11 Ways to Celebrate Christ this Christmas
As 2011 comes to an end, we’re sharing helpful lists to help you save money, stay healthy, get organized, creatively repurpose, frugally gift-give, intentionally celebrate and more in our “11 Things for 2011” series throughout these holiday months.
Written by Erin Odom, Contributing Writer
As followers of Jesus, keeping Christ as the center of my family’s Christmas celebrations is key. Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to decorate with snowmen, buy presents, throw parties, eat lots of (good!) food or even play Santa Claus (although my family doesn’t). But if we do all those things and forget Christ, what does that say to our children? And what does that say to the world?
Over the past couple years, I’ve been gathering ideas on how my family can truly celebrate Christ during the season.
1. Decorate with Nativity Sets
When we first married, my husband and I started collecting nativity sets from different countries whenever we went on mission trips. Sometime today or tomorrow, we will bring out nativity sets from Zimbabwe, Costa Rica, China, Argentina, Israel–and a few from North America as well–and use them to teach our children the Christmas story and about how God calls us to spread the gospel of Jesus all over the world.
2. Serve Others as a Family
Whether you serve a meal at your local soup kitchen or sew dresses for impoverished girls, use this season as a springboard for serving those Jesus came to save throughout the year.
3. Deliver Treats with Scripture
What do homemade treats or baked goods have to do with celebrating Jesus? If your focus is making the treats a way to show Him to your neighbors, it could be a prime example of keeping Him center! One of my favorite memories from last Christmas was taking my then-2-year-old and 2-month-old girls all bundled up around our neighborhood and delivering banana bread on Christmas morning. We simply attached a card to each loaf with a Scripture proclaiming Christ’s birth.
4. Decorate a Jesse Tree
I had never heard of a Jesse Tree until last Christmas! Basically, a Jesse Tree uses devotionals from throughout the entire Bible, starting with Creation and the Fall of man and ending with Jesus’s coming. After reading each daily devotional, you and your children can make ornaments representative of that day’s story to hang on a special tree. Last year, I subscribed to Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience, and received a wonderful free downloadable book of Jesse Tree devotionals and printables.
5. Count down the days with an Advent Calendar–or Wreath
Advent refers to a period of spiritual preparation in the season leading up to Christmas. Many families celebrate Advent with countdown calendars for each day of December–or with lighting a candle for each week leading up to December 25.
6. Keep Gift-Giving Simple
My family doesn’t think there is anything wrong with giving gifts at Christmas, but instead of lavishing our girls with any and every toy, we’ve decided to keep it at just 3 gifts–in representation of the 3 gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus. We are intentional about the types of gifts as well: They receive a want (like a new toy), a need (like an article of clothing) and a spiritual gift (like a new Bible). Another idea is to give gifts that give back to others.
7. Throw a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” Party
I’ve recently heard of families baking birthday cakes for Jesus to eat with Christmas dinner. Another option would be to throw a birthday party for Jesus. Invite all the neighborhood children and use it as an evangelistic outreach.
8. Dramatize the Christmas Story
My college roommate’s family has always put on their own Christmas pageant. An alternate to this would be to watch someone else act it out. The last couple years my family has enjoyed a local “A Walk Through Bethlehem” outdoor live nativity.
9. Watch The Nativity Story
Some Christmas movies are cheesy. The Nativity Story isn’t. My husband and I have started watching it together on Christmas Eve while we’re wrapping presents.
10. Create a Paper Chain Garland
Richele, from Under the Golden Apple Tree, and her children decorate their tree with a homemade paper chain. Each chain contains one Scripture from the Christmas story, and they spend the days leading up to Christmas opening up and reading the verses.
11. DON’T Do it All!
Last year, I tried to do it all. I was overly enthusiastic about the fact that my 2 year old could understand more of the Christmas story. But in trying so hard to keep Christ the center, I ended up stressing out and leaving Him out!
The result was a half-made Jesse Tree, an Advent calendar that remained unopened and scrambling to open up multiple Scripture chains several nights in a row when we realized we had missed a few. If you’re eager to incorporate some of these suggestions, pray about it and decide which ones best fit your family.
I think Jessalyn of Desiring Virtue said it so well here: “Trying to do too much during the holiday season, even good things, can result in a loss of the meditative spirit we are hoping to cultivate.”
- Resources for A Christ-Centered Christmas
- Wooden Block Nativity Tutorial
- Cultivating a Christ-Centered Christmas: Practical Traditions
How does your family celebrate Christ at Christmas?
Excellent post Erin. 🙂 We celebrate Christmas in much the same way…..and I love the Willow Tree nativity!
Thanks for linking me!
Keeping Annie’s gifts at 3 has made our Christmas a lot more enjoyable. Not all the stress and Black Friday shopping to deal with!
Great post, Erin! Thanks for the wonderful ideas and reminder not to try to do it all…I have fallen in that same trap before and not finished anything good that I have started.
This is a great list. We do 3 gifts as well for our 3 boys…figured if it’s good for Jesus it should be good for them too. 🙂
We just saw The Nativity Story for the 1st time last year and loved it! I think it’ll be something that we do every year now too.
I recently purchased the book “The Gift of the Christmas Cookie” to add to our Advent Book activity. The book focuses on using nativity shaped cookies to share Christ with others. I thought that this was such a special way to use baking to bless others not only with sweet goodness, but with the gospel message. I have ordered some Nativity cookie stamps to use with my oldest son. This way we can be talking through the gospel as we make the cookies and then when we give them to others it will be obvious that our Family is celebrating Christ for Christmas. The book even includes a simple cookie recipe.
Also, I just saw that a Printable company is offering free Jesse Tree printables (that are really cute) if you like their Facebook page. That would be a simple way to start the traditions without having to go out and buy ornaments or supplies. Here is the web address: https://www.facebook.com/printcandee?sk=app_217842908239139
In response to number 11. Were you looking at me? 😉
We do a lot of similar things like the jesse tree and advent calendar and always enjoy our christmas ‘month’…but I have never even thought of attaching a scripture verse to our neighbor goodies—DOH! That is an excellent idea, and we’ll carry that out this year. We always make white & dark chocolate covered pretzels (that the kids LOVE making + ‘sprinkling’) and put in little baggies.
Thanks for the great idea.
We do the three gifts for our children as well. We started it the first Christmas we were married and have continued and it makes the holiday so much easier and helps us keep the focus on why we give gifts to others to begin with. We do a new outfit (sometimes complete with shoes if they need them), a toy that they’ve been wanting and then a game or video/book collection type deal. We also have Santa only bring one gift, since there are children all over the world who need his gifts more than we do. That’s usually the “big” gift on their list (Nintendo DS, bicycle, scooter, etc). Some people will say this takes the fun out of the holiday, we don’t spoil our kids all year long so we can spoil them at Christmas kind of thing, but for us it’s perfect!! Happy Christmas season to you and yours. And thanks for the great reminders on this list!
I love your list! We limit gifts too, but I’ve never thought of breaking it down for want, need and spiritual gift like that! What a great idea! Oh, and your nativity scenes are beautiful!
I love your gift-giving tip, Erin. Wish I’d had it about 24 years ago!
@Stacy, I didn’t have space to mention is specifically, but I absolutely love how you do the Advent calendar w/ Annie! I hope some readers clicked over to find out how.
@Mary, thank you! You have so many great ideas. It’s a blessing to learn from more experienced moms like you!
@Sandy–haha! No, I was looking in the mirror–but I imagined I wasn’t the only one. 😉
@Sarah, those pretzels sound yummy! It was actually my hubby’s idea to attach the Scripture. He has all the good ideas in our house. 🙂
@Kari, thank you! I think the gifts are plenty!
@Katie, a friend gave us that idea. It helps keep us on track for sure! Our need this year is a little folding card table for the girls…where they can do crafts, etc.
@Barb, thank you!
Hi there I just popped over from Life Your Way and I have to say I love your post!!! How refreshing it is in the midst of all the gotta gift more, gotta do more, gotta get more posts to discover your post about focusing on the real reason for Christmas… Thank you. Here’s our post on Remembering the Christ in Christmas: http://www.se7en.org.za/2010/11/17/sunday-snippet-remembrance-day-and-se7en-ways-to-remember-christmas
We use a nativity set, too. We use it with our advent book that we read throughout the month, and add the “characters” to the nativity set as we read about them.
We do the three gifts as well. Definitely keeps things more manageable when you have 4 kids. Kids become so wrapped up in the “I wants” this time of year, it is a great way to remind them of the reason we are celebrating. We started watching the Nativity Story on Christmas Eve a few years ago and it has become part of our Christmas Eve traditions. I thought it was really well done.
@Desiring Virtue (just now seeing your comment!)–I absolutely LOVE that cookie idea! You have so many great Christmas ideas! By the way, I found you in the “A Christ-Centered Christmas” blog linky! Thanks for sharing!!
@Maureen–that’s how we feel!!
@se7en, thanks for sharing!!
@Dawn, I love the adding the characters idea!
@Jen, I think The Nativity Story is one of my favorite movies ever–not just my favorite Christmas movie! I may have to watch it before Christmas Eve this year!
I love this post! Our little girl is 14 months old now and we are thinking about the traditions we want to have as a family. I shared your idea about having three gifts with my husband already. Today I had to search around to find this post (or “that great post I got the other day at work that I wanted to look at in more detail”). I am thinking about incorporating the Jesse tree in to our family’s life as well. Thank for you sharing your traditions and reminding us to keep our focus, individually and as a family, on the reason we are celebrating this season.
Thank you so much for this encouragement, Rachel!! I hope you enjoy the Jesse Tree! Since writing this post, I also discovered Truth in the Tinsel, which is an advent activity book perfect for little hands! It might be better for your daughter next year. My youngest is 13 months!!
Erin, I read many posts on keeping Christ in Christmas but have got to say YOURS is the winner! I loved your ideas……some which I already do but some which were brand new to this H.S. mother of 6 (one flew the nest!). The Jessie Tree and the simple scripture chain are new and great ideas for young or older kids. I’d add that a favorite way to keep Jesus front center is the Advent daily devotion time with dim lights, candles on, and each child participating as able. My kids take turns lighting the candles, praying, and read scripture with an adult or older child doing the devotional. Michael Card and John Piper had great devotionals for advent.