What began as a simple story in a manger that changed the entire world has now become a season of rush and hurry, hustle and bustle, and the focus is no longer on the humble beginnings of a King. In fact, I dare say my own spiritual life has actually suffered over the holidays in some past years because I always feel rushed and pressured. This year, with some advanced planning and preparing ahead, you and I can enjoy a different kind of holiday. I am not yet ready to “give up” presents and meals and traveling to relatives. I still like my Christmas tree and lights, but what if we could do it differently?

What if we plan ahead to do small tasks over the course of several weeks so that when Thanksgiving rolls around, we can focus on the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, and when Christmas arrives, we can truly celebrate the Christ in Christmas?

One excellent activity to keep Christ central in Christmas is to plan to spend some time each day pondering the true miracles of the season. You can do this by reading through Scripture or by using a special devotional written just for the season. Whichever you choose, get it ready early so that you can start as soon as the end of October rolls around.

The first Christmas was a simple, joyous occasion. The only celebration of Christmas happened in a simple stable. No food, no tree, no lights, no gift wrap, no Christmas lights. There was no fight over whether to say “Happy holidays!” or “Merry Christmas!” No cash registers were ringing all over town. No carolers were heard either, unless you count a choir of angels. And yet, God was glorified and the Savior’s birth was celebrated.

Now, more than two thousand years later, Christmas just does not seem complete without all the additional fuss, cookies, gifts, trees, lights, and shopping. We all know that “Christmas consumerism” is something we want to avoid. I grew up in the age of credit cards. People did not think there was anything wrong with showering their children with gifts they could not afford and then working extra hard through April to pay off the debt. As a child, Christmas came to mean a bunch of food, a mountain of gifts, decorations, and lots and lots of garbage bags filled with torn-off wrapping paper, along with special Christmas foods and gatherings of family and friends.

As an adult, I had to come to grips with that whole picture and wonder, “Where was Christ in Christmas?” Yes, we went to midnight church service. We sang the songs at church. We sang the songs at school and made all the Christmas crafts, but where was the holiness in the Christmas holiday? How on earth was Christ celebrated when I barely took the time to acknowledge the King of Kings while rushing from place to place tending to all the details?

Before the season begins, take a few minutes to ponder what you really love about Christmas. Next, take a few minutes to sit down with family members and discuss the following questions:

  • What are your favorite things that we do around Christmastime?
  • Whom do you enjoy spending time with during December?
  • What was your favorite gift to give last year?
  • What was the favorite thing you received last year?
  • What foods do you always associate with Christmas?
  • What things do you do as a family for the holidays that you really do not enjoy?

Asking these questions may help you eliminate all kinds of work and stress as you identify what is or is not important to your husband, children, and extended family. Be bold and eliminate those things that do not benefit your family. What we found to be true about the entire Christmas season was that the busier we were, the further we departed from our goal of celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. Some of the things that families do year after year are no longer pleasant or relevant. Eliminate those things, and consider what things you can do as a family this year to keep the message of Christ in Christmas.