A few years ago there was a two-paneled cartoon. The first panel showed a gentlemen sitting in front of a Christmas tree piled high with gifts. The second panel had a few gifts and a Nativity set and his question as he could now see the crèche, “Hey! Where did that come from?” A voice from the other room replied: “It’s always been there.”
Help your families and the people in your congregation enjoy a simpler Christmas by suggesting these practices to them:
1. Spend some time each day in silence. The Prince of Peace came in the stillness of the night. The call of Scripture to us in the Psalms is “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Spending a few minutes each day roots us in our relationship to God, bringing us closer to the Spirit of Christ.
2. Remember those who help. Be especially kind and grateful to sales personnel during this season. Often they are tired and stressed because of working long hours and impatient customers. You can make a difference in their day by your words, your patience, your thank you.
3. Go vegetarian for one meal. In many countries around the world it is customary to have a meatless Christmas Eve dinner. This is done in remembrance and honor of the animals present at Jesus’ birth. They too shared in the joy of Christ’s coming.
4. Play “one for me, one for you.” Start this tradition: Whenever your child adds something to his own wish list, have him think also of a gift for someone less fortunate. Then help him find it, make it, give it.
5. Christmas Questions. Take time at dinner (or before bedtime) to share some thoughts with your spouse or family on these questions: a) What is your happiest Christmas memory? b) If you could start a new Christmas tradition what would it be? c) Do any of our Christmas plans include reaching out to people in need? d) Think of all the “characters” in the Scripture story. What presents did they give to Jesus? Are our presents anything like the presents that were given at the first Christmas?
6. Blessings. Pray a simple prayer of blessing when you put out your Nativity set, turn on the tree for the first time, before you open your family presents.
7. The Magi’s Gifts. To help combat consumerism at Christmas, some families limit the number of gifts to three in honor of the gifts of the Magi. Consider giving children one gift that is their heart’s desire, a piece of clothing that is not just sensible, and one gift that will help them grow (a book or sports accessory, etc.).
Twelve Days of Giving. On each of the twelve days of Christmas, beginning December 25 and ending on January 5, pick an activity you/your family can do for someone else. Bring groceries to the food bank, serve at a soup kitchen, donate toys to a local drive, call someone who is grieving, collect coats for the homeless – there are endless ways to give.