With the Christmas season upon us, the “have-to’s” of traditions can become consuming. Then we find ourselves stressed out rather than enjoying the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Personally, we have several goals for our family through our Christmas activities. In an effort to keep the season pleasant and worshipful, we try to keep our traditions simple, fitted to our spiritual goals.
After Steve and I were saved, the Lord directed us to some changes in what we did at Christmas. We first eliminated Santa Claus from our home. For a while we continued hanging up stockings for the children and telling them that Dad and Mom filled them during the night. The children’s Christmas stockings were too cute to throw away and too much a part of our family tradition. After a few years, though, we felt that we were compromising as the Israelites sometimes did. We decided to stop any vestige of Santa Claus.
We no longer put up a Christmas tree. The first year without this traditional Christmas trimming was because we didn’t want the frustration of trying to keep a toddler safely away from the tree. However, before the next year rolled around, we read Jeremiah 10:3-5 and realized how much the cut tree in the passage sounded like a Christmas tree. Because we wanted to make sure there was no possibility of the tree taking an out-of-proportion role in our Christmas, we chose no longer to have a Christmas tree.
When we made that change, we also decided to make all of our Christmas decorating distinctively Christ focused. That meant quite a purging of the Christmas decorations.
Simple Yet Meaningful Christmas Traditions
Without purposing to do so, we have created some family Christmas traditions that have become very meaningful to us, kept us Christ focused, and built family memories. We have found that it is important to keep these traditions simple and easy to carry on each year. There have been years when we added Christmas traditions that were a burden rather than a joy. It doesn’t take very many of these “good” ideas to make Christmas a dreaded time rather than one to expect with excitement.
We want our children to learn the importance of giving to those who have need. We participate in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach. On an evening in November, we will take the children to Wal-Mart where they all excitedly give suggestions on what to purchase for the boxes. On another night the children open the items that are to go in the boxes and fill each box up.
This year, one item for the girl’s box was a cute little doll. Our six-year-old, Mary, carried that doll throughout Wal-Mart with her. When we came home, she stood by the kitchen counter, where the boxes were temporarily set, holding the doll. We were so pleased, though, that she never once asked to keep the doll. She understood its purpose.
One goal for our family’s Christmas is that our children learn, “. . . It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The tradition in our home that reinforces this goal revolves around the children planning and buying gifts for family members. This has become very special to each of them. We will frequently hear them discussing how much they love to choose, buy, and give gifts to their parents, brothers, and sisters. Often they will make great financial sacrifices to do this.
We take the month of December to focus our family Bible time on Christ’s birth. We will spend some time in the Old Testament looking at the prophecies of Christ’s birth. Then we go to the New Testament and read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. We learn about, discuss, and ponder the miracle of Jesus Christ and His birth.
Another desire of our hearts is that our children would learn to serve and minister with no expectations. On an evening near Christmas, we go caroling to the nursing home and also to our neighbors. Last year the highlight was a dear old man confined to his bed in the nursing home and appearing to be almost unconscious. His eyes were closed and his blanket pulled up under his chin. When we started singing “Silent Night,” he couldn’t open his eyes, but almost immediately he began an agitated moving of one of his hands. As we continued singing, he struggled with his arm and the blanket. Finally, he pulled his hand out, eyes still closed, and lifted his arm in praise to the Lord. I don’t think there was a dry adult eye as we left that room.
We want our children to be drawn into worshipful thoughts of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve, we look forward to a family ride in the van to look at Christmas lights. While we drive, we listen to the Twelve Voices of Christmas, a dramatic presentation of the key players in the Christmas story. It is moving and awe inspiring, raising all of our hearts in praise for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us.
Christmas evening is set aside for reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. Many years ago, Grandma made up a program for this that we have used ever since. Each person who can read is given, on a slip of paper, a reference for a prophetic or Gospel verse relating to the birth of Christ. Grandad is the narrator, with people reading their particular verses at the designated time. We also have appropriate Christmas carols interspersed. This simple Christmas program is available for anyone whom it might bless.
To increase the excitement and interest level for the children, Grandma has an empty Nativity sitting out on a shelf. All the figures that go into the Nativity have been wrapped in tissue paper and are waiting in a bag by her side. Throughout our Christmas program, one by one, the children will come and take a figure from the bag and set it in the Nativity scene.
Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ is high on our list of priorities. Christmas affords us an excellent witnessing outreach time for Jesus. Each year, Steve, Nathan, and Christopher choose Christmas cards that are overtly Christian and glorify Jesus Christ to send to their clients. We have the opportunity of giving homemade goodies, which include notes with truths from God’s Word, to our neighbors.
We want what we do on Christmas and the days before it to have purpose and meaning. It is a special day and season—one of joy for the Maxwell house. We pray that as your family evaluates its Christmas traditions and activities, you, too, will make it as free of stress as possible with a continual focus on Jesus Christ.