By Annie Fox
Each year, I carefully place each piece of my nativity set in a very particular spot so it looks perfectly spaced. Jesus is in the middle, of course, Mary and Joseph are on either side, an angel is behind them, wise men to the left, and shepherds and animals to the right. This year, however, my two-year old, Harper, had other plans. After putting her to bed one night, I walked through the living room and noticed something changed. Mary and Joseph were no longer respectful of Baby Jesus’ personal space. You see, my little two-year old thought it odd that a baby’s mommy and daddy would be placed so far from him. So she “fixed” it and squeezed the three figurines as close together as they could get. Forgive me for reading symbolism into everyday life, but I couldn’t help but think that this was the perfect representation of how we should look at Christmas. Jesus should be at the center and we should be trying to get as close to him as possible. But how do we build traditions with our family that aren’t all about elves, candy, presents, and Santa (even though these things are all wonderful in their own right)?
My first suggestion is that if you don’t already have a nativity set, I highly suggest you invest in one. Whether it’s a toy one for your child or an intricate one that you carefully put on display, it’s a special reminder that the season is all about Jesus. And it provides a perfect opportunity to discuss the Christmas story with your kids or grandkids! While you put it on display, start a discussion. Ask them how they think Mary must have felt having to give birth to Jesus in essentially a barn. Ask them what they think it must have been like to see the sky fill with angels singing. And get their input on how to display all the figurines—you might be as surprised as I was that they have strong feelings about where exactly the wise men should go!
It’s said that when Peanuts creator Charles Schulz had a meeting with A Charlie Brown Christmas’ lead animator and the show’s producer, they had concerns about the character Linus reading the Christmas story from the Bible. They reportedly said they thought it was dangerous to start talking about religion. Schulz responded with, “If we don’t, who will?” Read the Christmas story (Luke 2) to your children. Do it every year! Sit them down with a cup of cocoa by the tree and encourage them to meditate on each verse. It’s a quick read—but an important one.
Another way to embrace the true meaning of Christmas is to show Christ’s love through your actions. This time of year, many people give to charities and donate food and toys to those in need. These are great ideas! But people who are in need of material items aren’t the only people in need. Some folks just need to feel that humanity isn’t all bad. They need to be shown love, no matter how much money they make. So maybe when you’re in line at Starbucks, try paying for the person’s order behind you. And if you like someone’s sweater, shoes, or hairstyle—tell them! Acts of kindness don’t always have to be directed to those less fortunate. That person driving a luxury car needs to feel the love of Jesus as much as anyone else—so go ahead and let them have the better parking spot. And give them a big toothy smile while you’re at it!
My final suggestion is to spend lots of time with family. This isn’t an obvious one when talking about making the holiday Christ-centered, but remember–God created the family. He wants you to build bonds and relationships, and spending time together does just that. Drive around the neighborhood looking at lights and blasting Christmas carols. Bake cookies together. Talk. Laugh. Enjoy each other’s company. This is of the upmost importance! And try not to stress yourself (or your family members) with things that don’t bring you joy. If you hate wrapping and it’s become a chore, invest in lots and lots of gift bags and tissue paper. If you don’t enjoy decorating every inch of the house, put up a few meaningful decorations and leave the rest in storage. And when it comes to buying the perfect gift for everyone on your list, there’s no harm in cutting back and simplifying. The moral of the story is, Christmas is about Christ and family—so don’t let the little stressors take over your holiday.
Christmas is a wonderful and magical time of the year. Leave cookies out for Santa. Let that ridiculous elf destroy your house. Put up thousands of Christmas lights. But try to add some traditions that include our savior, too. After all, to quote Linus, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”
Read: Luke 2
Reflect: How can I make Christmas more about Christ? What kind of traditions can I start that encourage my family to understand the true meaning of Christmas?
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for sending your son into the world for our salvation. He is truly the most wonderful gift we’ll ever receive. Remind me of this during this special time of the year—and continue to remind me of this even when Christmas has passed. In your name I pray, amen.