Done With Diligence

Family Traditions for a Christ-Centered Christmas

The Christmas season is a special one, especially to Christians.  There are so many opportunities to point our children toward Christ and enjoy sweet celebrations with those we love.  But we must be honest.  It is also VERY easy to totally lose the meaning of this special season and fall in line with the predominant secular approach. But, we don’t have to!  If we prayerfully set our minds to it, Diligent Mamas, we can give our children the best gift of all…a deep, rich understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. 

Little boy playing with nativity scene and sign that says O Night Divine

Creating the Christmas “Magic” for Our Kids

You see it every year.  Families, especially moms, get so tied up with gift-buying and tree-decorating and elf-moving and Santa-prepping and parade-watching and card-sending and gingerbread-house-making and pajama-matching and Christmas-movie-watching and party-planning and calendar-managing that you have to wonder… Where does Christ fit into these Christmas celebrations?  Don’t get me wrong, I love cute pajamas and a beautiful tree as much as anyone! But we have to work hard to keep these things in their proper places. If not, hours and hours and more money than we care to admit can be spent trying to make the Christmas holiday a “magical” one for our children.  And then we run the risk of missing the mark completely.  We can miss the REAL “magic” of Christmas.  We can miss Christ. Ask me how I know… I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I’ve got the glitter to show for it! 

When our family assessed our traditions a few years ago, we realized that Christ was sadly pushed to the backburner.  Of course, we KNEW Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, but did we really, REALLY celebrate that part? Could an outsider looking in recognize the center of our celebrations, or could he easily be confused about what was important to us?  Were we bringing Him glory and growing in our faith because of the Christmas season? To be honest, we didn’t like the answers that became evident when we asked ourselves these hard questions.  We realized our own foolishness of squandering such a wonderful opportunity to point our children to Christ in favor of short-lived thrills.  Why were we spending so much time talking about flying reindeer when our children hadn’t yet grasped the amazing reality of our Savior, in the flesh, coming to dwell with His people? If anybody is still looking for magic, just read that last sentence again.  THAT’S where the magic is, and it’s the life-changing, eternal kind of magic!

Rebuilding Better Traditions

We decided to rebuild, from the ground up, new, Christ-centered Christmas traditions for our family. How? Well, we sought wise counsel from other families.  We prayed. We brainstormed.  And one by one, we added in new traditions that were better aligned with our love of Christ and our desire to celebrate the very true story of Christmas. We are about 10 years down the road from the pivotal point, and we couldn’t be more thankful that the Holy Spirit redirected our hearts for Christmas.

To tell you the truth, when we first made the decision to pursue a new approach to our own family traditions, I was a little sad. I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth. I was mourning what might be the loss of fun childhood memories. I thought I might long for previous traditions that we’d decided we needed to drop.  But, I wish I could go back and tell myself to trust and wait.  I couldn’t have imagined what a WONDERFUL Christmas we would have at our house.  The best part is that we have legitimate JOY.  Not fleeting joy that can fade away fast when the new toy breaks or the Christmas tree gets put back in the attic.  No, we have the GOOD stuff!! We have joy that we can keep building on all year long, all childhood long, and all life long.  The trade-off is a beautiful one, and I’d choose this way for my kids over and over again!

Ideas for New Christmas Traditions

So, boots on the ground, how do we do it?  I’m going to share some of our family’s traditions that seek to glorify Christ, and you can pick and choose what works for your family.  We don’t do all of these every year.  We rotate some in, some out.  There’s no single winning formula.  Make it your own, involve family members whenever you can, and keep your eye out for new traditions. And if you have another great idea, I’d truly LOVE to hear it.  Learning from other Christian Mamas is one of my very favorite things!

Christ-Centered Christmas Decorations

Let’s start with Christmas decorations. Snowmen and toy soldiers are great, but do they point to Christ?  I had a lot of pointless Christmas decorations stashed away, so I wanted to slowly begin changing them out.  I now have signs with lines from hymns or scripture.  I have ornaments with the names of Jesus. And of course, I have a nativity scene.  One year I even found some beautiful ribbon with the names of Jesus, and we’ve enjoyed it for quite some time!  Just keeping your eye out for Christ-centered decor will help.  And it seems every year that Hobby Lobby offers a larger selection. My goal is for it to be impossible for someone to walk into our home, all decorated for Christmas, and not realize that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. And we want our kids to know, with absolute certainty, why the Christmas season is special in our home.

Sign that says fall on your knees, for unto us a savor is born, keep christ in chirstmas, and more

Christ-Centered Christmas Music

Next, let’s consider Christmas music. Christmas music is so festive, but there is a WIDE range of music out there.  “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Santa Baby” aren’t really promoting the ideas we want to focus on. Instead, I usually create a playlist in YouTube full of Christ-honoring Christmas music.  We listen to it in the house, in the car, everywhere!  And I have been known to pause a song mid-sentence, to talk about the theology in the line we just sang!  Well-selected songs have so many opportunities to focus on different elements of the Gospel and really dwell on its beauty.  I’ll share some of our favorite songs below and some of the rich lines worth pulling out to chew on with your kids!

  • “He Who Is Mighty” by Sovereign Grace (“He who is mighty has done a great thing, taken on flesh, conquered death’s sting, shattered the darkness, and lifted our shame.  Holy is His Name!”)
  • “Joy to the World” by Faith Hill (“He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.”)
  • “What a Glorious Night” by Sidewalk Prophets (“God came down on this glorious night.”)
  • “Who Would Have Dreamed” by Sovereign Grace (“And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen that we could hold God in our hands?  The Giver of Life is born in the night, revealing God’s glorious plan to save the world.”)
  • “Joy Has Dawned” by Keith and Kristyn Getty (“Son of Adam, Son of heaven, given as a ransom.  Reconciling God and man, Christ our mighty champion.”)
  • “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (“God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.”)
  • “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (“O come, Thou Key of David, come.  And open wide our heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high.  And close the path to misery.”)
  • “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” (“By thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.”)
  • God Made Low” by Sovereign Grace (“Let every heart prepare Him room. The promises have all come true!”
  • “Unbelievable” by Sovereign Grace (“Begotten Son, born into Adam’s earth. Promised One, fulfilling ancient words. God has come to dwell with us.”)

Christmas Bible Study for the Family

Let’s talk about Christmas Bible studies. We’ve done various studies with our children over the years, depending on the children’s ages.  Some may be better suited for young children than others. Changing it up every year keeps everyone excited and learning.

  • Names of Jesus Study– The simplest one is probably the names of Jesus ornaments mentioned above in the decorations section.  We simply take one ornament per night, look up the referenced Bible verse, read it, and discuss it.  This study really helps highlight exactly who Christ is and what He’s done for us. Light of the World, King of Kings, Christ, Savior…each name brings a slightly different characteristic of Jesus to the forefront.
  • Jesus Storybook Bible– We’ve also done a type of Jesse Tree based on the Jesus Storybook Bible.  There are lots of ready-to-print studies on Etsy, and we already owned the storybook Bible.  It does a beautiful job of helping children see how Jesus has been God’s plan of redemption from the very beginning.
  • Truth in the Tinsel– It’s a simple, print-and-go study that offers a very simple explanation of God’s greatest gift. They’ll be introduced to the 3 wise men, King Herod, Mary & Joseph, the angel Gabriel, and of course, baby Jesus. It’s a great way to get a simple, thorough retelling of the birth of Christ.
  • Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski– This is a beautiful Christmas carol study that helps you sing through the Gospel while really digging into song lyrics.
clean ornaments with gold writing featuring 12 names for jesus
Jesus storybook Bible and colorful ornaments with scenes from Bible stories
heart shaped ornaments with lyrics from Christmas carols and Prepare Him Room book

Christ- Centered Christmas Activities

Finally, let’s consider family activities. There is no shortage of activities available at Christmas time. Every weekend offers parties, community events, retail events, and more. A Diligent Mama has to be careful when selecting activities for her family. We can easily spend the month of December running from here to there and fail to spend meaningful time in deep conversations with those we love most (I am preaching to myself here, too!). Let’s aim to “redeem the time” as advised in Ephesians 5:16. Here are some ideas to consider adding to your plans.

  • Christmas Lights– We ride around looking at Christmas lights, hot chocolate and cookies in hand, and our Christ-focused music playlist setting the tone with Christmas songs.
  • Live Christmas Nativity– A local church offers a live nativity scene that brings the birth of our savior to life for little ones.
  • Sleep by the Tree Night– We always have one night where the WHOLE family brings sleeping bags into the living room to watch a movie and sleep by the Christmas tree.  The Lion of Judah and Beginner’s Bible Christmas Story are both good options for Christian-based movies to watch together (both available on Amazon).
  • Christmas Plays at Church- Christmas plays at church aren’t just a cute activity.  A thoughtful, well-planned program can be a big learning opportunity for kids.  One year my son had to memorize a large passage from Isaiah for his role in the play.  He still remembers it!  
  • Birthday Party for Jesus– Many years we have invited friends over to cerebrate Jesus’ birthday!  Birthday cake, balloons, and even the happy birthday song all add up to a tangible way for kids to remember what the season is truly celebrating.
  • Star Report- Some families have a stuffed elf that plays tricks and sets up scenes each night for the children to discover the next morning.  Our family opted to do a star named Twinkles instead (like the star the wise men followed).  I hide Twinkles each night, and the next morning, the children hunt for him.  He brings us a “report” each morning that gives us a passage of scripture to read, a hymn to sing, a family member to pray for, or some other assignment.  On Christmas morning, Twinkles is always above the nativity scene.
  • Stocking Money- Sometimes Twinkles brings us a few dollar to put in our stockings.  On Christmas morning, we dump out the stockings, count the money, and look through the World Vision gift catalog to select a gift for a child in need somewhere in the world.  We gift others before we open any of our own gifts.
  • Acts of Service Bucket List- Some years we have a bucket list of how we want to serve others during the Christmas season.  It may include things like putting cans in a food pantry, opening a door for a stranger, sending a hand-drawn card to a church friend, or praying for specific people we know that don’t know Christ.
  • Christmas Eve Services– Attending Christmas Eve service at our church is always a top priority.  Celebrating the birth of Christ with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and allowing our children to see other believer’s truly rejoice, is priceless.
  • Christmas Morning Worship- When we wake up Christmas morning, the children come down, still in their pj’s, and we immediately begin family worship.  We pull up our Christmas music playlist or take out our homemade family song books and sing Christmas carols together.  Daddy will lead a short devotion time, and we’ll close with another song. This worship time is one of our very favorite Christmas traditions, and I hope my kids always remember that it took the top spot all of those Christmas mornings they lived at home.
Happy Birthday Jesus party invitation, balloons, party hats

So, in conclusion, let’s be intentional with our celebrations.  Let’s be joyful and hopeful. And let’s not forget the real reason we celebrate. For He really is absolutely where the TRUE joy is. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise!

I want to leave you with one last resource to think more deeply about all of the celebrations in your home. Pastor John Piper and his wife, Noel, wrote a book called Treasuring God in Our Traditions.  I loved every page of it. I’ll close with some words from Noel Piper that stuck with me for years after reading her book:

May the traditions of our home be true-

from Him

because of Him

pointing toward Him

honoring Him

thanking Him

Looking for more Christian parenting ideas and tips? Check out my Raise them with Diligence page!

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