No matter how much of a Grinch you are, most of us do not think Christmas is inherently evil. Ha! That is funny to write. That said, many of us might not like Christmas, slightly dread Christmas, or want Christmas to be over with already. Christmas has been hijacked. Black Friday, malls, online shopping, and family with the best of intentions have all hijacked Christmas. Instead of a time and season for us to reflect on the miracle of Jesus, we instead find ourselves running around like chickens with our heads cut off in a season controlled by busyness, consumerism, gluttony, spending, and a frantic circus of parading your family around from one event to the next where kids are trained not to be satisfied with one present or one candy cane but to quickly move on to the next present and the next candy cane and the next present and next present and next present as we train them to be greedy, selfish, and dissatisfied. Christmas has become a circus.
Let’s embrace Christmas again!
Let’s create traditions and goals to slow down and savor the wonder that is the Son of God coming in the flesh. Time for us to embrace the humility and simplicity of a God who was born in a small-town, in a barn, and in a feeding trough for livestock. A Savior and King who was homeless, carless, smartphone-less, and Amazon-less. What if his coming and his living held both principles and keys to not just surviving Christmas but thriving in Christmas? What if instead of Christmas leaving us with a materialism and people-pleasing hangover it left us refreshed and was used as a springboard for our faith in Jesus Christ?
That is why I am writing this. Below are a list of seven values and some practical ideas that my family is striving for. Feel free to borrow these ideas or create your own to help you best live out your values for this Christmas!
1. Keep the focus on Jesus.
We all have fun Christmas traditions. My family loves to watch Elf and Home Alone and walk through those crazy Christmas circle neighborhoods where ninety-nine out of 100 houses (there always seems to be that one dark house that is either Jehovah Witnesses or missed the memo that they live on candy cane lane) are insanely decked out with Christmas lights and inflatables.
These are all fun and valuable traditions but if they are only traditions we will wake up in January and realize we didn’t talk about, think about, pray to or enjoy Jesus for a whole month! The culture has replaced Jesus and we can easily do the same if we do not intentionally keep the focus on Jesus. We have to make it our goal to keep our focus on Jesus and on the wonder of the incarnation. We want to remember Jesus, reflect on Jesus, and celebrate Jesus while spending time with Jesus this and every Christmas season.
I want to share a few simple practices that can help us keep the focus on Jesus. The first is to celebrate Advent and have a daily reminder, short story, or key Bible verse that you read as a family that points us back to Jesus. Another is to make sure the Christmas story is read and celebrated on Christmas and/or Christmas Eve. Finally, listen to and sing Christmas songs during the Christmas season that are about Jesus and talk as a family about what these songs are really about and even compare them to Christmas songs that aren’t about Jesus and what message those proclaim as well.
2. Slowing down.
We must say “no” to some of our old traditions and some of the gift-giving and receiving to accomplish this huge value. Two practices can help us slow down to enjoy Jesus and family. First, take the week of Christmas off of work, hobbies, errands, and some of the normal routine to slow down and focus more on enjoying Jesus and people. Second, Christmas cards every other year to have more time to focus on Jesus.
3. Time with immediate family.
Christmas is a great time to spend with relatives, friends, and that one crazy uncle, but if we are not careful, we can miss out on having even a moment with our immediate family. Plan ahead and have time set aside for just our household to enjoy Jesus and one another.
4. Time with Church family.
For many, our relatives might not love Jesus, and there is something unique about enjoying this season with others who have trusted Jesus. Prioritize spending time with your church family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Spend time in your church communities to celebrate evidences of God’s grace together and pray thanksgiving for all the gifts Jesus has given us.
5. Time for mission.
Christmas reminds us that Jesus left his home to invite us into a relationship with him. The Christmas story is a story of mission and the best way to honor this story is to live the story by inviting others into this story! Pray through who you can invite over for a meal on or around Christmas. Invite neighbors and friends to Christmas gatherings and events that share the good news of Jesus.
6. Time for charity.
Giving and receiving presents is nice, but often we need nothing more than giving to others who are in need. Giving and receiving gifts are not evil, but there is an opportunity to remember those who need the basics—food, water and clothes. Christmas is a time to worship our charitable God who gave us everything we need by choosing one or more charities to give to or serve alongside as a family. We can use this season to give to real needs and raise awareness within our household, church, and even extended family of great opportunities to give to!
7. Taming the Grandparents.
Grandparents are a gift and some of us are blessed to have generous and loving grandparents who love to bless (aka spoil the living daylight) our kids with presents and candy. Sometimes, they can be so excited about Christmas that they go overboard in the presents and candy category and give more than any kids could possibly know what to do with and can accidentally enforce that Christmas is only about getting.
It can be helpful to thank grandparents for their generosity but also encourage them to give each kid one small gift or a group gift or best an experience gift (e.g., movie tickets, children museum passes, etc.) rather than a million toys. If you are going to pull this “taming” off you will have to set this encouragement earlier in the year and regularly remind as it could be a bit of an uphill battle.
There you have it. Seven values to help us embrace Christmas again! Now many of these values make sense not just for Christmas but for all of life. And that is the point. Taking Christmas back means once again using it as a season to remind us of what is most important and leaving us refreshed and encouraged rather than it being a cyclone of consumerism leaving us with a busyness hangover. Let’s enjoy Jesus and his people this Christmas. Let’s slow down and say “no” to materialism and “yes” to a minimalist Jesus who came and lived humbly and simply and let’s look forward to his return!
Jake Chambers is the husband to his beautiful bride Lindsey, and a daddy to Ezra, Roseanna, and Jaya. Jake is passionate about seeing the gospel both transform lives and create communities that love Jesus, the city, and the lost. He currently serves Red Door Church in San Diego through leading, preaching, equipping, and pastoring.