every other kid, Micaiah likes Santa Claus. So, we let him go talk to him at the mall. But, we always make sure to tell him that Santa is just a fun story at Christmas. Santa is not real. We don't ever want him to feel like we have fabricated giant lies to him, because if he trusts us and we lie in this small thing, then what big things might we lie about? We don't ever want him to question our truthfulness and sincerity, especially in the big things.
With the advent of Pinterest and random Christmas posts in summertime, I started slowly thinking about Christmas in July this year! :) And, my conviction on this became stronger and stronger. In October, I really started reading and researching and making lists as to how we would intentionally keep Christ at the center of Christmas and create traditions that our kids would love and would someday grow up to share with their kids.
So, here we are now, about to enter the Christmas season, and I am really excited to share the ideas that we have found! Here we go...
5 Intentional Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas:
- The Nativity Set:
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Basically, instead of having a Christmas tree we will have a Jesse Tree. The idea is to find an ugly, gnarly branch (Kinda like Charlie Brown’s tree :) And to decorate it with Christian symbols. For example, “an apple to signify temptation at the beginning with Adam and Eve.” Or a cross, a star, an empty tomb. We want our decorations and our tree to all be pointing back to the bible, to God, to Jesus.
I found this idea from John Piper here: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-did-christmas-day-look-like-in-your-home-as-your-kids-grew-up
He explains in further detail there too. :)
Instead of stockings hanging on the mantle, we will have Shepherd’s Pouches. The idea here is to constantly be talking about and planning on a gift for Jesus for his birthday. So, when our kids are big helpers or I see them intentionally being really nice to each other, I will give them a quarter or a dollar to put in their Shepherd’s Pouch. As they earn this money, we will talk about how we are going to use this money to buy a gift for Jesus. And just how do you give a gift to God, who we can’t see? Well, we give to help other people... Orphans, widows, the poor.... So, we are saving money to buy a gift that will help others and glorify God, for Jesus’ birthday!
On Christmas Eve, we will count up all of the money that they have saved, and we will look through our World Vision gift catalog and let the kids pick out a gift that they want to “give Jesus.” (Probably chickens or a goat that will be given to a family in Africa...) Chris and I are saving up some money too, so we can add to the gift as well. We will cut out the picture of what we are giving Jesus and put it with their Shepherd’s Pouches next to our Nativity Set. Then, on Christmas morning, Jesus’ gifts will be replaced with small gifts for our boys, symbolizing the gifts that God showers down on us!
I'm really excited about these Shepherd's Pouches, because I made them! What do you think?! :) (The last one doesn't have a letter because Baby Bennett still doesn't officially have a name yet!)
I always loved the idea of an Advent Calendar and wanted to have one when our kids were older anyway! So, I was exciting to start looking for one that I just loved! Let me tell you, this quickly became overwhelming! There are TONS of different advent calendars out there, and I just had no clue what I wanted ours to look like, and what exactly I should put in it. I always thought that there was some prescribed list of bible verses that you put in an advent calendar and read every day. But, this is not the case! So, I’m still working on my list of bible verses. But, each day I plan to have a small piece of candy for the boys and a bible verse for us to read. Next year, I really want to also have a small ornament that goes with our bible verse for each of them to put on our Jesse Tree. But, I don’t think that is going to happen this year!
The calendar to the right is my favorite that I found on Pinterest. Of course, ours will be a little different, but I liked the setup of this one!
Last but definitely not least, the birthday cake! It IS Jesus’ birthday after all, right?! So, on Christmas morning, we will wake up and have birthday cake for breakfast! (Served with fruit and sausage, because pure sugar for breakfast does not bode well for my husband for the rest of the day!)
We want the very first thing we do on Christmas to be celebrating Jesus! So, we will have birthday cake and then read/talk about the Nativity Story (Probably from our Jesus Storybook Bible) and why we celebrate Jesus’ birth. (Because He is God, wrapped in human flesh, sent down to be our Rescuer!)
Then, a little later in the morning, we will open Christmas gifts for them too!
I was a little worried about this one, honestly, because we have always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with my family. But, we really wanted to make sure that we put Jesus’ birthday first and foremost. So, on Christmas Eve we will be going to the Christmas Eve Service at our church, and then celebrating Jesus’ birthday the next morning, not opening gifts for ourselves until after we celebrate Jesus. (And, I was worried for absolutely no reason! :) I talked to my family about it and told them what we were doing, and they were totally supportive and not at all frustrated over a 20-something year tradition that we are ending! Thankful to have a family that loves God and supports us in anything we do to honor Him, even when it changes their plans!)
Micaiah really wants this dinosaur cake for his birthday, and he thinks that Jesus does too. :) So, we may have a dinosaur-themed Christmas Birthday Cake! lol
Our goal in all of this is simple: Celebrate Jesus. We want to not just tell our kids that Jesus is the MOST important thing to us, but show them. Actions speak louder than words... So, we want our decorations, our actions, our words to all reflect that Jesus is the MOST important part of Christmas, and the rest of life...
So there you have it, 5 simple ways that we are implementing to be intentional about celebrating Christ at Christmas!
What are some traditions that your family has? What is your favorite part about Christmas?
Full disclosure: I did NOT come up with these ideas! Most of them came from this article: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/how-we-see-christmas-symbols
And then I searched the internet, read some different blogs, and tweaked the ideas to fit our family!)
Also, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, by Noel Piper sounds like a great resource! I am planning to read it soon... She writes about the Jesse Tree and Shepherd’s Pouches, etc.