It’s a four-word catchphrase seen on magnets, bumper stickers and December blog posts, denouncing our cultural emphasis on consumerism: Keep Christ in Christmas.
It’s easy to say, but how do we put it into action? And how do we do so without self-righteously condemning anything that has to do with Santa, shopping or the greeting so many believers love to hate: “Happy Holidays”?
Well, I think we start by focusing on what we love about Christmas—what makes it unique and truly worthy of celebrating—instead of dwelling on what we dislike. In other words, we make a decision to be known for what we’re for, not what we’re against.
With that in mind, here are a few simple ideas on how to keep Christ in Christmas.
Incorporate Scripture into your Christmas prep
Many Americans recognize the Advent season (a time of spiritual preparation that begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas) by doing little more than eating tiny pieces of chocolate out of a cardboard Advent calendar. How about we keep the chocolate, but add some Scripture? The whole Christmas story is told in the first two chapters of the book of Luke. If you sit down with your family once a week to read the story, you’ll be able to cover half a chapter at each sitting. For smaller children with shorter attention spans, just five verses a night will get you through both chapters by Christmas Day.
Give a Gift, Magi Style
In the first two chapters of the book of Matthew, which also has an account of the birth of Jesus, we read about Magi, known to many as “wise men,” who brought valuable gifts to honor baby Jesus. As you budget for Christmas gifts this year, put Jesus at the top of your list by giving your first and best gift to Him. Practically, this could be a community service project centered around sharing Christ, a special gift to your church or the sponsorship of a child through an organization that shares the love of Jesus with kids around the world.
Go to Church
This sounds obvious, but church can easily take a back seat to the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Make it a priority. It may mean ducking out of a family event a little early or skipping that annual Christmas Eve party at the neighbor’s. Sometimes we need to stand up for our beliefs and show the world what makes us different. Taking the time to attend a Christmas service is one of the most basic ways to do that. And to really spread the Christmas spirit, invite some un-churched friends to come along. Did you know the majority of non-churchgoers in the U.S. say they would actually go to a church service if someone they knew invited them?
Check Out Some Christmas Lights
The catch here is in remembering what Christmas lights represent, and taking time to explain it to your kids. In the very first chapter of the book of John, the first few lines describe Jesus like this: In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. So pile into the car and take in those beautiful lights. And remember the great and glorious Source of all light.
Find a Christmas Activity Focused on Jesus
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking the kids to see Santa or heading to the mall for some Christmas shopping. But it shouldn’t be the only Christmas activity you and your children experience. Whether you take in a Christmas cantata at a local church or have some arts & crafts time making a manger scene, aim to keep Jesus-centered activities the main focus of the season. In my hometown (Charlotte, NC) we always set aside an evening for Christmas at The Library, where we know the birth of Christ will be celebrated. Other communities have concerts, live nativity scenes, plays and all sorts of ways to recognize Jesus as the true center of Christmas.
Hopefully these ideas will encourage us not to just talk about “keeping Christ in Christmas,” but actually do it. Our holiday season will be so much richer as we focus on Jesus. And more importantly, our joy may cause the rest of the world to wonder what they’re missing…and beckon them to enter into the best thing about Christmas and every day: a relationship with Christ.