While I very much hope that June grows up thinking of Christmas as magical, happy, and glowing, I hope even more that she always knows WHY we are celebrating — that for our family, Christmas is when we remember that Jesus, God-With-Us, came to live among us as a tiny baby! That can be a hard thing to focus on with all of the trimmings and trappings of the season competing, so I know we will have to be intentional about it as she grows. Here are a few things we’re trying, and I would love to hear ideas from y’all in the comments!
— Interpreting the season. Even as we do things that our kids see others doing (buying presents, sending out cards), I want to invite conversation about why we do these things and why they are meaningful to us. For example, we send out a Christmas card to remind people in a personal way of our joy at the birth of our Savior, not JUST to share a cute family photo and update :) I think narratives and the stories we tell ourselves have a lot of power!
— Being generous. As many of you know, giving away an amount equal to what we spend on Christmas gifts has been a passion of our family for three years now. It started with one of Adam Hamilton’s sermons where he spoke about the shepherds, and it really stuck with me: “Christmas starts with the poor and the nobodies. I think part of the reason God sent the angels to the shepherds first is because they didn’t have anything to celebrate. Let’s start with them. Let’s invite them to Christmas. We can celebrate every day if we want, and we have lots of reasons to celebrate. But to celebrate Christmas the way God celebrates it, we must start with the poor and the nobodies.” Celebrating with the poor and the nobodies — I hope that’s something our kids always have a heart for. We have a long way to go in this arena, but I think there are some good starter ideas on my list here. We’ve also done Angel Tree gifts and Operation Christmas Child boxes in the past. Though we’ve traditionally given our Christmas gift fund to our church’s Christmas Eve offering, I think it would be fun to decide as a family where we want to give it as our kids get older.
— Decorating intentionally. Several of our Christmas decor pieces point directly to the Christmas story, like our Lindsay Letters canvas and our nativity scenes (we have two – one from Willow Tree and one hand-knit by my Aunt Nan!).
— Filling our ears with good stuff. In addition to services at our home church, we always love listening to Church of the Resurrection’s December sermons – after all, they’ve radically changed our lives in the past! (See above!). One of our many Christmas playlists on Spotify is reserved for just “sacred” Christmas tunes, too.
— Baking a birthday cake. This is an idea from Nancy that I’m excited to try as June gets older. Every year, her family would make a coconut cake on Christmas Eve, light candles, and sing happy birthday to Jesus. I love this, because it’s something that contextualizes Jesus’s birthday in a way kids understand (cake!) AND it’s something that’s undeniably fun (which not all “religious” things are to a kid, let’s be honest).
I also think that keeping Christmas about Christ is sometimes about what you don’t do as much as it’s about what you do, whether that means cutting out particularly commercial things or just paring activities/decorations/traditions/hubbub back in general to make way for quiet, service, and family time.
I would LOVE to hear: if you’re a Christian, how do you keep Christmas about Christ in your heart and home, whether or not you have kids? I’m always looking for ideas for me, too! :)