Keep Christ in Christmas This Year: 15 Low-Stress Ideas
Yep, I’m posting about Christmas. Not because I’m excited that the stores started in with the holiday ads already, but just because after you make that transition from plain old regular adult to parent, planning ahead becomes a much bigger deal. Christmas is coming, and as Christian mamas, we’ve got to be ready. I’m not telling you to write your shopping list now–that’s not the planning I mean. What you really need is a toolbox full of practical ways to keep Christ in Christmas this year while we celebrate with our children.
Keep reading, and I’ll help you out with that.
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Christmas is my favorite holiday, by far, and for so many reasons. I love Christmas music, I love the smell of Christmas trees and the way they look all decorated and glowing with beautiful lights, I love the anticipation of Christmas gifts (both the ones I’m giving and receiving), I love the same Christmas songs over and over and over again (but only AFTER Thanksgiving!), I love the family time that comes with Christmas, and I love yummy Christmas treats. I love Christmas.
…even though I love all of those things, those are not the things I want my family to focus on during the upcoming holiday season.
And, no, I’m not trying to stamp out all of that holiday joy and festivity.
I just want Jesus to be the focus of our holiday joy and festivity, rather than an afterthought.
Until E was born and his first couple of Christmases rolled around, I didn’t put a lot of thought into how intentional we would need to be to stay focused on keeping our holiday Christ-centered.
Maybe you’ve figured out how to navigate Christmas with your kids–if you have, that’s great! I’d love to hear from you about how you handle it! But if not, I have some ideas for your family to keep Christ in Christmas this year.
Keep Jesus as the Focus
Here’s the honest truth: if Christ isn’t the focus of your home January through November, it’s going to be tough to keep Christmas Christ-centered.
I’m not saying that to discourage you, but just to remind you that Jesus is really the reason for EVERY season, and if we’re constantly leading our children to Him, then keeping Christmas about Him will be a seamless transition from the culture of gratitude that we’re cultivating in our homes during the Thanksgiving season.
The point is to be intentional every. single. day. about family discipleship. We’re leading our kids to Jesus always so making Him the honored guest in our homes is an every day thing. In December, He’s the birthday boy, so all the more reason to invite Him in!
If Christ isn’t the focus of your home January through November, it’s going to be tough to keep Christmas Christ-centered.
3 Actionable Steps for Keeping Christ in Christmas:
Here are my 3 basic steps for keeping Christ in Christmas this year:
- Set the tone: Christ-Centered Decorations and Ambiance
- Make it Personal: Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions
- Put it into Practice: Christ-Centered Giving
Keep in mind that these steps are as simple or as complicated as you make them. You don’t have to add a lot of extra tasks to your list in order to center your Christmas around Jesus. In fact, you may find there’s a lot you can let go of, and still have a meaningful, joyous, and fun holiday season.
Guys, this one is legit hard for me, because I am not a decorator by any stretch of the imagination, and also because I really struggle with tidiness. But, I’m working on doing better, because it’s important to me for my family to have a pleasant, peaceful feeling and looking home.
So, whether you do a Christmas tree or not, at least set up some simple decorations that will remind you and the rest of your family of Jesus’ life.
Set up a Nativity
A nativity set is a great choice. If you have a really nice set, you may not want the kids to play with it, but if you can, set up one for them, too. We have an awesome set of nativity blocks that E received from his Sabbath School teachers when he was a baby. It’s great because he and A can set it up, rearrange it, and play out the Christmas story anytime they’d like, and I don’t have to worry about a fancy creche being broken. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a link to buy a set like this, but this Fisher Price Little People Nativity set is pretty cute, and, even though we don’t have that one, I know my kids would love it (because they love all the Little People stuff).
Play Christmas Music
I’m a huge fan of using music to help set the tone in the house. At Christmastime, we bring out the Christmas records, play our Christmas playlists, and sing carols whenever we feel like it throughout the day.
My kids love music (as most children do), and it’s a great way to teach them different aspects of the Christmas story, too. Plus, they will learn the songs that we’ll be singing in church throughout the season, which makes song service so much more meaningful for them. (I love anything that helps my kiddos feel more connected during the church service!)
Some of my favorite Christ-Centered Christmas Songs
If you’re someone who gets tired of the same carols over and over again, here are a few Christmas songs that I LOVE (and some that I don’t hear very often, except on my own playlist). You can listen to my playlist below and get inspired to make your own!
Here’s my playlist for for focusing on Jesus this Christmas:
Try an Advent Reading Plan
Mamas, in order to keep Christ at the center of our homes (no matter what time of year it is), we need to be spending daily time with Him! Keeping Christ in Christmas will not be possible if you’re not keeping Him in your heart.
Why not try an Advent Bible reading plan this year? There are many Advent reading plans out there, and you can’t really go wrong with any plan that’s keeping you in the Word. But, if you struggle for time, and you’re not sure you want to go looking for an Advent reading plan that will work for you, I’ll send one to you! Sign up here, and every morning from December 1 to December 25, I’ll send you an email with a brief Advent Bible passage to help you reflect on Jesus’ life and work, a link to a beautiful Christmas song, and a short Advent-themed devotional thought to share with your little ones. After Christmas, you’ll stop receiving daily emails automatically.
As moms, we don’t have a lot of extra time, and it seems like that’s even more true during the holiday season. I want to help you stay focused on Jesus, especially during the hustle and bustle of December, so that you can keep your family focused on Him.
Most families have a decent number of traditions surrounding the celebration of Christmas. Family traditions are important for many reasons, so this is a good thing! But, many of our Christmas traditions, though positive, have nothing at all to do with Jesus, His birth, or the true reasons for celebrating the holiday.
You don’t need to ditch your family’s standing traditions, but consider starting a new one that really brings the focus around to Jesus and His life.
Here are some suggestions from my family to yours:
Star from Afar
Our Star From Afar Gift Set was given to us by a friend soon after E was born, but we didn’t try it out until last Christmas, since E was finally old enough to appreciate it. He loved it! He’s already talked about doing it again this year.
Star from Afar includes a book (with a story and instructions for how to use everything), a simple wood nativity set, and a star (with a loop for hanging it). The basic idea is that you read the story to your kids, set up the nativity, and then every evening you hide the star. In the morning, the kids look for the star, and when they find it, they stand the three wise men near it. In this way, the star and the wise men “travel” through your house to get to baby Jesus on Christmas.
Star from Afar is a Christ-centered alternative to the popular Elf on a Shelf, and requires much less time and creativity on the part of the parent, which I definitely appreciate as someone who wants to simplify, rather than complicate, my life.
You can Get your own Star from Afar set here. I think your kids will love it!
We haven’t actually used an advent calendar before, but I am thinking we will try it out this year.
A lot of basic advent calendars contain a small piece of candy or other treat for each day of the advent season, but there are many, many creative and simple alternatives out there. I’m not one to come up with these ideas, but check out my Pinterest board for ideas and inspiration!
One idea that I love is this character trait advent calendar from Creekside Learning.
Read through Luke leading up to Christmas
Last December, Small Town Soul posted an idea on Facebook that I’d never heard before–to read one chapter of the book of Luke each day in December leading up to Christmas (there are 24 chapters). We tried it last year, and it was great for my husband and I, but it was a little bit too much for the kiddos (1 and 3 years old at the time).
This year, I think we’ll try the same idea, but modify it so that the passages are a little bit shorter and easier for our kids to grasp.
For older kids and for parents, this idea is really great, because it gives a picture of Jesus’ whole life in the span of our advent season, which is an awesome way to celebrate Him.
Attend a Christmas worship service
Many churches have special Christmas concerts, singalongs, or Nativity plays. Check them out with your family!
My church has a special service called Children’s Celebration of Christmas, which is always beautiful, and this year will be E’s first chance to participate. He’s already looking forward to it, and so am I!
Read the Christmas story each night from a different book
We have a lot of Bible story books that include the Christmas story, and, though we read this story year round with our kids (Jesus is celebrated every day in our home!), we try to read through all of the different retellings of the story in December.
Here are some of our favorites:
- The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd Jones (He’s Here!, The Light of the World, King of all Kings) (Great for ALL ages!)
- The Bible Story-Volume 7, by Arthur Maxwell (Part 1-Stories of Jesus as a Baby) (Best for ages 4 & up)
- My Bible Friends Book 1, by Etta Degering (Baby Jesus)
- Bible Stories for Little Ones, edited by Karen Cain (Jesus is Born, Happy Shepherds, A Special Baby) (one-page stories, good for babies and up)
- The Animals’ Christmas Eve, by Gale Wiersum (good for babies and up)
- Who is Coming to Our House?, by Joseph Slate (very simple, great for babies and toddlers)
- Usborne Musical Nativity, by Felicity Brooks (very simple, great for babies and toddlers)
- Usborne Touchy-Feely The Nativity, by Fiona Watt (very simple, great for babies and toddlers)
- Usborne Nativity flap book, edited by Sam Taplin & Jessica Greenwell (very simple, great for babies and toddlers)
Write a Letter to Jesus
Instead of writing to Santa Claus, write a letter to Jesus thanking Him for what He’s given you, and spend time thinking about what we can give back to Him this year.
My kids can’t write, so I’ll be asking them what they want to say and writing it for them, this year. Eventually I’d love for the whole family to spend a quiet span of time reflecting and writing to Jesus each year at Christmas time.
It’s a great way to express gratitude and praise to our Saviour, and keep the focus of Christmas centered around to Jesus. I’m especially looking forward to finding out what ideas my kids have about what they would like to give to Jesus this year.
Service to others and learning that there’s even more joy in giving than in receiving are both great ways to make Jesus the main focus of the holiday season for your family. Here are some hands-on ways you can teach your kids to give:
Spend time in Christlike Service
Jesus served the people around Him wherever He went, and one of the ways we honor Him is by serving others. What better time to get the whole family involved in service than the Christmas season?
You get the idea. Whatever the method you decide to serve, just make sure that your children are included to the extent that they can safely do so. A lot of times we donate things, or sponsor gifts without our kids even knowing that we are doing it, which makes them miss out on learning about the joy of service and generosity. They won’t make it a habit if they’re not participating in it!
Focus more on giving than receiving
No matter how you celebrate the day, your kids are more than likely to receive gifts this Christmas, and even if they don’t, it will be hard for them not to notice all of the hype about Christmas presents out there in the world during the Christmas season (and beyond).
Of course, any advertisements geared toward kids are specifically focused on the RECEIVING aspect of gift giving. Stores don’t have much incentive to inspire our children to give, but they have a lot of incentive to inspire our kids to want, to ask, and to expect Christmas presents.
It’s not easy to push back at what all of the ads out there are screaming at us, but we can help our kids swim against the tide and combat the “gimmes” this Christmas.
Teach kids about wants vs. needs
At the store: You can say things like, “That does look like a really fun toy, but you have plenty of really nice toys at home already. You don’t need any more toys, do you?”
At home: You can actually talk about the bounty your kids have already. “Wow, look at all these toys! What a blessing for us that you have so many nice things to play with.”
Encourage Experience Gifts
I’m a huge fan of experience gifts for my kids (and, really, for anyone), because they take some of the commercialism out of the holiday, and add a celebration of family and togetherness.
It’s much easier to keep Christ in Christmas when your gifts incorporate quality time as a family, nature, or even worship–and experience gifts can involve any and all of those things.
You may be thinking that experience gifts sound pretty expensive, and they definitely can be. But, experience gifts really come at every price point (even free!), so don’t write them off if money is tight.
If your concern isn’t about financing the gift but about wanting something to tie a bow on and stick under the tree, you can still give an experience gift! Some experiences have essential items that go with them. For example, when my kids receive books, they’re essentially receiving an experience gift, because since neither of my boys can read on their own yet, someone special in their lives has to read the book with them. So a book is a book, yes, but it’s also the gift of quality time with a loved one. Wrap up a new flashlight and give the gift of a backyard camping trip. Wrap a devotional book and tell your child you will take the time to read it with her every day (and then follow through).
If your friends and family ask you what they should get your kids for Christmas, consider asking them to give an experience gift.
Allow Your Kids to Choose Gifts for Others
Involve the kids in the process of picking out or making thoughtful gifts for loved ones. Making gifts is even better than choosing gifts from a store, because your kids will feel even more invested in the joy it will give the recipient.
My son once wrapped up a couple of his own (definitely used) crayons to give to his buddy. I added it to the birthday gift I had bought. And you know what? E’s friend was excited to receive the crayon and E felt really good about giving his buddy something special all on his own.
This year, one of E’s friends gave him 2 dimes for his birthday, and another gave him a handmade card. The dimes were lovingly deposited into E’s bank (a coin for the bank is always a party around here), and the card is displayed proudly on E’s dresser. He loves those special gifts that were given straight from his friends’ hearts, and I’m thrilled that their parents encouraged those little boys when they thought of giving E those loving presents. I hope E is always so excited about any sincere gift that comes his way.
Every so often, help your children go through their toys and ask them if they have any that they would like to give to someone else who would love to have some new toys to play with.
The first time I tried this, I was actually shocked at how willing E was to pick out some toys to give away. He was more generous than I had given him credit for! Some of the toys and books went to E’s friends (because he specifically had them in mind when I suggested he give some toys to other kids), and the rest we took to our local Christian thrift store.
Try it with your kids, and they may surprise you!
Here are my tips for helping kids get into a giving mood:
- Talk them through the process, including the reasons why you want to give some things away (i.e. “I don’t use this anymore,” or “I have a lot of these, and I only really need one,” etc.), and how YOU feel about giving YOUR things away. Don’t forget to mention reasons why you don’t want to give away certain items (“I’m going to keep this because my grandfather gave it to me, and it’s very special to me,” or “I use this almost every day, so I think I would have a hard time if I gave it to someone.”)
- Don’t put a certain number on it (i.e. “You need to choose 3 toys to give away today.”), especially if your child is apprehensive (or you think she might be). Let her decide what and how many things to give. Generosity isn’t generous at all if it’s forced. You want your child to feel GOOD about giving, not stressed.
- Put your child in physical control of giving. Bring your son to the thrift store collection spot and have him hand over the goods. Bring your daughter to her friend’s house and have her place the things she’s giving away into the other child’s hands. It helps your kids take ownership of their generosity, and will trigger the joy that comes from giving much more effectively than if you box everything up and whisk it away during nap time.
Want more experience gift ideas? Check out my post on awesome experience gifts for the whole family!
You’re ready to keep Christ in Christmas this year!
By now you should have some great and actionable ideas for how to keep the Christmas celebration in your home Christ-centered this year. Remember, Christmas doesn’t need to be a time of stress and craziness. Don’t be afraid to keep things simple. In fact, the simpler your holiday preparations and celebrations are, the easier it will be to teach your kids to keep Christ in Christmas.
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