Simplify Christmas, Magnify Christ
Christmas is a time of great excitement and good cheer. But it also presents Christians with a sizable challenge. How do we keep the birth of Jesus front and center when we live a world that has turned Christmas into a commercial and sentimental circus?
How can we enjoy this time of year but not join the merry-go-round the world offers us? It is no small challenge, at least not one that we can tackle without deliberate effort. The simplicity of that first Christmas and its profound meaning can drown in our long to do lists and our tight schedules.
How can we simplify Christmas and magnify Christ? Here are six suggestions.
1. Worship Jesus intentionally. Carve out time to meditate on Jesus’ birth. Read the Gospels account, but don’t skip the Old Testament. Use an Advent Bible reading schedule to help you navigate through the different passages. Get a notebook and list all the blessings that are yours because Jesus came. Write out your prayers. Read an Advent devotional such as Paul Tripp's Come Let Us Adore Him or a free Advent resource from John Piper. For families I recommend a devotional written by Marty Machowski and Treasuring God in Our Traditions (Noel Piper, free PDF) which contains a great section on fun and meaningful Christmas traditions for families.
2. Reinstate the Advent Fast. In many churches candles are lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. This is a nice tradition, a reminder that the Light of the World entered our darkness. But in the early days of Christianity, believers would use Advent to fast. To them, Advent was a time of groaning and waiting for the Messiah and his future reign. We have lost the art of waiting in our fast paced, instant gratification world. But fasting can help us refocus, as we willingly strip ourselves of worldly comfort and ease. For what do we gain if our cupboards are full, but our hearts empty?
3. Purge Christmas. We can’t magnify Jesus well if we let the world’s rendition of Christmas take center stage in our homes. So, fill your house with songs that exalt Christ instead of music that only gives you a nice feeling. Christmas is infinitely more than the season to be jolly! Don’t let Santa be the main topic of conversation with your kids. Jesus is not Santa. We don’t want Jesus competing with Santa in our children’s minds. Plan your festivities in such a way that the gift of Jesus is not overshadowed by the gifts under the tree. Set aside some time to celebrate the birth of Jesus with your family. Help your children love Jesus more than the presents they receive. Don't shame them when you see their greed, teach them about the greatest gift ever.
4. Reduce the stress. We all complain how busy this time of year is, but we fail to see that much of it is self-inflicted. Simplifying Christmas means that we keep our desires and plans on a tight leash. We may want to limit our exposure to Christmas catalogs and shopping centers. Why not keep the decorations inside and outside the house simple this year? Don't make pleasing everyone your goal this Christmas, you can't. And don't pursue the perfect Christmas. We can't improve on the first one. In fact, because Jesus came we don't have to be perfect.
5. Avoid credit card judgment day. Cap your spending, before you begin your spending, and stick to it. It is not wise to buy what you can’t afford. Think of alternative gifts. Be creative. Make your own gift card for a day trip to a museum or the zoo. Experiences are more valuable than most presents anyway. Have the family draw names so that each person gives a gift to one person. Gift giving doesn’t have to be over the top to be special.
6. Serve others. Christmas can breed greediness. Sacrificing our time or our money fosters contentment. Write an extra check to support a missionary in your church. Invite someone to your family Christmas celebrations. Perhaps there is a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your area in need of some extra help. Bake cookies and bring them to your neighbors. Pray that God will open your hearts and hands to those in need. Make it a family or church project! It is more blessed to give than to receive, especially at Christmas when we celebrate that God gave His Son.
Simplify Christmas and magnify Christ.
May you all have a merry Christmas, full of His joy.