So how can we keep Christ central at Christmas time?  (Click here for part 1) We all know that Christmas is about Jesus, but by the end of Christmas Day the reality is that very little has been about Him. What the children and most adults will really remember is food, presents, family…or maybe for some, pain, loneliness, disappointment.

I am convinced that we need to think seriously about what it means to keep Christ central to Christmas and to PLAN carefully for that to happen. Without careful planning, without the deliberate creation of family traditions and practices, it will NOT happen. Even with planning it will be hard and things will not go perfectly. But without it, it is impossible.

So – how do we do it?

I’m hesitant to launch into a list of practical ways we can celebrate Christmas Christianly. Practical applications will differ from person to person. Our heart’s motivations are more important. So Noel Piper asks some searching questions which we should probably all think honestly through, before going any further. Meditate on these challenges as you prepare for Christmas:

  • Am I focusing on God, on His word and on His gift, so that my appreciation for Him grows?
  • Am I celebrating Christ?
  • Am I my father’s child? Do I resemble Him in my generosity?
  • Do others see why I am celebrating?

And then an all-encompassing challenge:

  • Do our decorations, gifts and festivities block our view of Christ or point us towards Him?

I find this question hugely challenging! It forces me to think carefully about gifts, decorations, Father Christmas, activities on Christmas Day and make careful choices so that Christ is central and not side-lined.

These broad questions are the most important,  but for those looking for some practical ideas, gleaned from books and other Christian families, here are a few thoughts:

Focusing on Christ (and letting others seeing you celebrating Christ!!)

  • Get thoroughly involved in your church’s Christmas life. Celebrate as a body the coming of Christ.
  • Use the advent season to make sure that scripture becomes a focus of Christmas . I only discovered a few years ago that there’s a whole tradition of liturgy and bible reading associated with advent and there are a number of wonderful ways in which families can orient themselves around God’s word in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It basically involves daily scripture readings but you can use advent wreaths, advent calendars and Jesse trees to help you focus on the Word. I was very excited by the idea of celebrating advent. I figured if we as a family spend a month focusing on Christ and His word leading up to Christmas , then even the crazy busyness of the day itself can’t take away what we’ve gained in the build up! We’ll look at advent in more detail in part 3.

Other ideas – big and small

  • Some families read the Christmas story (Luke 2)together before their big meal or first thing on Christmas Day
  • You can do an impromptu nativity play with your children and guests
  • Small children can help make a Birthday cake for Jesus’s birthday
  • A nativity scene can take central position in your house, maybe even more NB than the Christmas tree
  • Learn a memory verse or meaningful song/hymn to say or sing together on Christmas Day
  • Deliberately use the more secular symbols of Christmas in a Christian way. Find ways in which you can use these symbols to point to Christ. Lights are the easiest examples. There are so many verses pointing to Jesus being the light of the world. Read these through together and then remind yourselves every time you see Christmas lights or candles, that these point us to Jesus, the true light of the world!
  • Re-assess the role of Father Christmas. At the very least make sure that he isn’t usurping the role of Jesus!

Imitating God’s generosity

Remember we focus on giving at Christmas not because this is the true meaning of Christmas, but because out of gratitude to God for all He is and all He has done, we want to be like Him in every way we can. So

  • Find ways of giving to those who need it most (Christmas boxes for needy children are a wonderful way of doing this)
  • Let your children see you and become involved in your giving
  • Show hospitality and include the lonely in your celebrations
  • Re-assess your spending and your giving. Some people choose to make their gifts rather than buy them. Others have scrapped gifts altogether and rejoice in the freedom this brings!

Let’s look for ways to orientate ourselves, our families and our celebrations around Christ this Christmas time.