Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Keeping Christ in Your Christmas Picture

One year we watched a Christmas program at church in which a photographer and advertiser were getting a photoshoot ready for Christmas. They brought in a Baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Then they decided it needed something more, so they added some barn animals--each played by some of the Sunday School kids. That wasn't enough so they called for shepherds, then angels, and a star. They didn't feel it was complete so added a Christmas tree, a candy cane, several large wrapped presents, some sugar cookies, a few carolers, and finally Santa. Looking at the tableau they decided they needed to take the Baby out. Then they declared it perfect and said, "Take the picture." Just then we heard a baby's plaintive cry.

Do you ever feel like that's what happens to your Christmas. The rush to make cookies, buy and wrap presents, attend parties, concerts, and events has taken Christ out of Christmas? I have felt that way at times. There have been times when the reading of Luke 2 has seemed like an obligatory part of the festivities to be gotten done with quickly so we can get to the "real" fun.

So I thought I'd share with you some of the ways we have been proactive in keeping Christ in our Christmas Season. Maybe some will work for you.

Our own Advent Calendar -- When my oldest son was three I cross stitched a ten day advent calendar with a passage to read each day, a Christmas carol to sing and a cross stitched figure to put up. As we got more kids we had to make sure every one got their fair turn at putting the figures onto the calendar. That was our devotions for the nine days before Christmas and Christmas day. I made one for that son's four children to use now. (I am way behind on something for my other grands!) But it doesn't have to be cross stitched. Just hiding a figure from a nativity scene in a small box for kids to open and reading a corresponding few verses can get the message out.

Traditions that Focus on Christ -- When we lived in Lima, Peru we started attending the Union Church's Christmas Eve service that always ended with everyone holding candles which we lit passing the flame to one another and then  singing Silent Night with the electric lights off. When we moved to Bogota, Colombia, the Union Church there performed the Messiah and we attended with small children (two, three, and seven years old). The British Ambassador's wife complimented us on their behavior! The church we worked in had an early Christmas Eve service at 5pm because Colombians all celebrated that evening. Later, our church quit doing that and the Union Church started a Christmas  Eve with the candlelit Silent Night.  These, along with attending the Christmas program at church were some of our favorite activities.

Non-traditional Giving -- We had our kids use their tithing money to give gifts to children who probably wouldn't have anything to open on Christmas. We would choose a family from church that we knew had needs (this was fairly easy to do in Latin America) and our kids would go shopping and pick out presents for each child. My husband and I would add to the fund so there was enough money and we also bought some food for them. If you don't live where you know needy people, there are always ways to help others. One idea is missionary friends of ours in Burundi, offer the possibility of buying "Living Gifts" to help provide a living for the African families around them. You can buy some chickens or a goat or two! There are many other ministries that offer ways to help those who don't have as much as we do.

Invite Friends to Christ Centered Events -- This will be the fourth year we take our next door neighbors to a Christmas concert at Emmaus Bible College. We always have pie afterwards so we can visit with them. We've been able to have some good conversations with them.

Host a Carol Sing -- Most years our brother-in-law does this. He has everyone bring snacks to share and we sing carols in his living room. What a great way to join with others to sing out God's praises!

Have Nativity Scenes -- I was grew up thinking that having a Nativity Scene was a "graven image". But when we were married and decorating for Christmas, I looked around at the tree, Santas, stockings, and candy canes and realized that I had something to represent everything but the real reason for Christmas. We decided to break with our tradition and buy one. We have added to our collection over the years from different places we have visited. Having a plastic or wooden scene that children can play with is a good idea. Some friends even have the wise men come closer each day from the farthest room to arrive after Christ is born. We don't pray to the figures, they simply serve as visual reminders of the reason for the season.

Reenact the Christmas Story -- if you have creative kids, maybe they'd like to come up with their own version of Christ's birth either as a play, a puppet show, songs, or a story. If not, you can help them act it out. For a simple script to read (no lines to memorize!) click here.

Play Games that Tell the Story -- play charades, pictionary, or even hangman with words from the Biblical Christmas story and the titles of carols. This was always a hit with our kids.

Personal Devotions -- Each year for several years now I have studied one of the persons in the Biblical story and then written a first person account of their part in the Christmas story. Here are links to my stories of Mary, Elizabeth, and my husband's account of Gabriel. This year I'm studying Simeon.

The gifts, lights, parties, and movies are lots of fun, but never let them take Christ out of the picture.

For more of my ideas on enjoying the season click here.
Some other ideas for keeping Christ in your Christmas.
And another idea from a fellow blogger for giving kindness is here.
More ideas for a simpler Christmas from another blogger here.

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  1. So many great ideas here! I especially like the ones that share the message of Christ's coming. I think we'll get started planning our own live nativity scene here soon!

    1. Thanks, Stacey. We have enjoyed these with our kids and now our grands!

  2. Love this post! I've so enjoyed celebrating around the table with my family for all of our Christmases together. And now I'm loving the joy of watching adult kids establish Christ-centered traditions of their own!

  3. I also grew up in a congregation where things like Nativity scenes were looked askance. And also as an adult I have had opportunities to try and emphasize the details of Jesus' story to my children. May we all this year and every year see and share Christ!



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