Friday, December 20, 2013

To be honest, all the thoughts that follow were spurred on a few years ago by a kind, over-thinking, opinionated friend who suggested the idea that maybe Christmas didn’t have to be celebrated the way we celebrate it. He suggested some things I didn’t even want to consider. I felt he was trying to rob me of my bliss. I can tell you I was completely offended then. Now, come each Christmas, I thank God for that friend for opening his big mouth; for he opened my eyes and now Christmas will never be the same. 


As I sit in the dark before our simple Christmas tree, my face lit only by its dim lights, I ponder on the meaning of Christmas. It is hard to navigate through the feelings I am experiencing. I once loved the jolliness of it all — the gift exchanges, the big parties and Santa — and, in a way, still do. But through the years there has always been something nagging at me. Something pestering me to find a better way. A better way to what? Celebrate Christmas? But isn’t this the way?

Have you ever felt that nagging? 

And yet a few years back I felt something I had long desired. Peace. And it came when there was nothing beneath the tree for me. But how do I pass this on to my kids? I can’t imagine, nor could they, a Christmas without presents, right?

With all that I do to focus on Christ’s birth during this time, it still always seems to get lost and confused in all the other jubilee. Not to mention the stress from endless binge shopping and countless events.

I took the chance the other day and asked my 4 year old about why we celebrate Christmas and you know what he said? Jesus’ birth? No. Santa. Of course he said Santa. His brothers quickly corrected him, and he was a little shy and said he knew the right answer. But he couldn’t help it. It’s what most kids are excited about. But to not have Santa come and bring them presents makes you feel like you are robbing them of a magical part of childhood. So I’ve always allowed Santa to come. 

Yet it nags at me. What are we celebrating? What will my children remember? What are they focused on?

As I sit reflecting some more, a few thoughts come to mind.

I think about the baby born in a simple stable. I look at my home. I think of my babies and all that they already have to play with. Like Jesus, what more do they need than a mother and a father at their side?

I think of the Shepherds who followed the counsel of an angel to go and seek the newborn king. They honored him with their presence—not presents. Afterward they continued to praise his name and tell others about him.  

Of course who can forget the Wise Men who came to worship the Christ child. Out of their treasure they gave him great gifts. 

Then I think on the life and mission of Jesus. His words. His commandments. To love others and to give “unto the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). In those simple words he is offering us a way to give back to him, to honor him and to follow him. 

I want to follow him. I want to honor him. I want my kids to anticipate his Second Coming with all their hearts. I can’t help but feel we are missing a wonderful opportunity here. Instead of the magic of Christmas coming from Santa, we need to help our kids recognize the magic of Christ. His birth, the miracles he performed and ultimately his resurrection are magical and powerful. And what better opportunity do we have than during Christmas time to give the kids the chance to feel the peace he has promised. When they feel that peace we can help them recognize that he is real. Because he is. Santa is not. 

When I let this sink in, I know what I must do. They have to experience what I did! Wait, what? No presents on Christmas? I think, "I’m crazy. What if they don’t feel what I felt? This experiment is sure to fail." And then God sends me a sign that it won’t. And I have to believe him, don’t I? 

If it wasn’t for the heartfelt conversation (after bedtime) with my 8 year old, I might have been more anxious right now, not having bought a thing with Christmas just a week away! He shared with me a conversation he had with his friends. Each one talking about the many presents (10–15) each of them were expecting. When he commented that he would probably only get 1–3 and peace in his home, they were perplexed. One friend asked him why he would care about peace in his home? He explained that when he gets less gifts he can give more to the poor and, by doing that, he feels peace in his home. 

It was at that moment I realized that, not only was he starting to understand all that I was trying to accomplish, but that he had felt something for himself. Peace in his home and in his heart. I understand now why he agreed so easily and without argument to setting aside the tradition of opening presents on Christmas day.

All kids are different, but focusing more on Christ — and only Christ — at Christmas is worth the effort. Each will learn something different, but ultimately, something more about Christ.  

As I sit here, beside this dimly lit tree, I am finally at peace. I know now that we will never go back to the way we used to celebrate Christmas. I am grateful my family is on this journey with me, although it wasn’t easy starting out. I am at peace knowing that with each passing Christmas season they will have the opportunity to feel his love, to experience his peace and to know he lives. 

If nothing else, I have learned for myself that he is the true gift of Christmas. One that costs no money, just an open heart. I have a deeper gratitude for the gift it is to raise these precious children. Like the Shepherds, I can honor Christ with my presence and I can bring him gifts, like the Wise Men, by giving to the poor out of my treasures. There is no end to the many ways I can honor him and there is no end to the peace I can feel from him. He is the true magic of Christmas. He will come again. Christmas is just one way I can prepare to receive him. 

May you find all that you seek this Christmas and may you always feel God’s peace and love for you. He is real. 

Merry Christmas

If you are seeking a more Christ-centered Christmas but don't know where to start, or want to add to what you are already doing, take a minute to read through the list below. And please share your ideas in the comments. The more the merrier!

  • First of all, pray about it. God answers prayers. He will guide you from year to year. Each year I feel inspired to do something new.  Keep in mind that sometimes it takes years to peel back all the layers, get family members used to new ideas and to build a testimony of how important it is that we truly seek to honor and worship Christ at Christmas.
  • Leave space for Christ to fill your hearts Christmas morning by leaving the space bare beneath the tree until it is time to open presents. That way, throughout the month of December as you look at your tree your heart and mind will be drawn to Christ. 
  • Build a nativity scene beneath the tree. Use the kids’ toys if you want. One year we built one but hid the baby Jesus until Christmas morning. The kids were really excited. 
  • Use old shoe boxes to build a little town of Bethlehem. The kids had fun painting the boxes. This was especially fun for the symbolism it held. For once, we had boxes under the tree, only they weren’t brilliantly wrapped with surprises inside, but honored Christ and his story. 
  • Hold off on putting the star on the tree until Christmas Eve. Every day my kids would pester me, “Where is the star?” It was great fun.
  • Decorate your tree with gifts to Jesus. We used little slips of paper to write down the kind things we did each day and the service we rendered. It is neat looking back at forgotten acts of kindness.
  • Go around the room expressing what you are grateful for. 
  • Put dollar for dollar towards a charity instead of gifts. Let the kids decide where it will go or what kind of service you will do. I have found that this has impacted all of my children greatly and it is something they really look forward to.
  • Deliver surprise stars on the doorsteps of others or find a way to hang them. That way, when they leave their home they will find the star. Attach a note with a scripture, thought or even your testimony of Christ. I love origami and so I have always wanted to try this! Maybe this year!
  • Adopt the saying, “Let Christmas be for Christ and New Year’s be for new things.” 
  • Meaning, don’t exchange anything new at Christmas, if at all. Don’t go all crazy hand-making everyone gifts but avoid just going out and buying something. Sometimes a letter or act of kindness is the best kind of gift. Your time and love mean more than you know. 
  • Come Christmas let all your thoughts be focused on Christ. Share your testimony of Christ. Why do you believe in him? What keeps you strong in the faith? Share stories of past ancestors and their life’s struggles and joys. 
  • If you still want to take advantage of all the sales and such at the end of the year, put those purchases towards new things for the new year.  Buy things you need, have saved up for, a family pass to somewhere, or maybe even something that may encourage the development of a talent or joy. Don’t go overboard, but treat it as a new way to celebrate the new year. Or don’t. 
  • Buying a few new things for the new year is something we may do this year because we are still helping our kids transition from a getting presents at Christmas to putting all focus on others. They see it as a reward for the focus they have placed on Christ during Christmas and the sacrifices they have made to put others before themselves. Last year they each got 3 simple presents, this year we won’t buy them anything for Christmas. Although God doesn’t always reward us in this way or this soon, New Year’s will seem like an eternity away. 
  • They are encouraged to make gifts for one another or even to wrap something that means a lot to them or to their siblings. It seems silly, but I wonder how it will go. 
  • I’m certain the list can go on and on. And isn’t that great? If any of these ideas have inspired you, try them. Even if it just for yourself. That is how all this started for me. 

For more ideas on having a Christ-centered Christmas, visit


  1. We have focused a lot on giving gifts to Christ and some of the things are as simple as saying hi to everyone we see and Joe blows them kisses :) I let them believe in Santa, but I remind them that Jesus and Heavenly Father are the one's in charge of Christmas, not Santa :) Life for us has been much different since Jonas died. We know we want to be an eternal family so we all constantly try our best here on earth so we can be with Jonas again. I think you have a wonderful list here. We do a lot of service this time of the year and the kids love it.

  2. Our kids really look forward to the service as well! It is the best part of Christmas. So much so, that throughout the year they are still looking for ways to do service. I like the idea that just smiling and saying hello is a kind gift. It really is the simple things.