I find it ironic that the religious side of Christmas is often overlooked, ignored, downplayed, and simply cast aside in the midst of the festivities. But, I get it, and sometimes December feels like a competition between the religious and the secular sides of Christmas…and the good side doesn’t always win.
At our home, we have to really work at keeping our Christmas focused on the birth of Jesus Christ and all that entails. Some years we are amazingly successful, other years not so much. Here are some of the activities that have worked for us…
-Family scripture study: we start the mornings by reading a scriptural passage that focuses on a certain characteristic of Jesus Christ and then we read a meaningful story or poem.
-Service: we try and make service a big part of Christmas. Some of my favorites: a simple daily service activity, “secret Santa” for the month of December, buying warm socks and delivering them to the homeless shelter, Christmas breakfast for the missionaries, Christmas caroling, visits and gifts to someone who really needs it, prayers. One thing I do every year is make dinner for my daughters’ dance teacher on Christmas recital night…a small gesture for someone who is a great friend and teacher.
-A visit to Temple Square.
-Sunday Church: this is a weekly ritual in our home, but extra-special at Christmas when we sing Christmas carols and worship together. I’m excited for Christmas to be on Sunday this year…my favorite day for Christmas is Monday. That puts Christmas Eve and the religious part of Christmas first, as it should be.
-The Crèche: setting up the nativity scene is a big deal at our house. We sit together and take turns unwrapping and sharing what we know about that particular piece of the nativity. My kids don’t always cooperate real well, with four girls it is inevitable that someone will be moody, but I know that it is an important tradition to them. When the girls were younger, they played with the nativity pieces, and I would often find them in a big circle with the baby Jesus dead center. Our nativity set is extra-special to me because my parents bought it in Israel years ago for my grandparents. After both of my grandparents had died, I inherited their nativity set. It is made out of olive wood and a common tourist purchase in Israel, but still meaningful and beautiful to me.
-Quiet Time: this is something personal that I have done every year at Christmas since I was quite young. I get up earlier (optimistically) than the rest of the family and turn on the Christmas lights and read scriptures, pray, and enjoy the beauty of the lit tree. I usually have some hot chocolate or peppermint tea and I always wrap up in a warm blanket. This ritual makes or breaks my Christmas experience every year. When I get too busy for these quiet mornings, I lose focus and start to feel stressed and frazzled.
My Christmas is always so much better when I am really focused on the meaning behind the celebration. Do you find that, too, and what do you do to keep your Christmas Christ-centered?