Most of us have heard the slogans “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season” and “put Christ In Christmas.” I first heard them as a child, so they have been around for quite some time. I thought they were snappy reminders that Christmas is more than Santa Claus and eight tiny reindeer. After all, Clement Moore did not invent Christmas; God did. And Christmas is just one chapter in the wonderful story of God’s love for us.
I don’t want to dismiss the merry moments that we enjoy as part of our ho-ho-holidays. Most of us cherish memories of family traditions and secularized celebrations of Christmases past. We also cherish the beauty and mystery of the Nativity- the unimaginable wonder of the birth of a Savior who would bring an eternal Light to a World suffering in darkness. We understand that the true meaning of Christmas fills the heart with way more warmth than the most sentimental Hallmark Christmas movie. We understand that the true meaning of Christmas is a more miraculous gift than the most elaborately wrapped Christmas present. We understand that the true meaning of Christmas is about more pure Joy than the shiniest Christmas tree can provide. We know that Jesus is the reason for the season, and we put Christ in Christmas.
I still don’t want to give up my secular Christmas traditions. It is fun to decorate for Christmas. I get giddy about hunting for my elf on the shelf. I disregard my regrettable lack of musical talent when I go Christmas caroling. I love dedicating some special festive time with friends and family, allowing overwhelming waves of affection and gratitude to wash over me. I enjoy giving and receiving presents. I willed myself into believing in Santa Claus until I was eleven years old, so it is unlikely that I will kick him to the curb at this late date.
I think we can center Christmas on Christ and still enjoy favorite secular traditions. In fact, I think we can enjoy those secular traditions even more by making them Christ-más (more Christ) traditions. With a few simple hacks, we can enrich some of our more familiar secular traditions with fortified Christmas spirit.
For instance, it is easy to add the true meaning of Christmas to our holiday decorating. There are all kinds of beautiful Nativity decorations. Also, some families make a Jesse tree early in Advent. A Jesse tree is named after the reference in Isaiah 11:10 which indicates that the Savior will spring from the root of Jesse. The tree is usually leafless and scraggly looking, much like a tree in the desert battling against the harsh earthly elements and holding on to life only by a strong root. It is decorated with ornaments that tell the story of salvation. The ornaments may include symbols from the Old Testament, like Joseph’s coat and Noah’s ark, as well as ornaments depicting important events in the life of Jesus, such as the Star of Bethlehem, the dove, and the cross.
If a family likes their elf-hunting or opening boxes on an Advent calendar to reveal candies or toys, it might be a good idea to incorporate other “readiness” activities during Advent. Some Advent calendars reveal Scripture quotes or part of the Nativity story each day rather than candy or toys. In my case, I have an advent wreath. Each night, I light the weekly number of candles and read a devotion. The time leading up to Christmas is about building excitement and getting ready to welcome our Savior. There is nothing wrong with hunting for elves on the shelves, but why not also spend some time exciting the soul, as well?
There are many Christmas carols that focus on the birth of Jesus. I think we are sometimes a bit tentative about those songs, as if we might offend people who are not believers. I guess it is good to be sensitive, but that doesn’t mean we should keep our love of Christ hidden. I remember caroling one year when we visited a house where a Jewish man lived. We were somewhat reluctant to sing Christmas songs because he didn’t celebrate Christmas. We went ahead and I was so glad we did because he was so touched. He even thanked us for generously sharing our joy and tradition with him.
Spending time with family and friends at Christmas is wonderful. There are plenty of people who don’t get to share Christmas with loved ones. We can celebrate Christ-más by enlarging our family circle to include an outsider. Hospitality is a gift of the Holy Spirit and love is always meant to be given away. Giving love away to people who are not in our immediate network of friends and family can make our Christmas more joyous and more Christlike.
There is nothing wrong with presents, either. I love shopping to find just the right gift for people and I enjoy the surprise of opening a package addressed to me. I do think it is valuable to add one more gift under the tree, though. You can wrap up a check to your church or organization that provides comfort to the suffering in the world and open it on Christmas Day to remind you that being able to give to others is a wonderful gift in itself.
Then, there is Santa Claus. I’ve always loved the rendition of Santa Claus kneeling, hat in hand, before the Baby Jesus. It reminds me that Jesus, not Santa, is truly the Spirit of Christmas. This year, I think Santa is going to bring Scripture cards to stuff in the stockings, in addition to the ubiquitous sugar plums.
This year let’s take “Keep Christ in Christmas” to the next level. Let’s infuse our secular holiday with Christ-más.
Merry Nativity, everyone!
Thank you for all Your many blessings. Help us to keep You at the center of our Christmas celebrations and the center of our lives. The only gift we simply must have this Christmas is Your love in our lives. Come into our lives and share Your light with us. May we bear that Light to the world, to the glory of Your name.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen
Your turn… what Christmas traditions do you observe? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a joyful day!