I hum a merry, seasonal tune while decorating the house. Friends and family will come for dinner tomorrow, and I want things to look festive. I make sure there are candles dispersed throughout. There’s something magical about candlelight, how it brings light and life to the room, in addition to the twinkling lights already strung about.
I’ve been planning and preparing the meal for days. Things that could be made ahead of time are done and tucked away, and I’ll do a grocery run tonight for the fresh items. I don’t know why we eat such a feast each year when it leaves us stuffed and sleepy, everyone looking for a couch to lie on when they get up from the table. But, that’s tradition, and we’ll carry on celebrating as our family always has. The dining table is already set with elegance for the multi-course meal.
A gift inventory is next. There must be something for each of my guests. The wrapping is just right; everything is clearly labelled for ease of distribution. The children especially look forward to the gifts I buy for them every year. I try to get something extravagant that their parents would be unlikely to purchase. Three nieces and two nephews—all taken care of.
That done, I check the closet to see if our festive outfits need steaming or ironing. Wrinkles will never do for such an important day. I might even dust off my special shoes, the ones my husband brought me back from his last business trip.
We get together with family far too little these days, and I can’t wait to see everyone. A celebration like this is the perfect excuse to spend time with our loved ones, and I’ve done my best to prepare for an extraordinary day. I only hope I’m not too tired to enjoy it myself…
With the timing of this post, you likely assume the celebration is Christmas. However, if it had been posted in November, a Mexican reader might think I’m referring to Dia de Los Muertos; an Indian reader might assume it’s Diwali; an American might think of Thanksgiving. In fact, the scenario above could represent many different celebrations recognized by people from backgrounds or ethnicities outside of our own. Customs including songs, decorations, lights, family gatherings, feasts, new clothing, and gift-giving are followed on many days throughout the year around the world. So, what makes Christmas special?
We all know the Christian reason for the season: the birth of the Christ Child. But, as we go through the preparations, do we really think of Him? There’s a lot to be done: many, many hours of planning, shopping, decorating, wrapping, and cooking—and, let’s not forget about cleaning! The busyness of the celebration can make it unrecognizable. Yet, the star of this day is Jesus!
What can we do this year to ensure that we do not overlook The Reason for the celebration? I’ve made a list of ten suggestions to help us focus on Jesus.
- Every time you see a candle or coloured light, thank Him for being the Light of the World.
- Before putting any Christmas treat near your lips (including chocolate!), say a genuine prayer of thanks for all of His provisions.
- As you wrap gifts, ask God to use the spiritual gifts He’s given you to help others during this season. And, thank Him for all of His abundant blessings!
- When you see a nativity scene, whisper a prayer, thanking your Maker for sending His Son for you.
- Begin every morning with Him. Read the book of Luke, or pick up an Advent devotional. A writer friend of mine, Jennifer Elwood, has published a beautiful one called Counting Up to Christmas: Twenty-Four Gifts from the Gospel of Luke (available on Amazon). A few minutes each morning focussing on God will set your heart to remember Him throughout your busy day.
- Serve birthday cake for dessert on Christmas Day. When our boys were young, this tradition involved writing “Happy Birthday, Jesus” on the cake and singing the birthday song before we cut it. It’s important to remind our children that Santa isn’t the central figure in this celebration.
- Speaking of the gift-giving, jolly old elf, when you see Santa—in person or in print—thank GOD for all the good gifts He’s given to you. Every good gift comes from HIM (sorry, Santa) (James 1:17).
- Turn those Christmas songs into anthems of praise. When you hear a carol, sing it from the heart. O come let us adore Him!
- Attend church on Christmas Eve. My grown boys know that attending the night before the big day is non-negotiable. It’s always such a beautiful service and fun to see if this will be the year that someone catches their neighbour’s hair on fire with the candle!
- Read the Christmas story aloud at some point during the day’s festivities. I recommend AFTER the gift opening. I remember waiting impatiently for my dad to read from his Bible while I gazed longingly at a pile of presents, trying hard not to resent this tradition!
Jesus, let us never forget that You are there inside that cyclone of busyness, and You bring peace.
Help us to focus this Christmas on You—the ultimate gift to the world. No one is like You, God.
You deserve our attention during this season and every day.
It might be cliché to say, but let’s keep Christ in Christmas.
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