“It's the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you ‘Be of good cheer.’ It's the most wonderful time of the year.” As stated in this class Christmas song by Andy Williams, Christmas is often said to be the most wonderful time of the year! No other time of the year is filled with as much excitement and gleeful expectancy as Christmas, and no one seems to enjoy the season more than children. It’s a time when we celebrate our Savior’s birth, spend time with family, enjoy wonderful food and treats, and receive lovely presents. Christmas is a time for making memories. But Christmas can sometimes be a confusing time for children in Christian homes.
At church and hopefully at home they hear about the birth of Jesus Christ, but at school and in stores they are taught that the focus of the season is Santa Claus and presents. As Christian parents we felt challenged to be sure we were keeping Christ and Christian values the focus of our Christmas celebrations. We wanted to be intentional about how we spent our time during the busy month of December, and we wanted to make sure that we were focusing on the four values we want to emphasize to our children at Christmastime: 1) family, 2) giving/serving, 3) learning truth, and 4) Jesus Christ.
I've written before about Redeeming Easter, Redeeming Halloween, Redeeming Thanksgiving, and Redeeming Santa Claus, and today I want to share how our family has chosen to Redeem Christmas. I am passionate about Christian family's redeeming holidays! By this I mean that we should neither reject our cultural traditions nor blindly receive them rather we should redeem them by looking for ways to incorporate the gospel message into our family holiday traditions.
Today we would like to share with you how our family keeps Christ and Christian values the focus of Christmas. Our family has an advent box – each day December 1-24 has a small box labeled with that day’s number. Advent calendars are available online, at Target, or you can simply make one yourself using inexpensive paper chains or another method. Each day on a small slip of paper we write down what activity we will do together as a family to celebrate Christmas. This allows us to be intentional about how we spend our time during the busy month of December, and ensures that we are focusing on the four values we want to emphasize to our children at Christmastime: 1) family, 2) giving/serving, 3) learning truth, and 4) Jesus Christ.
For a list of Advent Calendar Ideas for Christian Families, check out our family's current and past advent calendars by clicking "Advent Calendar Ideas" under "Categories" on the right -->
The first value we emphasize at Christmastime is family. Christmas is a time when we intentionally spend time having fun and bonding together. To emphasize our value of family we have the following Christmas traditions:
- Ice Skating
- Driving around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights
- Decorating our Christmas tree
- Baking cookies
- Watching classic Christmas movies while snuggled on the couch together
The second value we emphasize at Christmastime is giving/serving, not getting. At Christmas it’s easy for children to focus on what presents they will be getting for Christmas. Our culture tells us the best part about Christmas is receiving a large pile of presents on Christmas morning, but God tells us that true joy comes from giving and serving others, not getting. To emphasize our value of giving/serving we have the following Christmas tradtions:
- Operation Christmas Child - our children prepare a shoe box filled with gifts to send to a child overseas,
- Angel Tree - our children select a child who has an incarcerated parent and help the imprisoned parents purchase their child a Christmas present. Our children are actively involved in Angel Tree by helping us select the presents for the children and contributing some of their allowance money to help cover the costs of the gifts.
- Donate Food - As a family we purchase and donate food for the needy and often help put food baskets together.
- Gifts for Others - As a family we prepare small, inexpensive gifts for our friends/neighbors, usually food items such as Cranberry Salsa or Christmas cookies. We also help our children purchase, prepare, and wrap Christmas presents for Dad, Mom, and Grandparents.
- Three Gifts per Child - On Christmas morning each of our children get three gifts under the Christmas tree from us. We tell them that Jesus received gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and if three gifts was enough for baby Jesus then three gifts is good enough for each of them. Only giving our children three gifts makes Christmas morning still a celebratory time, but lessens the emphasis on getting a huge pile of presents.
The third value we emphasize at Christmastime is learning truth. There are so many wonderful, true stories to be shared at Christmastime.
- Christmas Carols - We share with our children the history of Christmas carols by reading Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart and singing these wonderful hymns. The history of so many of our carols have beautiful stories.
- St. Nicholas - We also share with our children the true story of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a real man by reading . He was a Christian who generously gave to others and stood up for the name of Jesus Christ even amidst intense persecution. We read our children The Story of St. Nicholas: More than Reindeer and a Red Suit which was published by Voice of the Martyrs. This books does an incredible job telling the truth about the Christian man who gave so generously! (Voice of the Martyrs also published The Story of St. Valentine and the Story of St. Patrick.) For more details on this see my previous post on Redeeming Santa Claus.
- Candy Canes - We tell our children about the history of the candy cane. We read them J is for Jesus: The Sweetest Story Ever Told and share with them how a humble candy maker created the candy cane to share the good news of Jesus Christ by making a candy in the shape of a “J” for Jesus or flipped the other way a shepherd’s staff, and by adding white for purity and red to remind us of the blood Jesus shed for us.
The fourth value we emphasize at Christmas time is Jesus Christ.
- Christmas Story - In the days leading up to Christmas we read the Christmas story from the Bible together as a family.
- Nativity Set - Our children enjoy acting out the Christmas story with our Fisher Price nativity set. We also have a beautiful nativity set on display (which is out of the reach of little hands).
- Christmas Eve Service - We participate in our church’s Christmas Eve service the night before Christmas to be reminded of the reason we celebrate.
- Jesus' Birthday Cake - On Christmas Eve we make a “Happy Birthday Jesus!” birthday cake and read My Birthday, Jesus' Birthday to help our children see the correlation between their birthday celebrations and the way we celebrate Jesus' birthday. Christmas day our children blow out candles on the cake and we sing, “Happy Birthday Jesus!”
- Baby Jesus Gift - On Christmas morning before we open the presents under the tree our children first receive the BEST Christmas present wrapped in this small gold bag. Our children open it up to discover our nativity scene’s baby Jesus inside. We spend a few moments talking about Jesus Christ, and how He was the greatest gift ever given. As it says in John 3:16 God loved everyone in the world so much that He gave us His only Son, Jesus. Jesus lived a sinless life and then died on the cross for our sins. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas! Not just because a baby was born, but because that baby was God’s Son and He grew up and saved us all from our sins.
As the Christmas season rolls around, what things will you choose to emphasize as a family? Will you let the month of December slip past wondering where the time has gone, or will you be intentional each day in making sure you are focusing on 1) family, 2) giving/serving, 3) learning truth, and 4) Jesus Christ? Let’s be intentional about keeping Christ in our Christmas celebrations, and always remembering that Christ is the reason that Christmastime is the most wonderful time of the year.