A Christ-Centered Christmas

Laura and I often get questions this time of year about the kind of family traditions we have established to help point our kids to the real meaning of Christmas. This week Laura posted a recipe on her foodie blog (JoyFoodSunshine.com) and she added the following section on what we do as a family. I hope it can be helpful for you!

A Christ-Centered Christmas

By Laura Sandford

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic since we started this blog a few years ago. Ever since Bethany was born, we have been trying to figure out ways to keep the Christmas season focused on the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus.

This can be tricky, especially if some of your traditions and choices do not coincide with mainstream culture. However, I want to encourage any parents (or future parents) reading this that you need to do what is right for your family. Let judgement roll off your back, and be careful not to dole it out to others who don’t celebrate the way you do!

So here’s a list of ways that we try to celebrate a Christ-centered Christmas: 

  1. Read a book made for the Advent Season. This is one of my favorite things that we do to keep the focus on Christ during this season. Last year we read the book Jotham’s Journey and every single page had our entire family riveted. Ritch would read a chapter out loud every night after dinner, and even I would beg him to keep reading once the chapter ended! There are a few books in the same series, so this year we’re reading Bartholomew’s Passage! I love this tradition because it brings our family together every night to learn about the birth of Jesus!

  2. Ditch the Jolly old man in the big red suit. It’s true, we have never done the Santa thing with our kids. We hold no judgment for people who do, but we made the choice before Bethany was born that we wouldn’t. We feel very strongly about always and only ever telling our children the truth. Even when they ask hard questions, we always try to give them age-appropriate answers. So telling them that a man flies around the world in one night and brings them presents is completely contrary to the way we want to raise our family. However, we let them watch Christmas movies, read books about Santa and even take them to sit on his lap at the mall. We just tell them he is a character, much like Elsa or Captain America, and that it’s Mom and Dad who put the gifts under the tree. This has not, in any way shape or form, detracted from the anticipation, joy or fun of the season for our family! I love this quote from John Piper, “Why would we give them Santa Claus when they can have the incarnation of the Son of God? It is just mind boggling to me that we would divert attention away from the incarnation of the God of the universe into this world to save us and our children. Not only is Santa Claus not true and Jesus is very truth himself, but compared to Jesus, Santa is simply pitiful and our kids should be helped to see this. Click here to read/listen to the entire episode on this topic from John Piper…one of my favorites and a very good explanation of why we made our decision!

  3. Minimize Presents. I know this is tricky, especially when grandparents are involved. But our ideal Christmas would be our kids each receiving 3 gifts, just like Jesus did. We have tried to ask our families to spoil our kids on their birthdays, not on Jesus’. Ultimately we cannot control how many gifts they send, but we can (and have) limited what we let them open on Christmas morning.

  4. Have a birthday party for Jesus! We treat Christmas day like Jesus’ birthday party! We make Him a cake, and sing happy birthday to Him, and thank God for sending his Son to save the World. I have a good friend who even decorates their tree with birthday party items (hats, blowers, balloons, etc.) and I love that idea!

  5. Keep it Word-Centered. We give the kids books and toys (like this Nativity set), that explain the meaning of Christmas from a word-centered approach. We bring scripture in at every turn, and teach them that no matter what presents there are under the tree on Christmas morning, Jesus is the best gift they have ever and will ever receive!

True story: the other day Gabe said to me, “Mom, sometimes I have so much fun on Christmas that I forget about the reincarnation of Jesus.”

I giggled a little bit, gave a thorough explanation of the difference between reincarnation and the Incarnation of Jesus, and told him it was OK to have lots of fun celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

We want Christmas to be a joy-filled, exciting time for our kids, because that’s exactly what the birth of Jesus was (and is) for the world! It’s ok if they don’t sit silently contemplating the weight of God becoming a man. We don’t expect that!

We just hope that if they’re ever in a situation where someone asks, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Christmas?” Their answer is, “Jesus!”