The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year. However, it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holiday and miss out on the true reason behind it.
Shopping, concerts, parties, and other festivities are great and wonderful, but it can also detract from the more spiritual side of Christmas. Additionally, we may worry that all our kids think about is Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, and the presents coming their way Christmas morning.
How can you help your family have a more meaningful Christmas? Try to incorporate activities that focus on Jesus's birth and his life, as well as find ways to help others in your neighborhood or community.
Here are 6 ideas:
1. Attend a "Messiah" performance
Many communities or churches will put on a performance of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah." The songs quote Bible verses that focus on the events leading up to the birth of Christ.
If there isn't a performance available where you live, many renditions are available on CD or even performances on YouTube. Attending or listening to this will help bring the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas into your family's hearts.
2. View nativity scenes
A Christmas tradition is to display nativity scenes depicting Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Some communities may have live nativities where Luke 2 from the Bible is read to narrate the scene.
Others may have nativity scenes set up for onlookers to see. You can also display a nativity in your home and/or have your family dress up and put on your own nativity and read Luke 2 together.
In my own community, we have a Crèche Festival where community members gather at one of the local churches to see nativities from all over the world, as well as an ongoing live nativity by various local groups. It's become a favorite family tradition that helps us focus on Jesus. It's also fun for our children to see all the different styles of nativities.
3. Do service for others
The holidays are a great time of year to find volunteer work.
Helping in a soup kitchen, donating non-perishable foods, donating money or toys to "shop with a cop" or "Toys for Tots," collecting warm clothing for those in need, or volunteering for another group that does charitable work is a great way to focus on non-material things as a family.
4. Adopt a family in need
Your family can help create Christmas for another family. There are many people who need assistance this time of year. Families who work hard, yet the extra needs of the holidays can put undue stress on parents. Find out clothing sizes, ages of the children, and go shopping for them to provide clothes and some new toys.
In addition, or as another idea, you can prepare a box full of everything they'd need for a special Christmas dinner. This is a great way to teach your children charity and service. They will know and feel that they are doing something good- something Jesus would do if he were here.
5. Provide for the needs on an "Angel Tree"
You've likely seen Christmas trees adorned with paper cut-out ornaments with writing on them in grocery stores, city offices or at a local church. They usually state a clothing size and gender, or an age and gender indicating a need for a toy or clothing. This is a great way to anonymously help provide someone in your community with things they need.
6. Go caroling as a family
Caroling, sadly, seems to be a dying trend. But, how better to spread holiday cheer, and the spirit of Christmas, if you and your family sing to your neighbors?
Prepare some traditional "fun" songs as well as songs that focus on Jesus. This can also be a great service; you never know who needs some cheering up.
Better yet, make a special point to sing to elderly neighbors or visit a senior care center. Visit anyone else you know who may be struggling this time of year.
If you want your family to focus on less material things, less commercialism and on things that don't matter, do some of these suggestions, or come up with your own as a family. It could become your new family tradition.
What greater way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than by focusing on him and trying to act as he would act?