by Linda Kozlowski
Every year the Christmas season becomes more about shopping, the newest fad in lawn decorations and how many parties we can pack into our already hectic schedules. As Christians, we struggle against this tide of commercialism, reminding ourselves that it's the simple, meaningful traditions that ground us in the season. But every year the tide grows stronger, pulling us just a bit farther from Jesus-a bit farther from where our focus should be.
There are ways to put Jesus back into the spotlight, and often a simple suggestion is all that's required. I've collected bits of input through the years, incorporating them into the fabric of our family's traditions. I hope you will try a few yourselves, and share them along with your own
ideas. Together, we can turn the tide and refocus the season on the One who began it all.
LET PRAYER BE YOUR GIFT
This idea comes from Nancy Twigg, author of an inspiring book called Celebrate Simply (Counting the Cost Publications). She created a prayer calendar as a gift to her friends and extended family. As Twigg explains, "Family names are placed on specific days, for each of the 12 months, so that the members of each family get their own day of prayer each month." She then gives copies of the calendar to her friends and family for Christmas, along with a letter explaining that they would be lifted up in prayer on their designated day. She loves the lessons her 4-year-old daughter is learning from this ritual. "I believe this exercise is helping instill in her empathy and concern for the well-being of others," says Twigg.
APPRECIATE THE WORK OF OTHERS
Rajean Blomquist, of Vidalia, Ohio, has always been impressed at how much effort she sees in homes that are decorated for Christmas. One year she decided to "give back" to these families by dropping a thank-you note in their mailbox. Blomquist purchased an extra box of Christmas cards and wrote on each, "We really enjoy your lights display! Merry Christmas!" As her family drove around the neighborhood, enjoying the show, they dropped these notes into the neighbors' mailboxes. She was surprised at the heartfelt response. Her family received thank-you or Christmas cards from nearly 90 percent of the families who received notes about their displays. Blomquist remembers many touching notes, saying "Your card made our day," or "My husband takes such pride in adding to our display and this is the nicest compliment we have ever received."
SERVE THOSE WHO SERVE US
A great way to remember the words of Jesus in Mark 10:45 -- "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, to give His life a ransom for many" -- is to remember those who serve us today, even on Christmas. As you bake or buy Christmas goodies, make sure there are
plenty of extras and put together platters for your local firefighters, police officers or other civil servants. Dropping these off on Christmas can brighten the day for many men and women who would rather be home celebrating with their own families.
RESOLVE TO WALK WITH JESUS
During the Christmas season we often have one eye on the calendar, looking forward to the New Year. As you think about your resolutions, dedicate one or more to Jesus, changing yourself in some way to walk closer with Him. This may be a recommitment to holding family devotions or making prayer a regular part of your workday. Look into your heart and listen. You'll hear a symphony of ideas. Choose one as your "gift" to Christ.
GIVE THE TIME YOU DON'T HAVE
Matthew 25:40 reads, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." Make it a priority during this hectic time of year to serve those who are materially "least among us." Bring food or supplies to a homeless shelter, participate in a clothing or toy drive at church or support your school in some way when they sponsor philanthropic projects that teach Christ's values. The outpouring of love that happens around the Christmas season is a miracle to behold. Be part of that miracle.
EXTEND THE SEASON
Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 and wonderfully extends the beauty of Christmas into the New Year. Twigg suggests we celebrate this day by simply saving one Christmas gift to be opened on Epiphany. "These presents represent the gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus when they found Him," explains Twigg. Another way to celebrate the King's arrival is to bake a cake with a small surprise inside (piece of chocolate, nut or special trinket that won't melt). "Whoever finds the surprise in their piece of cake gets to be king for the rest of the day," suggests Twigg.
SEE BEAUTY IN AN UGLY TREE
I've always been drawn to the "Charlie Brown" tree-the one that hangs out in the back of the lot, missing a few branches and not quite symmetric. I know that tree will be reduced to mulch promptly on December 26, and so it often ends up strapped to my car. Once it's home and decorated it becomes beautiful, simply because it becomes a Christmas tree. The tree truly was ugly, much like the world Jesus chose willingly to enter. His beauty gives the world hope, much like the beautiful decorations that hang on an otherwise doomed tree. The transformation also reminds me of the one in our hearts as we accept Christ. This year, consider adopting an obviously imperfect tree, and let the beauty of Christmas transform it before your family's eyes.
For the coming season, speak with your parents or older relatives to find out how they celebrated Christmas when they were young, and incorporate some of their ideas into your family's traditions. Most likely these will be simple in nature, and they certainly have stood the test of
With two young children, the Christmas season is a time I "play down Santa and play up Jesus" in their hearts. But this struggle takes place in me as well. We are all attracted to the glitter of the decorations, but if we look just behind the tinsel we'll find our salvation. Now that's truly something worth celebrating.
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Woman's Touch magazine.
LINDA KOZLOWSKI is a freelance writer. She celebrates Christmas in Glen Ellyn, IL, with her two sons, husband, and every so often, an ugly tree.