Notice, there is no handle on the outside of the door...
Over the last few weeks I have written about how we seem to have lost Christ in our Christmas celebrations, and about how He has given us the greatest gift of all. Today I wanted to address a few ideas for how we can bring Christ back to Christmas, and celebrate Him especially during the Christmas season- but not only during the Christmas season. Here are a few of our Christmas traditions, as well as some traditions I have heard about from other families, and things I hope to incorporate into my family as well.
- A new kind of advent calendar- I love the idea of a Jesse Tree, and recently I found a different version of this in the December issue of the Friend Magazine. With this sort of advent calendar, each day leading up to Christmas you look up a different scripture having to do with Jesus Christ. This is something that I have done a little bit of (though not consistently) with my kids this month for our morning devotionals. They get excited to get further along, and it's a great way to tie in the excitement with Jesus.
- Make your own decorations- Last year for a Family Home Evening activity, I printed up some scenes from the nativity story for our family to color- angels, shepherds, baby Jesus, etc. I took the pictures and hung them up as part of our Christmas decorations. I think it would be neat to do this every year and save the pictures so you can see how your family has grown as the children's coloring skills improve.
- Give a gift to Christ- As a family, have each person think of something they would like to work on during the coming year and write it down as their gift to Jesus. Ideas could include being nicer to siblings, reading scriptures, saying daily prayers, giving more service to others, etc. Place each note in a box and wrap it. The following year, open the gifts and see how you've done, then write new notes for the next year.
- Have a candlelight walk- On Christmas Eve, we like to turn out all the lights in the house except for one down by the nativity scene. After the kids have their pajamas on, we start in their rooms and light candles, then walk quietly downstairs to visit the Christ child in the manger. There we read the nativity story from the Book of Luke, and we sing Silent Night. It's a great way to peacefully bring the focus back to our Savior.
- Limit the gifts- I read about one family who decided that if Jesus received 3 gifts at His birth, then that was enough for their children on Christmas as well. They limited each child to 3 thoughtfully chosen gifts, reminding them that the Savior is first above all.
- Give gifts of the heart- Celebrate the love you have for family and friends by writing heartfelt notes to them. Rather than spending time and money on finding the perfect gift, instead spend the time to write them a letter about how much they mean to you. Notes and letters with genuine words can mean so much more than an expensive gift and a quickly scribbled card. These also make great stocking stuffers.
- Give gifts of time- This time of year can get pretty crazy, so set aside some time each week for a family activity. Have each family member write down something that they would like to do together as a family, whether it's watching a movie and having popcorn or driving around to look at the festive lights, then each week choose something to do. There's no better way to celebrate the Christmas season than spending quality time with your family.
- (And the Grand Finale) A different sort of gift exchange- I have a growing extended family, and buying gifts for everyone is getting increasingly overwhelming, both timewise and moneywise. This year we put a budget limit on gifts, but it still seems sort of crazy to me, especially when we all already seem to be so blessed- we all have roofs over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, jobs, and transportation. So my suggestion for my family for next year was this: let's take all the money we would have spent on Christmas gifts for each other and use it to help others who are less fortunate throughout the year. We will keep our good deeds a secret until Christmas, and at our annual get-together, rather than exchange gifts we will share our experiences helping others. We can even focus our efforts on a particular family member; for example, my mother absolutely loves horses (hers and everyone else's!) so I could donate bags of feed and maybe a few hours of my time to an equestrian rescue facility in her honor. My sister-in-law is very eco-friendly, so I could maybe plant some trees in her name. It would be like doing a family "Big Give" (like Oprah's Big Give), and it would be fun to see how creative we could be, and how far we could make our money go, not to mention the joy we would get from serving others. I am very excited about this idea, and I can't wait to see how it progresses over the years.
My favorite thing about this last idea is that it celebrates the true reason we exchange gifts- if Christ was on the earth, we would give Him gifts for Christmas. But He is not, yet He has said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." We give to others because by bringing joy to our brothers and sisters, we bring joy to our Savior. What better way to celebrate His birth in a meaningful way than by giving to those who need it the most?
Dear Friends, I sincerely hope and pray that this Christmas you resolve to invite Christ back in. How sad it would be to have a celebration of His birth where He was not invited as the honored guest! These are just a few suggestions that can get us started on the right path, that He may know how much we treasure Him and the ultimate gift He has given us through the example of His life and His death.
Does your family have any special Christmas traditions that are focused on Christ? Please leave a comment and share!