I don’t know how you’re feeling as we head towards Christmas. In our house the natural excitement and anticipation is mingled with feeling daunted as the festivities come steam-rolling towards us! However much we might try and prepare as a family for the season ahead, December can feel like a manic rush – with nativity performances, carol services, family gatherings and lack of day light hours – it’s like you blink, the season is over, and a new year has begun!
However, we feel increasingly challenged to make a point of Jesus being the ‘reason for the season’, not just the presents, chaos and food. There is something about the build up to the 25th that needs to be reversed and reclaimed. Rather than just preparing earthly things like food, drink and houses, it should be a time of preparing hearts, minds and souls to recall the Messiah making his entrance into a broken world.
Our heart cry is that relationships would be more important than stuff, and that life would move slowly enough for us to focus on the centre of celebration: Christ himself.
Our heart cry is that relationships would be more important than stuff, and that life would move slowly enough for us to focus on the centre of celebration: Christ himself. The question is, how do we shift gear from crazy to communicative, from head down to head up, from consumer to caller, and out of ‘me and my family’ to ‘Christ and his kingdom?’
So here are some ways our family try to keep Jesus at the heart of Christmas…
Spend time in God’s word
There is nothing better than spending time out reading the nativity journey again and asking God to speak afresh through His Word. School nativity plays, concerts and lectionary readings are not the only way of catching the truth – real time in His Word is what centres us on His story again. It can seem hard to make time, but whenever we’ve prioritised reading His Word, we have never regretted it.
It can seem hard to make time, but whenever we've prioritised reading His Word, we have never regretted it.
Relive the story
Creating space with the children to journey the story of Zechariah, Elizabeth, John, Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and all the other incredible individuals, has helped our lives become so much richer at this time of year. We love the idea of counting down together, so instead of just lego and chocolate countdown calendars, we’ve added the customary nativity story to ‘open’ each day. As a family with invited friends, we acknowledge that the light of God is coming by lighting an advent ring with five candles counting down towards Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem on that ancient day. The kids love the count down and candles – who doesn’t enjoy lighting up the darkness?! On Christmas day all the candles are lit and we thank God for coming into the world to save us and bring us back into relationship with Him.
Celebrate Jesus’ birthday
Alongside heading to church to celebrate Christ, we also mark Christmas day as his birthday with a cake (or Christmas pud) and gather to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus and blow out more candles. Michael Buble’s Christmas album is a firm favourite, but we also enjoy praising God with worship songs and carols. Before opening gifts and thanking God for them, we pray for those in need and give thanks to Jesus for coming as the best present, into our lives.
Whatever it looks like for you, that calling to love Jesus and love one another should be at the heart of Christmas.
Keep Jesus at the heart
Some of our friends open their table to neighbours and those who are alone, others spend time serving food to the homeless. We sometimes create hampers and drop them as anonymous gifts on doorsteps – the kids love doing it in secret. Whatever it looks like for you, that calling to love Jesus and love one another should be at the heart of Christmas. Our prayer should be, “Lord show us how to make you central to the celebration this year”, followed with a plea of, “help me make space to implement your will ahead of mine, O Lord.”
May your build up to Christmas Day be filled with meaningful personal moments with Jesus, but also unexpected opportunities to share Jesus with those who need to know that the author of light and life has come into the world.