How can you keep Christ in Christmas and lead your family to do the same? Each December, many Christian parents ask this question as their good intentions are crowded with secular sights, sounds, and busyness of the season.
We asked some of our Intersect contributors what practices and rhythms they participated in to keep Christ in Christmas. Here are some of their responses. We pray they encourage you and your family this Christmas!
Related Resource: Southeastern Advent
The Advent Jesse Tree
By Greg Mathias
In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, there are certain Mathias family traditions that keep us focused on Christ. One of our enduring traditions is using an Advent Jesse Tree throughout the month of December. Through using 25 ornaments, we walk through the story of God’s redemptive plan and the advents or “comings” of Jesus. Beginning in Genesis, each night we read a passage of Scripture from the Old or New Testaments, discuss, pray, and then hang the corresponding ornament on our Jesse Tree. Now, to be fair, we are more Griswold than Norman Rockwell in our family.
While we strive for our nightly Jesse Tree time, we often end up doing three or four readings and hanging multiple ornaments to catch up after missed time the previous evenings. So, a part of our tradition is the consistent inconsistency, but we always manage to work through the entire set of 25 ornaments to tell the story of Advent. We end on Christmas morning with the Emmanuel ornament reminding us of Jesus’ first coming while also anticipating His second coming. In our household of six it is easy to let the busyness of the calendar and the daily grind overwhelm our celebration of Christmas. The Advent Jesse Tree is one way we hold onto the central celebration of the season.
St. Nicholas and Radical Generosity
By Owen Kelly
Our family begins preparing for Christmas on December 6th, the feast day of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Learning about St. Nicholas helps our kids better process secular visions of Christmas, while also revealing their shortfalls: “Yes, son, Santa Claus is real—and he serves Jesus.” We hang stockings, decorate the tree, and discuss Nicholas’ radical generosity. Known for his gift giving and love of children, Nicholas challenges our family to be generous to those in need. Our children (1 and 3-years old) are now learning to follow his example through almsgiving, as they fill our “Nativity bank” with coins to give away.
We also use a Nativity playset to “journey toward” the Savior’s birth. Small Magi figurines travel around our apartment, mysteriously turning up in new places each day, until, on Christmas Eve, the Christ Child appears in Bethlehem. The kids love finding the wise men every morning, and it reminds them of the goal: God with us. Finally, we go to church on Christmas Day to begin the Christmas season. During the 12 days after Christmas, we greet each other with, “Christ is born!” and then respond, “Glorify Him!” This is a festive season of gratitude for God’s Gift. A new tradition in our home this year will be the writing of Thank You cards, to all who bless us with material gifts.
Christ-Centered Christmas Music
By Megan Dickerson
When I think of Christmas each year, I find that our traditions center on the music we listen to. We turn on the Slugs and Bugs “Sing the Bible Family Christmas” album. Randall Goodgame and team have set Scripture to music and used poetry to beautifully tell the Christmas story. My favorite is based on John 1, but “Mary’s Magnificat” is lovely and “I Heard the Bells” is absolutely beautiful. Our kids love to dance to “Sing O Heavens.” But don’t let the name fool you, it’s not just for kids!
The second album that has shaped our family culture is Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God.” “Matthew’s Begats,” the song of Jesus’s genealogy, has taught my kids the story of the Old Testament, they know the order of events and that they point to Christ. We have been able to talk as a family about how the story Scripture is from beginning to end all about Jesus. One of our favorite traditions is to watch the “Behold the Lamb of God” concert together. We’ve never been able to go live, but this is our fourth year to watch the livestream of their concert from the Ryman Auditorium. Not only do we get to watch it live, but we can watch several times through the season!
Advent as an Anchor
By Brittany Salmon
One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions is to practice Advent. Every evening before bed, our kids grab a seat around the table while we read Scripture or a scheduled reading from an advent resource. The kids take turns and often bicker about who gets to hang the advent ornament, and then we read, sometimes sing, and pray. This nightly ritual (well, let’s be honest, with four kids we shoot for almost nightly) helps center our holiday celebrations on the coming King. It serves as an anchor during a season that typically lends itself to be hectic and chaotic. And as we teach our children to expectantly wait for our coming King, we help them center the holiday’s meaning around the baby in the manger as well.