One year it was so tall and round we had to keep whittling away at the base so we could stand it up in our entrance. The living room didn’t stand a chance to host it that year.
Big or small, legit or fake, there is something about that tree, with it’s snowflakes and bulbs and elementary crafts, that draws out the oohs and the aahs and fills us with Christmas cheer. It draws our whole family into the living room at night to (pretend to) read in it’s glow.
Ahh. Christmas time.
White lights on the banister.
Pine from the tree in our yard.
Ugly Christmas sweaters.
White elephant gifts.
I love the Christmas season. Love.
And I have struggled with the Christmas season.
I think most of us have questioned the way we celebrate Christmas at one time or another.
What should it look like?
What do we want out of Christmas?
What do we want our kids to get out of it?
We know that Christmas is not the sum of what waits for us under the tree. I know this; you know this.
Even as a kid I was aware. The highlights of the holiday were playing with cousins and sprinkling cookies and chewing on my aunt’s homemade caramels. Games and sledding and food and family. THAT was Christmas.
Then one year my hubby and I packed up and headed to a far off country where there were no cousins and no caramels and not enough snow to sled. Christmas was about family and we were without.
We didn’t have the ingredients to make our favorite holiday treats and there were no parties to attend. Almost everything we always associated with Christmas had evaporated.
That was the year I finally understood that Christmas was actually all about Jesus.
When all the fluff settles, it is Jesus, just Jesus.
We can celebrate him with snow or without,
with caramels or with lychee candy,
with family or alone,
with new gifts or counting the ones we already possess.
That sounds lovely and simple.
As our kids grew older and developed vocabularies, they started asking for gifts wherever they went that magical month of December. Blushing, squeezing their little shoulders and whispering intently in their darling ears, it became apparent:
A Jesus-Christmas might be simple but it’s not easy.
Anyone ever feel like they might have unintentionally buried Jesus under the pine needles?
What would it look like to really actually celebrate Jesus’ birthday?
We have some great birthday traditions in our house and I’ll bet you do too. Our birthday kid invites two favorite friends over for a slumber party. They choose the menu for the evening. We decorate with streamers, we tie a birthday balloon to their chair, we pop fun gifts into (aggressively-used) gift bags and sing the birthday song very loudly and irreverently.
They key to a great birthday is how well the birthday kid is KNOWN and CATERED to. To give our teenager a doll would be an insult and decorating with pink princesses might hurt our son’s feelings.
So why not Jesus?
If Jesus sat down at your desk to scratch out his birthday wish list, what would be on it?
Isn’t that the question?
Jesus, what do you really love?
Maybe a few things come to mind:
Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world.
And Jesus loves the world.
After combing through the Gospels, our family came up with a lot of things Jesus is crazy about and turned it into a celebration.
We read a scripture verse every day in the month of December and discover that Jesus loves Forgiveness, Sacrifice, His Friends and Faith. (Download the printable ReThinking Christmas Scripture list for free!)
Towards the end of December, our family has a big birthday party for the Birthday Boy and gives him gifts we think he would be stoked about.
The kids take an idea or two and the whole family gives the gift together.
Because Jesus loves The Lost, we get our cookies ready and ask Jesus to show us which person in our town needed to know he loves them.
Because Jesus loves Serving, we stomp our cold feet and ring the red bell, collecting money for Salvation Army.
Because God loves The World, we rummage around for some ethnic clothes and pray over the world.
One of our favorite Christmas gifts over the years has been Generous Giving. We do our giving online through a few of our favorite organizations. All the kids chose their favorite project and have given clean water, baby formula, chickens, hospitals, wheelchairs, Bibles, warm clothes, education and honey bees.
What better way to celebrate Jesus then to give gifts?
My hope for my family is that we don’t lose Jesus in the wrapping of the presents or rush of events and projects, but that we give him the spotlight this season. And it’s my hope for your family too.
Yes, it does take a generous helping of intentionality. But we have found that he is worth it.
The way you and yours honor Jesus and observe his birth is likely different than the way me and mine do it. But maybe we can learn from each other and find what works well for our kids at the stages they are currently in.
We parents need each other.
How are you going to celebrate our favorite birthday this year?
Some images by 123rf photos.