By Emily Nealy
The holiday season begins earlier every year. Commercialism surrounds us, and we can be tempted to react with a grumble.
Don’t grumble! It’s Christmas, the greatest event in human history! God condescended to become a helpless baby. He left Heaven for a feeding trough—to a life of humility. The Creator of Time entered the world lacking modern conveniences, no air conditioning, cell phones, modern medicine; without soft bedding, or a comfortable mode of transportation. He chose to come 2,000 years ago to a village in the Middle East, fulfilling many prophecies of the Old Testament—hoped for, longed for, and quite the surprise to Mary and Joseph. He did it for us, as part of the greatest story, the one we will sit in awe of for all eternity, the story of how He saved the world.
How do we convey a bit of the true excitement of this season, yet not make it about possessions? Here are a few new traditions and some old ones with a new spin you may not have considered.
- Play the carols. This season is the only time of year where rank pagans will boldly belt out the words, “Joy to the World! The Lord has come!” or “Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray.” What a clear statement of the Gospel, being proclaimed to all the world, from the mouths of donkeys. In our family, we sing them year-round. Teach them to your kids and explain what they mean.
- Go caroling. We have friends who invite a group of 20-30 people over, walk through the neighborhood singing carols, and ask their neighbors to join them for a gumbo dinner afterward. Although they may get a few who don’t answer the door, this is a bold way they let their light shine. The majority of the neighbors sing along with a big smile and a thank you and several end up coming over to enjoy the good food and hospitality.
- Deck the halls. Christmas is the biggest birthday party of the year! Decorate your house, inside and out. For nearly a month or more, let your house shine as a beacon to remind all that Joy is coming! It’s not about how fancy the decor is…we use family heirloom or homemade ornaments. Even salt dough ornaments and a wreath on the front door can signal to the world that a special day is coming and you’re excited!
- Advent readings. This year, Advent begins Sunday, Nov 29th and ends Christmas Eve. There are plans available, prepared with readings for all ages. Every day, you read a passage pointing to or telling the Christmas story and the anticipation builds. Consider the cards from Crew and Company that go along with readings from the Jesus Storybook Bible (https://bit.ly/3eheSG7) or the conversation cards from Kids Read Truth (https://bit.ly/35VNzgK.)
- Gift giving. Kids should participate in gift giving. It’s important to teach them why: we give because we imitate God the Father, who gave to us. We give to bless each other, to be reminded every good gift comes ultimately from the Father, and out of joy and gratitude. In our family, the kids draw names after Thanksgiving dinner.
- Visit the classics. Some books and movies are a must on our list of family traditions:
- The Tale of the Three Trees, book by Angela Elwell Hunt
- The Cajun Night Before Christmas and Gaston the Green Nosed Alligator, books illustrated by James Rice
- The Biggest Story, book – by Kevin De Young
- A Charlie Brown Christmas, movie – 1965
- A Christmas Carol, movie – 1951
- It’s a Wonderful Life, movie – 1946
Try starting a new tradition this year. Teaching the significance of the season, beyond the Christmas morning unwrapping frenzy is within your reach!
Teach your child these hymns: Joy to the World and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen