What if, instead of being frustrated at the over-commercialization of the Christmas season, we saw it as an opportunity? I get the idea of pushing back against Santa, against too many gifts, and the overeating that just seems normalized. I get it, but I just don't think it is effective discipleship to be marked by what we are against. Our friends are made to feel awkward; we can come off high and mighty, our kids can be made to feel guilty or conflicted for referencing Santa. It just doesn't seem to set anyone up for real life.
What if we inserted a few small practices that caused the whole season to come alive for Jesus?
Santa, caroling, cookies, gifts, reindeer, and outdoor trees placed inside with lights. Instead of deciding "yes" or "no," consider how you approach each tradition. Some you will still reject, and that is fine! I am amazed by the number of articles talking about each tradition's origin story. It is certainly interesting, but often it does little to impact my heart leading up to the celebration of Jesus' birthday.
Here are six ideas to keep Jesus the center of this season.
Look into Advent: candles, readings, and daily reminders. There is a rich Christian heritage here to tap into. Personally, in the past, this has seemed overwhelming to me. I get! However, let's keep it simple. You can buy a book on Amazon with a thought and scripture to read each day, or there are apps that you can set a reminder every day for 3-5 minutes to pause. It is remarkable how taking that brief moment will refocus your whole month.
Advent Sundays. Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. This, in combination with the first idea, can be a great way to impact your month. Start four Sundays before Christmas, and with an advent wreath (easy to find examples online), you would light a candle each Sunday during a meal. Consider that word for the month and pray using the word after looking up a few bible passages that use it. For example, on the first Sunday, focus on hope and each day that week, think about praying ideas around hope. Hope in the person of Jesus, who we celebrate as born on Christmas!
Turn the busyness and commercialization into reminders of how the whole world is celebrating the most significant birthday ever. When overwhelmed, stop and remind yourself out loud or your family that it is incredible how the entire world celebrates Jesus. Pray more people would know Jesus personally in a more impactful way than any gift we could give each other.
Embrace joy over competition. This one is hard, but instead of trying to outdo your neighbor with lights, consider ways to encourage and share cheer. Can you help a neighbor with lights? Who may find this time of year particularly hard that you could invite over for a meal?
Write a card or a few. Instead of rejecting consumerism without a better alternative, consider writing a personal letter as a gift to a few people. Speak of their character, value, and the imprint of God you see in their life.
Read the Christmas Story. Go to the beginning of Matthew and Luke and read the story. Imagine yourself hearing it for the first time. Imagine yourself as one of the people in the story. What are you thinking? Feeling or experiencing? How does the wonder of Jesus being born as a helpless baby to one day bring salvation impact your heart this season?
None of these just happen by accident. Do you schedule important appointments? Of course! However, you plan your time; these will need to be prioritized. Block out time on Sundays for Advent. Block a few hours in different places to pause, pray, read and walk across the street to bless your neighbor. It is worth it to honor, celebrate and experience the wonder of Immanuel, God with us. Jesus born.
Q. What would you add to the list? How do you keep Jesus central in the busiest time of the year?
Q. Who can you ask to share what they do to keep Jesus central during this time?