Have you noticed the month of December is zipping by? If you’re like me, you’d like to hit the pause button and give yourself time to catch up, not just with shopping, sending cards, decorating and baking, but to catch your breath. And take a moment to savor the meaning of this blessed season. Better yet, to take time to share Jesus with others, with our family. Sadly, we have no pause button, but we can plan our days to make sure Jesus isn’t lost in the celebration of His birth.
What can we do to keep Christ at the center of Christmas? I have a few suggestions, as do a few Seekers. I’m hoping you’ll have others to share.
Spend time with Him.
• In devotions and prayer:
I’ve learned the hard way not to skip my morning time with God, especially in the month of December when life is the most hectic. The only way I can get a quiet moment alone with Jesus is to put Him first.
• At church services:
Pam Hillman, Stealing Jake:
“One way we keep Christ in Christmas is that we attend church no matter what day of the week Christmas day falls on. Yes, we will attend church this year, twice on Sunday, and our normal Saturday night youth service will have an added dimension as a Christmas Eve service as well.”
• At Christmas programs and concerts that focus on His birth:
Missy Tippens, A House Full of Hope, Love Inspired, Feb. 2012:
“One way our family keeps Christ in Christmas is to attend a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. My family of origin did the same for years while I was a teenager. It's a beautiful reminder of the Nativity story. And, from my vantage point in the choir loft, I can see the faces of my church family shining with joy by candlelight as they celebrate. It's a sweet service, and I hope all of you can attend one!”
Mary Connealy, Out of Control, Ten Plagues, A Home For Christmas eBook anthology
“For years our Christmas centered around church when I was the director of our Sunday School Christmas Program. I struggled for a long time to find skits and plays and songs that worked with our small church. We needed a play that had longer parts for older kids, increasing smaller parts for little kids and standing-around-doing-nothing parts for 3 and 4 year olds. I had a terrible time finding just the right thing. So I started writing the plays. It was really interesting to try and find a new approach to the nativity story. I tried to keep it fresh. Once I wrote a chant with all the kids parading on and off stage. Once I wrote a modern re-telling of the nativity story called "If It Happened Today." Once I set a Christmas tree in front of the church and we talked about the unusual Christ-centered ornaments and what each meant as the children decorated the tree. Working on the 2nd chapter of Luke, the other gospels' references to Jesus birth, and Isaiah's prophecies of Jesus, all gave me a very intimate knowledge of the scriptures surrounding that blessed event. I still have a very special love for some unusual aspects of the Nativity. I ended up getting five of those plays published btw. They were my first income from published work.”
Share Him with others.
Invite neighbors and friends to church, to programs, to our home. Buy cards with the message of Christmas. Share a smile and patience with harried shoppers and clerks. Wish them Merry Christmas. Let our lights shine.
Invite Him into our homes.
• In our decorations:
Display and share with children the significance of Christmas symbols like angels, shepherds, manger, the star and the Magi.
Pam Hillman, Stealing Jake:
“At home, I enjoy my nativity scenes. I have four. There is something special about displaying the nativity. It gives me a joyous feeling that the other decorations cannot match.”
Attribute ornaments. Buy and put plain Christmas ball ornaments in a bowl. Each night write with a paint pen on a ball an attribute of Jesus like merciful or holy. Discuss the attribute and give a Bible verse to show that attribute in Jesus’ life.
• In our traditions:
Sing carols, read the story of Jesus' birth in the Bible, watch shows or movies centered on the Christmas story, encourage children to act out the story using simple costumes like towels. One year our grandchildren turned the tables on the adults and gave each of us a part in the drama. Turned out to be a lot of fun. Buy a crèche that is plastic and safe for children to handle. Let them use the figures to tell the story in their own words.
Make a paper advent chain. Each night add a family member or friend to the chain and pray for them.
Place an empty doll cradle or makeshift manger under the Christmas tree. Challenge the children to do a good deed or speak a kind word every day during December. As often as they do, they put a straw in the cradle. Hopefully by Christmas Eve they've made a soft bed for baby Jesus.
Ask the kids to help you make a birthday cake for Jesus. An angel food cake mix, canned frosting with lots of sprinkles and a pillar candle in the center is festive and simple. Sing happy birthday to Jesus.
What God Wants for Christmas is a book set with boxes to open. The last box holds a mirror.
Julie Lessman, A Heart Revealed
"As one of thirteen kids, I’d wake up Christmas morning to a wall of presents halfway up our ceiling-height tree. I remember it being pure chaos with everyone opening gifts at the same time, paper flying and everything over within a few frantic minutes. As I got older, my childhood Christmases just seemed soooo self-focused and not at all demonstrative of the giving nature of
a God who gave His only Son to each of us.
It wasn’t until I married and we adapted my husband’s family tradition of sitting in a circle while each person took their turn opening one present at a time that I realized how magical and peaceful Christmas could be. Lots of ooohs and ahhhs laced with love and gratitude while we enjoyed the unwrapping of everyone's gifts as well as our own. Instead of a time of me-me taking, it became a time of focused giving -- of ourselves, our time, our patience and our enthusiasm on the loved one who was taking his or her turn. Wow, imagine that -- hours of joy instead of frenzied minutes!! Without question this is the greatest Christmas tradition of my life -- precious and holy time spent with family, embracing the true spirit of giving rather than receiving. Pure bliss!!"
Take the emphasis off getting by giving to those less fortunate.
We're generous, especially at Christmas. Look for ways to share with others. In mid-November participate in Operation Christmas Child by filling a shoebox. Donate Angel Tree gifts of clothing, donate to Toys for Tots. Donate to a charity in someone’s name. Get the children involved. The possibilities are endless.
Wrap gifts, feed the homeless at area shelters or sing carols at a nursing home. “Adopt” an older neighbor and shovel her walk, make her cookies, invite her to a program. Offer to babysit so parents can go shopping. Children can "give" promises to do chores.
Take the emphasis off getting by sharing talents.
Give homemade gifts that cost little but are truly gifts of self. Use talents for baking, candy making, woodworking, and knitting to create gifts. I treasure my quilted tablecloth, tree skirt and homemade ornaments made by my mother and my father’s homemade Santas—keepsakes that remind me of them and their love.
In the same way, encourage children to make cards and gifts for others. I look at the pleated paper angel with a Styrofoam head with missing raisin eyes and the tuna can ornament with the tiny angel tucked inside and fight sentimental tears, longing for the little girls who made them, for one more moment to cuddle them on my lap. I know that’s foolish. I’m proud of the women they are.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember during the hustle and bustle is to relax. God is working on us and through us. Things have a way of working out.
Share a tradition, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of my January 3, 2012 release, An Inconvenient Match.
THE BEST OF ENEMIES
His family destroyed hers. But Matthew Cummings’s job
offer—to care for his recuperating father—is impossible to decline.
Schoolteacher Abigail Wilson can swallow her pride for the sake of a summer
paycheck that will help her sister. And when Abigail’s employment ends, old
loyalties will separate the feuding families once more.
If there’s anyone in town stubborn enough to deal with
Matthew’s cantankerous father, it’s Abigail. It’s just a business
arrangement—and a temporary one, at that. Her good opinion shouldn’t matter a
lick to Matt. Yet their different backgrounds belie a surprising kinship.
Perhaps unexpected love will be their reward for the summer’s inconvenient
I'm serving coffee, tea, tomato juice, ham egg bake and buttermilk coffeecake.