At two years old, my daughter already loves Christmas. She exclaims “Christmas tree!” and takes off running anytime her eye catches the colorful lights wrapped around green branches. Even though I’ve never told her about Santa Claus, reindeer, or present making elves, she knows all about them from watching Mickey Mouse Christmas movies over and over again with endless delight.
Now I love Christmas trees and Christmas movies as much as anyone, so I don’t mind my daughter’s exposure to cultural elements of Christmas. However, I desire her to understand Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa. I long for her to find joy in giving, more than in receiving. And most of all, I want her heart and mind set on things above rather than on earthly possessions.
These are not lessons I can leave to Mickey Mouse. My husband and I own the responsibility of pointing our daughter to Jesus. Our voices must be louder and more persuasive than all the societal influences in her life. But how do we accomplish such a challenging task? How do we keep our family centered on Christ at Christmas?
I asked that question to some fellow Christian writers, and I am so excited to share their responses with you.
Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions
Giving Instead of Getting – Christine Lutz, Dear Child Listen Close
My husband I decided to changing things up for Christmas this year. Mainly because if we did another Christmas filled with an overabundance of presents; I think we both would go crazy. We want to make Christmas more meaningful and less about presents. We decided the most important part of Christmas would be to give to those in need. Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” So this year we will forgo presents and give through Samaritans Purse. The children can choose to give things like chicks, goats, blankets or wells to give to people in need all over the world.
Taking the time to give, and talk and pray with our children is what I am looking forward to the most! After all, Christmas is about celebrating our one true King! Time spent giving our hearts to Jesus has powerful and eternal effects. That’s Christmas in my book. After giving to those in need, we are taking a small family trip for some quality time together! Presents children receive are fun for a short time but the memories we make together will last forever.
Hospitality – Carri Mason, Down Aspen Lane
Our family loves to invite others into our home during the Christmas season. Sometimes we share a simple meal around the table. Other times, bake cookies together in the kitchen, discuss a book from the comfort of the living room, play our favorite games in the family room, or visit over tea and cookies on the back porch. Our home becomes a welcoming haven for friends, family, and neighbors. The activities are always simple and inexpensive. Occasionally, when I go to introduce two individuals to each other, they will say, “Oh, we’ve already met. We met in your home when you hosted a gathering several years ago and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.” The Spirit of Christ fills our home as we bring people together in a spirit of love and genuine connection.
Create a Christmas Purpose Statement – Jill McCormick, Jill E. McCormick Blog
For years, I was overwhelmed by the amount of Christmas traditions we celebrated each year. These were good and lovely activities, but there were so, so many. I became so tired and cranky that Ebeneezer Scrooge and I could’ve been friends on Facebook.
We know that childhood traditions and memories are important so we strive to make it perfect, magical, merry + bright. However, without a filter and guiding principles, we try to do all the things and end up worn out before Jesus’ birthday.
What if there was another way? A way to filter what’s important to ***your*** family? A way to evaluate opportunities through the lens of how to worship the birth of our Savior by implementing your values?
In walks the Christmas purpose statement, which is simply a sentence or two describing what you intend to do or feel this season. The Team McCormick statement is, “Enjoy God, connect with each other, and serve those in need.”
When an invitation or tradition idea pops up, I run it through our statement. Does the activity help us enjoy God? Does it allow us to connect? Does it give us a chance to serve? If it doesn’t fit one of those three buckets, we take a hard pass.
Steal our statement or create your own. **I promise you this:** the amount of time, heartache, and money a purpose statement will save you is worth the 10 minutes it’ll take to craft one.
Lose the overwhelm, exhaustion, and crankiness this Christmas. Your family will thank you.
Celebrate Advent – Sarah Hardee, Christ-Centered Mama
Advent is one of my favorite seasons in the church calendar as a Pastor’s wife. It’s special for me to see the church pews fill up; people renewed in their devotion for Jesus.
I love celebrating advent with our church family. Each week a family is chosen to read selected parts of Biblical prophecy related to the coming of the Messiah, and then we sing the traditional hymn, “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” each Sunday. For a church that mostly does more upbeat, modern Christian songs, this really feels special and different. I love the liturgical feeling this adds to the service. Christians have celebrated advent for hundreds of years, and it feels historically important, yet distinctive in modern society, to include our family in the Christian tradition of advent.
Even if your church doesn’t celebrate Advent, you can find different family devotionals and actives to do at home on your own.
Making Room for Jesus at the Table – Julie Loos, Unmasking The Mess
Trying to keep a Christ-centered Christmas is hard in this day and age. There always seems to be something more to do, another activity to participate in and another gift to buy. The season happens so fast because I’m stuck in the striving and surviving instead of savoring time with my Savior.
Tired of rushing through Christmas, our family made a new tradition.
Over the last few years, our family has chosen to remain home on Christmas Day and schedule get-togethers with extended families either before or after. Remaining at home, spending the day in jammies and reading about the birth of the Savior, or another Christian book, helps in our connection with each other and our faith growth as a family.
We make a setting for Jesus at our table for Christmas dinner, bake and decorate a cake for Jesus as a birthday present to Him.
The past few years have been memorable and enjoyable because our focus has shifted from the bustle of the Holidays to the blessing of our Savior.
Cultivate Gratitude by Changing Expectations– BrinaLynn, Finding Joy with Brina Lynn
My husband and I were so tired of Christmas coming with all the anticipation and then passing with disappointment because it never lived up to expectations. So, we told our kids, “No more Christmas lists.” We explained a gift is something someone wants you to have; it’s special and well thought-out.
We also challenged our older kids to have no expectations and to choose to be thankful for whatever they receive. We promised to listen to them throughout the year, noting the items they would love to get. From that year forward, we have given them one big gift, one small gift, and a few treats in their stockings. The change in the atmosphere during the Christmas season has been amazing. Christmas day has become less gift focused and more Jesus focused!
Build a Jesse Tree – Tanya Gioia, The Joyous Family
In my family, we build a Jesse Tree out of paper with colored ornaments to tell the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.
Isaiah 11:1 prophesies that the Messiah (Jesus) will come from the line of King David; “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (ESV)
Taking a tree branch or a drawing of a tree, my family starts the advent season by telling the creation story and hanging an ornament on the tree. We tell the story of Abraham, Noah, Moses, Rahab, David, Ruth, and right through Mary and Joseph to the resurrection and return of Christ in the Revelation. Sitting around our modern kitchen table eating Mac and Cheese we get to know Jesus’ family story.
Just like when your best friend became your “best” friend by spending time together swapping stories and creating new ones, sharing the Jesse Tree during the Advent season is a way to become “best” friends with Jesus. Knowing the sticky details of Jesus’ family binds His life to the life of my family.
The pictorial narrative created by the Jesse Tree embeds itself in your heart. As believers, we are the fruit of the stump of Jesse living the story that Jesus created for us.
(You can find free printables to build your Jesse Tree at thejoyousfamily.com.)
Ideas Into Practice
After receiving all these great Christ-centered Christmas tradition ideas, I am excited to put them into practice so that my husband I, and not Mickey Mouse, are the ones teaching our daughter about Christmas.
What about you? Any ideas on this list you want to try? Do you already have Christ-centered traditions in place? Share in the comments about what you are planning to do to keep your family focused on Jesus this Christ.
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