Everywhere we go at Christmastime, we encounter the sights and sounds of the season—jingle bells, presents, food, tinsel, trees, lights, and more. Along with the sights and sounds, we encounter the prevailing idea that the Christmas season should be filled with happiness—a happiness found in a host of different traditions.

Isn't it ironic that in the midst of all the traditions meant to bring happiness, the source of true joy—Christ Jesus—is so easily forgotten? Just look around the mall or a holiday party, and you will see frantic shoppers overwhelmed by their Christmas-gift lists, moms exhausted by all the season's commitments, and children who can't take their minds off their wish lists. Even if we sing Christmas carols and read the Christmas story, it is all too easy to get sidetracked from Christ during the holidays! Yet it's only in Him that we'll find the true joy of which the angels sang when they announced His birth (Luke 2:10).

So how can we keep focused on Christ this time of year? This was a question I watched my mom wrestle with as we grew up. She began examining what we were doing and why—and as she did, Christmastime at our house began to change. We started with little things: baking a cake for baby Jesus on Christmas Day and reading the Christmas story together. Later, the Lord led us to change our celebrations more substantially.

 I know many Christians have found different ways to keep focused on the Lord during this time of year. Our own family has celebrated quite differently at different times. My heart is simply to encourage you to seek the Lord for what He would have for your family—and not to be afraid to follow wherever He leads.

Devotionals

For many years, we have done a special devotional during the Christmas season to help focus our eyes upon the Lord. These devotionals have varied greatly in length and structure.

One year, a friend brought us "Advent Bags"—24 lunch-sized paper bags, each one containing a short Scripture and thought accompanied by a small gift to go along with the lesson (such as a pack of Life Savers to remind us that Jesus came to save us, or a container of play dough to remind us that He is the Creator, or a heart sticker to remind us of His love). Each day of December leading up to Christmas, my brother and I got to open one bag. On December 1, we opened the bag labeled "1," and so forth. We absolutely loved it! It proved a simple way for us to spend a few minutes every day reflecting on Jesus and scriptural truths.

After that, my mom began doing Advent Bags nearly every year, changing the theme and content each time. One year the devotionals followed the alphabet: we based each day's reading on a different letter of the alphabet (A for "angels," B for "Bethlehem" . . . ). Another year my mom put a different coloring sheet in each bag.

As we grew older, we began helping put the bags together to give to family and friends. This gave us an opportunity to really think through the message of Christ's birth as we assisted in writing the little lessons and shopping for the gifts. These bags often served as our Christmas gifts for family and friends. Eventually, the bags gave way to Christmas devotional kits that I still produce and offer through my website, www.christianperspective.net.

Some years we found ready-made devotionals we could use. One year we slowly read through John MacArthur's The Miracle of Christmas. Another year someone in our support group put together short devotionals on heaven. However we did it, pondering lessons from the Christmas account each day helped set the tone for the holiday season.

Decorations

As we began praying through our holiday decorations, the Lord led us to make some changes. We discovered we could help draw our attention to Christ during the Christmas season through meaningful decorations.