It’s that wonderful time of year again. The holiday season is busy and stressful, but all of the searching and work we put in ultimately pays off when we can relax with our loved ones in front of the Christmas tree. While the gifts and decorations are magical and fill us with the spirit of the season, there is way more to Christmas than these things. We can do several things that prepare us for Christmas and remind us why we are celebrating in the first place. Here are seven acts to illuminate the Christmas season.
Keeping an Advent Calendar
Advent calendars are great reminders that we are preparing our hearts for Christmas. An advent calendar is a special calendar used to count the days of Advent in anticipation of Christmas. It is a tradition many of us are familiar with, especially if we grew up in a Christian household. One of the wonderful things about keeping an advent calendar is the anticipation of opening the calendar each day. Going through an advent calendar is a great activity for your family. Try to choose one that includes snippets of the birth of Jesus story. There are also ones that include little pictures, poems, or ornaments that reflect the true meaning of Christmas. While you can purchase advent calendars that are ready to go, you can also come together and make one yourself! If you’re starting your advent calendar late into the season, that’s ok. Nobody will judge you for spending one day to catch up on the days that you’ve missed.
Heartfelt Christmas CardsExchanging Christmas cards with family and loved ones is a wonderful way to express your love while also sharing the love of Christ with others. Remember to be intentional with your Christmas cards. No matter what kind of card you send, whether you send out a family portrait, a handmade card, or even a post on social media, be sure to think about the message you share in your greetings. Picking out cards together as a family is a wonderful tradition to begin if you haven’t already started this one. This Christmas, challenge your children to pick the very best card that doesn’t just make them feel warm and fuzzy but focuses on Jesus. Many beautifully written Christmas cards include Christian messages.
Putting Together a Nativity Scene
Many Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus by displaying or reenacting the nativity story. Doing this is a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Putting up a nativity is more than just a timeline leading up to Jesus’ birth. It is a powerful reminder of the gift of salvation and forgiveness offered through the gift of Jesus to us. Our Heavenly Father provides a way for our sins to be forgiven, and the gift of salvation is present in this. He offers this special gift because He truly loves us. This Christmas consider putting a nativity scene together with your family and loved ones. Many families purchase nativity sets, big and small. Challenge yourself to go through the Christmas story as you set this scene up. This can be an especially fun thing to do with young children who are still learning the Christmas story.
Decorating a Christmas Tree
Decorating a Christmas tree is one of the biggest reminders that Christmas is here. In fact, putting up Christmas decorations early can improve your mood, according to scientists. Decorating for Christmas brings up feelings of nostalgia and can evoke strong feelings of childhood, according to psychoanalyst Steve McKeown. “Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extends the excitement,” McKeown said. In the stressful and anxious world, we live in, doing something as simple as decorating the Christmas tree can make you feel really good. The Christmas tree is also a place where you can display Jesus and other symbols of faith. This year, consider decorating your tree with many symbols of Christ to remind yourself and others in your family how Jesus is at the center of the season.
Reading the Christmas Story
Reading the Christmas illuminates the season and is wonderful reminder of what we’re really celebrating. In the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to forget to focus on the Christmas story. Many people don’t take the time to even look over it unless they have an advent calendar or go to church. Yet, reading the Christmas story, especially with family, can be a great way to focus on Jesus and connect with loved ones. Take time to read important Christmas texts like Matthew 1:23, “…they shall call His name Immanuel which means God with us.” If you don’t read the Christmas story every year, consider making this a new family tradition. It is worth doing, and a practice your children can pass on to theirs one day.
They say that it is better to give than to receive. Christmas is one of the best times to reflect on this. Many people forget that the main reason we have the custom of giving and receiving presents is to remind us of the presents given to baby Jesus by the Wise Men. These were frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Christmas is also a wonderful chance to help those who are less fortunate who really need our support. Generally, charity donations are up during this time of year. Maybe this is because we remember Jesus and how He took the time to help those around Him, regardless of their status or wealth. We are called to do the same, not just at Christmas, but at all times of the year. Consider helping someone who is in need today.
Attending a Christmas Service
More people attend church on Christmas Eve than any other day during the church year. Since there are so many people in attendance during this time of year, it provides a unique opportunity to reach and engage with believers and non-believers alike. If you are not able to attend a service in person, consider attending your church’s online service. If you don’t have a home congregation, many ministries will host Christmas services on social media and tv. The Christmas serve centers on the birth of Christ, so to make this season especially meaningful, you should take out the time to give thanks to God for this gift. The service may leave a really lasting impression on you.
Make sure that whatever you are doing this season truly reflects Jesus. Any act or tradition you complete should emphasize Christmas's real meaning and the gift that Jesus’ life offers us. Try doing a few of these acts on the list if you didn’t already plan to. Take time to practice mindfulness in them. It will mean so much more in the end.