We love the holidays. It’s that most wonderful time of the year when Christians — many non-Christians, too — celebrate. We gather together with family and friends to feast, exchange gifts and wish for peace on Earth and good will to all.

The holiday season, the world faithfully reminds us each year through advertising and commercials, officially kicks off with the Thanksgiving Day parade and ends with a set of resolutions on New Year’s Day. The Christmas season is so important in our society, it would seem, that preparations begin almost as soon as — or even before — the back-to-school items are marked down for clearance to make room on store shelves for Halloween candy.

What, exactly, are we celebrating? Are we simply caught up in celebrating the season itself, rather than “the reason for the season?”

It happens to the best of us. We get caught up in the anticipation of the season’s pleasures; we revel in the glorious holiday trimmings as our senses are bombarded by the sights, sounds and scents of the Christmas season. Trees adorned with ornaments and candy canes grace our homes and town squares, houses are decked out in twinkling lights, cookies are baked and festively decorated malls and shops capture our attention with whimsical window displays.

Christ IS in the celebration, we may tell ourselves. Baby Jesus is front-and-center; star of the Christmas decorations at home where he lies, swaddled, in the manger of a beautiful crèche that has been lovingly passed down from one generation to the next; or perhaps hand-crafted as a family back when the kids were little. Many of our favorite Christmas Carols are about our Savior’s birth, the one we celebrate by going to church on Christmas.

But, we must ask ourselves, is Christ truly at the center of our celebration? If not, there are some simple, yet meaningful, steps you can take to put him there.

– Make sure Jesus Christ is present in your daily life rather than complaining that Christmas is too commercial. Keeping Christ in Christmas is less about what you say — “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays,” — and more about how you live your life on a daily basis.
– Invite a friend or relative to attend Christmas services with you.
– Give God the gift of your time. Commit to spending time with him on a daily basis in prayer and commit some of your time to serving others on a regular basis during the year.
– Watching your favorite Christmas movies is a wonderful family tradition, but make it a family tradition also to read the Christmas story as it is told in Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20:

Now it happened in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being pregnant. It happened, while they were there, that the day had come that she should give birth. She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7

– Take on a project at a local charity, either by yourself or as a family
– Have a birthday cake for Jesus, especially if you have children. Kids are always on board with birthday cake … they “get it” that everyone has cake on his special day. Why not help them mark Jesus’ birthday this way?
– Visiting Santa and writing a Christmas wish list is fun for kids, but make sure they also learn the joy of giving. Help them give to others by baking cookies to take to elderly neighbors, arranging some favorite Christmas hymns to sing at a nursing home or crafting hand-made Christmas cards with a Bible verse you choose together to send to deployed soldiers. Collect food and clothing to take to a shelter or shop together for toys to drop off for children in need.
– Set a place for Jesus at the dinner table on Christmas, or better yet, fill that seat with a special guest — someone who may not have family or friends with whom to share the holiday.

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