Saturday, December 12, 2009

Making Christmas Too "Jesus-y" Part 2 Ways to do it

(Re-post from last Christmas)

I love Christmas! Everything about it - well, the good things. :-) Family, presents, Christmas cookies, presents, the music, presents, the lights, presents..........Seriously, there is more to it than presents. I do like to get them - who doesn't?! But I also like to give them.

A few years ago, back before our church started this new "youth focus" thing, I spoke om this subject. Wish I had kept my notes, but I usually threw them away after I got suckered into speaking. (I would rather speak than sing though - that is a horrid experience!) Anyway, thought I'd "jot" a few of those ideas down, what I can remember. Christmas is so commercialized, it is easy to get caught up in the sales and the hustle and bustle, til we forget what we are celebrating. I think Christians should celebrate Christmas like no one else on earth. It isn't about Santa, it is about our Savior being born in a manger. The TRUE Messiah. Easter is a big deal - what good would our religion be with a dead Savior, but let us not overlook Christmas. The time set aside to celebrate His birth. Without His birth, there would not have been a Calvary, or a Resurrection. Here are a few ideas of mine, and a few borrowed from a book that I have. The list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

1) Start early, especially if you have kids. Get an advent calendar, and involve the kids in using it in the days before Christmas arrives. There are also devotionals written for Christmas, and the month preceding it. I saw one at our local Christian bookstore for either 99 cents, or a couple of bucks.

2) Among your Christmas decorations, a Nativity scene is a must. Therein lies the very reason for the Season. One of the highlights of my Christmas is putting mine out, lighting it up, and as I gaze at it, think about what that first Christmas was like. I don't get hung up on things like the wise men weren't at the manger, and things like that. I just enjoy my Nativity scene.

3) If one can afford it, it is nice to pick a family from church or your neighborhood, or even an individual, who doesn't have much, and take them some gifts, or even a cookie tray. Another neat idea is to do the 12 days of Christmas, and do it anonymously: take a small gift every day for 11 days preceding Christmas, and a larger one on Christmas day.

4) Give money once in a while to the Salvation Army. It gets old seeing them everywhere, but they do good things with the money they bring in.

5) Read Christmas stories. I have a ton - ok, a lot - of Christmas books, not all of them necessarily about the birth of Christ, but they still convey the true meaning of Christmas. Fortunately, I did manage to dig those out of storage, and will be able to enjoy them in the coming days.

6) Take in a Christmas cantata, candle light service, or some type of Christmas program. Even a play. The Christmas Carol isn't a Christian production, but it does get the meaning of Christmas out - giving.

7) Break out the Christmas music. There is a ton of good Christmas music out there. I like the occasional "Jingle Bells", "White Christmas", and some other secular tunes, but you just can't beat the ones that tell the Christmas Story. "Silent Night", "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", and even the new ones: "It's Still the Greatest Story Ever Told", "Mary's Boy Child". Usually I break it out in September, and by mid-November, am listening to nothing but Christmas.

9) Say "Merry Christmas". I hate this trend away from calling it Christmas. It isn't "Happy Holidays", or "Xmas"( and yes, I have heard the theory about that one, but still hate to see it).

10) Family traditions. One our family had which isn't religious, but was fun, and slowed us down, was to drive around looking at the Christmas lights. There are others. The author of a book I have, "Keeping Christ In Christmas", takes his family to a candy making store to watch candy canes being made by hand. The possibilities are endless. They don't always have to be religious in nature, but a tradition that takes some of the hustle and bustle out of the season for a while.

For younger kids, a birthday party for Jesus can be a neat idea.

11) Special Christmas event. I am not sure if anyone in my area does anything like this anymore. The Columbiana Christian Church used to do a "Walk With Jesus", where they had scenes from Jesus' life from the Nativity to the Resurrection. I always enjoyed it, and it was a great reminder of everything that Christmas was about, and beyond. Sadly, they have quit doing that, but if one could find something like that, or a live nativity, that is a great thing to do at Christmas.

12) Spread the joy. I have never been one to witness much, but have taken the opportunity at Christmas a couple of times. When approached or asked by a sales clerk to buy this or that, one can ask if they know what Christmas is all about - I have done it.

13) Outreach. Organizations like Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, and more, are good ways to give, without receiving any material thing back. Some churches have a special offering that goes to some need. Our pastor has made it a practice that people can give him money that he can pass on to someone who needs it.

I benefited 2 Christmases ago from someone giving. I had moved to Indiana, and not found a job immediately. I finally got one in November, but funds were low as Christmas approached. I wondered how I was going to buy my nieces and nephews Christmas presents. It didn't look possible. Then one Sunday at church, a young boy handed me an envelope, and said it was from "Santa". Inside was $100, enough money to buy everyone a modest gift. It made my day. And who knows how many people in our lives could use a little cash.

14) Christmas Caroling. This may get back to my church, but that's ok. :-) I am not a fan of our modern day caroling. We pack up in vehicles and drive from place to place to sing to church members, many of them not house-bound, though some are. Whatever happened to standing on a street corner and singing to nearby houses? That is what I'd enjoy. Regardless, it is a way to keep Christ in Christmas.

15) Do an advent candle, with appropriate readings.

16) Maybe the best way of all: do some spiritual inventory. Someone once said that Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts: the Gift of God (His Son) to man, and our lives to Him. If all is not right between our soul and God, what better time could there be, than the Season that is all about Him to get things straightened out. And even if all is well, it is still a good time for some personal reflections on what His birth, and death, has done for us.

17) Lastly, read the Christmas Story from the Bible. It can be stretched out into a few readings, whether individually, or for the family.

And lastly, the words to one of my favorite newer songs:

The Reason
Verse 1
Going back to Bethlehem, gonna' find this Baby
Looking for a manger, where the King of Kings was laid.
But I never made it to Bethlehem, I never passed a star or three wise men
I found out Baby Jesus was real, when I was distracted at Calvary's Hill.

And you can't get to His manger, without looking past His cross
A "No vacancy" sign at the Bethlehem Inn
But He made room for the lost.
And on your journey to find three wise men
You'll pass a crowd crying "Crucify Him"
There's just a lot whole lot more to Baby Jesus
There's the reason why He came.

Verse 2
I don't come to condemn the excitement the season brings
I'd just like to leave with you this very important thing
He's not in a manger. You won't find Him there anymore.
But if you listen closely, you'll hear a full-grown Jesus
Knocking at your heart's door.

The reason He came was to give life
He came to set the captive free
To bind up the broken-hearted
And give a chance to a loser like me
So while you're making memories during the holiday
Don't forget the reason Jesus came.


Unknown said...

I really like your blog on Christmas.
Christmas season is a magically special time when family and friends come together to celebrate.