This year our family is celebrating Christmas more simply. We are eagerly anticipating flying to Texas to be with my husband’s parents and siblings, leaving the week before Christmas.
Because of these major travel plans for our rowdy group of six, many things in the month of December have been simplified. And I’m finding it very freeing. Although I normally love the tradition of cutting down our tree and decorating it, this year we just have lighted greenery on our piano and a few Christmas decorations scattered around the house. Decorating took half the time and half the expense! Smaller and simpler gifts are being bought that can easily be packed in our suitcases. In fact, I was nearly done shopping by the start of December!
Enjoying a lower key Christmas has made me reflect on why I often feel so stressed in the month of December . . . trying to make all the right cookies, be involved in ten different Christmas events, and find the perfect gift for everyone involved in our family’s life. In all the Christmas chaos the true meaning of Christmas is often lost. Jesus is our greatest gift, and it is his life we are celebrating.
The other night at dinner we talked with our kids about how to keep Jesus the focus of Christmas. With concerned eyes my six-year-old asked me, “Mommy, is it wrong to give presents?” Of course, I don’t want to imply giving gifts is wrong. But we do want our children to understand that gifts are not the main point of Christmas. As we talked about other ways to share Jesus’s love at Christmas, from playing the piano and singing at nursing homes to buying gifts for someone in need, my six-year-old piped up that she is glad we can do those things and still give presents to each other (hint to Mom and Dad).
Teaching Our Kids About the Greatest Gift
So this year I’m on a quest to simplify and infuse new ways of teaching our kids about Christmas’s greatest gift. Here are a few things we’re doing.
Each night leading up to Christmas (ok, maybe not every night, but mostnights) we read from our favorite Christmas devotional Why Christmas at the table, taking time to discuss the questions and sing the beautiful hymns included.
We use our Advent calendar to think of an attribute of God or gift Jesus gives us each day. The kids rotate thinking of these and writing them on a piece of paper that fits in the pocket.
We give our kids an amount of money to contribute toward a World Vision project of their choosing. At this point, our son is most excited about the solar-power-light projects.
We sing carols with our own family some evenings after dinner.
We find creative and simple ways to bless others with our time and resources, whether it be a phone call or a loaf of bread.
A family favorite: We act out the Christmas story on Christmas morning as we read from the Bible. Although I’m wondering how many more years the donkey (my husband) can carry an ever-growing Mary on his back!
My encouragement to you and to my own heart this Christmas is to avoid becoming so busy in doing things (even good things!) that we squeeze out the time to ponder and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas. A simple Christmas doesn’t mean a diminished one. Even if we choose to skip out on making grandma’s shortbread cookie recipe, we still soak up the wonder of Jesus, the best gift of all.