*Warning! This post is a little bit long. It also talks about Santa. You’ve been warned!*
Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year! I LOVE Christmas. I’ve always been a major fan of the entire season ever since I was little. I can remember, growing up, that I would start a countdown to Christmas on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker like 100 days out! I would string lights all up in my room. I would do as much as I could to help my parents put out decorations and bake with my mama for our friends and neighbors (her Christmas tree cakes were the COOLEST! So were her candy trains!) and help wrap presents… I just love the whole spirit of Christmas!! It has always been just magical 🙂 And all of those memories are well and good and happy!
As a parent to two youngsters, I want to instill a love for Christmas into our kiddos, too! But with the ever-growing societal shift from making Christmas less about the true meaning (baby Jesus!) and more about Santa and presents, I think it’s important as a Christian parent to consciously make our Christmases just a little different. We want to spend less, give more, love well, and celebrate the true reason for the season.
How exactly Price and I plan to do that is still a work in progress, but we have ideas! Our life group at church has spent the past four weeks talking about how to keep Christmas Jesus-centered while making it super fun and every bit as magical as any Christmas anyone could ever imagine! I mean, the whole center point of Christmas is that JESUS CAME TO EARTH TO LIVE LIFE AS A HUMAN AND SAVE US FROM OUR SINS! AND GIVE US ETERNAL LIFE! Life with him after death is just about as magical as it gets if you really think about it!
Go ahead! Take a sec to think about that! 🙂
Ok! Now, I’ll share a few small ideas that Price and I have entertained about how to reclaim Christmas for Jesus within our family. Then I’ll share some tips, pointers, and ideas from several girls in my life group who were kind enough to weigh in on the topic as well!
(1) Currently, Price and I still plan to do Santa for the kiddos. But Santa is gonna look a little different from how he looked when we were kids. Also, using Santa and his gifts as a bargaining tool for good behavior is not something we do. (To quote my sister in law, “My kids should behave because I tell them to. Not because they’re being watched by some fictional man.” Ha! Amen, sista! Could not have said that better myself!) Santa is just a nice guy who likes to give gifts to others out of the love he has in his heart! Santa gives each of our kids three gifts to represent the three gifts that Jesus got from the wisemen! Yes, I know these men were not there on his actual day of birth, and we are not even sure there were three of them! They just happened to bring three gifts, as recorded in scripture. But we like the symbolism because it just gives us another way to enter Jesus into the Christmas conversation!
(2) Price and I have decided to spend less on each other this year, then give that extra bit to a ministry. Exact ministry is TBD 🙂
(3) To toddlers, birthdays are all about cake and presents! So we are totally baking Jesus a birthday cake this year! Wilson already requested a trip to Kroger to get the supplies, so they are currently sitting on the counter ready to be baked! And since Jesus doesn’t really need any physical presents, we’ve been telling the kids that a cool way to give to Jesus is by being sweet to siblings and friends and by being respectful to parents and other adults. Gooby, yes, but it seems to be sticking a little with Wilson! Lily Ryan, on the other hand, is her own woman. Also, she’s not even two. So… Maybe next year! 😉
(4) Instead of Elf on a Shelf, we are doing Donkey in the Living Room. It’s only a 10 day commitment rather than 25, so that’s a win for mama over here! And each day’s reading is very short and cute, teaching about a different person/animal related to the nativity. I think next year we may do Star from Afar! I hear awesome things.
(5) As far as presents, the Lord has changed my heart big time this year after a lot of prayer that started last Christmas when I was convicted about my wishes for more. This is the first year in forever that I haven’t started a list in August and just added and added and added things I wanted to it. There is very little I want this year, and it’s SO freeing to not have thoughts of “what will I do if I don’t get this that I asked for?” (Which has honestly been a thought of mine in years past.) There are several very sweet and caring and generous people in my family who are going to buy me a gift no matter what, so I tried to be sneaky this year (ha!) and ask for gift cards to specific places that I can then turn around and re-gift to a wonderful organization that has really been on my heart these past several months that rescues people from human trafficking and helps them get back on their feet. Kind of excited to get to share what I get with them! 🙂
(6) The tradition we started last year of unwrapping a book a day in December has been so fun because over half of the books are centered around baby Jesus, so it’s neat to be able to get to read the nativity story in several different ways and from several different perspectives! A few nights ago when I asked Wilson what he loved most about the Christmas season, he said, “all our Christmas books!” 🙂 So yay! (You can see the original 25 books here, then how we slightly edited for this year here!)
(7) We put a wooden Melissa & Doug nativity set at our kids’ little “play table” so they can play with the different people and animals. (Since it’s wooden, they can’t really hurt it.) It has led to a few small discussions with Wilson about who each person is, so that’s been fun. I’m hoping that in the coming years, this will continue to be a good conversation starter!
So those are our 2017 baby steps toward approaching Christmas with a more Christ-centered mindset! Our ideas are not perfect, but I will say, this year, we are much more aware of keeping things slanted more towards Jesus than we ever have been before. And y’all, our spirits are LIGHT! We are more joyful holidayers this year 🙂
Here are a few more ideas and family traditions that have been talked about in our life group that I think are wonderful! Some are so super simple and some are more involved. And yes, some even sound a little gooby. But if you can’t be gooby with kids, who can you be gooby with?! ha! I say, when your kids are young, using any and every opportunity to point back to Jesus is a GREAT opportunity that should be taken advantage of!
“Love well. This season is so special to us as a family so we really try to make an effort to love each other well during this holiday. We do our best to give the gift of presence all season long by spending quality time together, by baking a birthday cake for Jesus, by going to look at Christmas lights, by reading stories about Jesus together, by making gingerbread houses, ultimately by worrying less about the mess and more about the memories. I hope that when our kids grow up they will remember the quality time and the conversations about our Savior that blossomed out of that time for years to come.”
“Every time we see Christmas lights, we tell our girls that Jesus is the light of the world!”
“Talk often. We do our best to point the conversation to Jesus whenever possible. For now that means reminding our daughter (age 3) her that Christmas is about Jesus birthday. The conversations are simple and brief but over time I hope we can dig into it more.”
“We plan to read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and reflect on Jesus’s birth in the quiet of our home with our little family.”
“As a young child, I sat on my mother’s kitchen counter and she taught me how to make banana bread. We made multiple loaves and wrapped them with pretty ribbons. During the week of Christmas, we loaded the car, dressed in our Christmas attire, and visited families in our community. For some it was an annual visit and for others it was a smile after losing a loved one or being alone for the holiday. To this day, my mom still carries on the tradition in her hometown and now I get to share the kitchen with my four year old daughter and walk our neighborhood to deliver some Christmas cheer.”
“Give more. We do our best to focus on giving more of our time and resources rather than focusing on the long list of gifts. For us as parents, we don’t give gifts to each other, rather focusing gift giving for times like anniversaries and birthdays (when the occasion is about US). For our daughter, that means we focus on the 4 gift rule: 1 thing you want, 1 thing you need, 1 thing to wear, and 1 thing to read. For now this is pretty simple. I anticipate as she gets older needing to fine tune some requirements for the list. For example, want and wear could become quite expensive!”
“Since stockings are the first thing most people open on Christmas day, we decided that instead of candy and toys in our little boy’s stocking, we are going to put items that point toward scriptures. To us, that is one way we can keep Jesus on the forefront of our mind all day long!”
This whole discussion stemmed from the idea of Advent Conspiracy (more about that here), as well as a focus on Romans 12: 1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Does your family do something specific to make your Christmas look just a little bit different? I would absolutely love to hear, as we are works in progress when it comes to shifting our holiday focus! Also, I do feel the need to mention that how we “do” Christmas will always be an ongoing discussion for us. I pray that the Lord continues to get a hold of us and continue growing us and our family Christmas traditions to reflect him more clearly!
Thank y’all SO much for reading today. I know it was a bit long, but there was just too much good info not to share! And huge thanks to my friends who sent me their ideas and traditions or shared in life group and let me use them in this post. Y’all are awesome 🙂