Here we go again!
It’s time for the celebration … the candy canes … the mistletoe … the music … the decorating … the lights … the cards … the cookies … the bills … the weather … the commitments … the calories … the lines … the frustrations … the dysfunction …
Wait! How did we go from “celebration” to “dysfunction” in just one run-on sentence?! How did THAT happen?!
For you … Christmas may be the time of the year that you either love to hate or that you hate to love. Christmas may bring out the absolute best in your life or it may magnify the low-level worse in you and in those you love.
Whatever happened to Christmas?! It’s a valid question and it deserves an honest and searching response. Whatever happened to the heart of Christmas and to all that it represents?
Whatever happened to the simplicity of sincerely celebrating a Baby who was born in a cave under the magnificent star-lit skies of Bethlehem?
Whatever happened to the song of the angels and to the awe of the shepherds?
Whatever happened to the wonder of the Wise Men and to the raw beauty of the manger?
Whatever happened to Christmas?
I believe that there are several answers to that deserving question – but I think that I will let you answer it for yourself! Are you up for the task? I don’t want to place any of my self-imposed wisdom on your quest to discover exactly how the celebration of Christmas has been warped through the years. However, what I do want to submit to you this first week in December is how to celebrate the heart of the season in a meaningful and joyous manner.
Are you ready? Are you ready to change the way you celebrate Christmas? Are you ready for a fresh, uncommercialized approach to this season that dishes up the truest portion of what our faith is all about?
First of all, memories don’t have to cost money. You don’t need to earn a six-figure income to take your family Christmas caroling in the neighborhood. What fun it is to travel from house to house in the winter weather and sing off-key at the top of your lungs! There is nothing like watching a six year old sing, “Away In A Manger”, “Jingle Bells!” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!” to the elderly couple who lives down the street.
Have you made your “Countdown to Christmas” chain yet?! All you need is green and red construction paper, glue, scissors and a free hour or two to cut and paste!
And, while you are making your 2016 chain, talk about your Christmas memories as a child.
You can initiate a family Christmas evening during the month of December when you make cookies, eat cookies and act out the Christmas Story. Put all of the names of the characters in the Christmas story from the Bible in a basket and then each member of the family pulls one out. Who will be Mary?! Who will be Joseph?! And who will play the starring role of the Baby Jesus?!
When my children were growing up, as the Christmas cards came in every year during the month of December, I would always place them in a big basket on the kitchen counter. Then, beginning on January 1, we would take one card out of the bowl every evening during the dinner hour, read the card, talk about the people who sent it and then pray for them. Sometimes this part of the Christmas celebration lasted into the middle of March or longer!
The best part of the Christmas celebration is found in giving to others. Whether your children are 4 or 14, teach your children to give to others at Christmas time. It truly is more blessed to give than it is to receive!
You can make Christmas cards around the family table and send them to shut-ins or to family members who live far away.
When my children were at home, we always had “Secret Angels” during the month of December. A “Secret Angel” was someone who would serve another family member. You can draw names and then find creative ideas to serve and honor those who live under the same roof. Perhaps a Secret Angel would make someone else’s bed, unload the dishwasher for them, feed the family dog in their stead or even leave a treat at their place at dinner.
Invite elderly or lonely people over for dinner during the month of December and have every family member prepared to ask them a question.
“What was your favorite toy when you were a child?”
“What is your favorite hymn or worship song?”
“Did you watch TV when you were growing up?”
“What is your favorite book?”
“Tell me your grandchildren’s names.”
The third way in which you can determine to truly embrace a meaningful Christmas is to always choose your family over busyness. When you say a thoughtful “No” to over commitment and to sheer busyness, you are actually saying a better “Yes” to those you love the most.
No one will remember if you attended the annual office party, the neighborhood cookie bake, the Sunday School class gift exchange or the annual Reindeer Run downtown, but your children will remember the memories that you make and the joy that was found in your home!
The fourth way to celebrate the very heart of this miraculous time of year is to glorify God in all of your choices. Before you spend another dime, before you eat another calorie and before you make another commitment, ask yourself this very telling question, “Does this glorify God or the culture?”
Perhaps another guiding question you can ask yourself is this one, “How does making this choice build eternity into the hearts of my children?”
Sing a Christmas Carol every day of December with your family even if you have to repeat the favorite ones several times over. Talk about the words of each song:
“What does, “O Come All Ye Faithful” actually mean to you?”
“What does it mean to be joyful and triumphant?”
“Why do you think that God had Baby Jesus be born away in a manger?”
Perhaps you can read “The Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens to your children out loud and then talk about the different characters and the choices that each one made.
Christmas is a time for grand celebration … for giving … for singing … and for remembering the Baby in the manger. I hope that you don’t miss the heart of this wonderful season this year or any year!