Emily and I have a deep-seated desire raise our 4 year-old daughter with Christ at the center of our family this Christmas. But it can be hard to compete with the excitement of presents, the glow of lights, and the taste of treats. I have confession to make- it’s not just my daughter who has a hard time concentrating on “the reason for the season.” It is hard for Evelyn to keep Christ in Christmas because it is hard for me to keep Christ in Christmas.
If you are like me, you have a lot going on. Gifts to order, a tree to decorate, lights to string up, parties and programs to attend, Christmas music to play (gotta hear ’em all!)- the list seems endless. How can we keep focused in the midst of the craziness?
I’d like to recommend that instead of competing with Christmas this year you leverage it. Earlier I made the argument that we should emphasize the season of Thanksgiving in order to adequately comprehend the meaning of Thanksgiving. And we can carry that same mentality into the Christmas season. Every good teacher knows repetition aids learning. You need to establish a pattern of worship this Christmas season that will help you see the beauty of the incarnation in a fresh way every day this month. With that thought in mind, here are a few recommended resources to help you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas every day in December.
Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp
This book is a daily advent devotional designed to keep you meditating on the incarnation all throughout December. For example, last night Emily and I read the devotional for December 3rd which focused on the promises of God as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. You can click on the link here and read about the book for yourself. But, in summary, I like this book for it’s
- accessibility (short, 2-3 page devotional readings)
- theology (Bible-saturated truths about the incarnation with a recommended short Scripture reading at the end)
- relevance (each reading includes suggested ways to discuss that day’s topic with your child or family)
- repetition (it covers every day in the month of December)
If we are going to leverage Christmas, we need to be creative. However, I would not recommend reading Christian symbolism into cultural Christmas elements (like Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas) as if pagans intended the Christmas tree to always represent the cross. I think that practice is misleading at best and dangerously confusing at worst.
However, I am a fan of using cultural Christmas elements as a springboard into gospel-centered discussion. This year I bought a Lego advent calendar for Evelyn. She was kind of disappointed at the size of the first set we opened, but has since caught on to the fact that we get to open a new set every day and put it on the tree. Now she reminds me that we need to do the Lego advent calendar.
And every time we reach for that box, I am reminded to start the discussion of what I have read the night before in Tripp’s advent devotional. This morning as I built a Lego fireplace with her, I explained to her what a promise was and how God kept his promises by sending his Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. We talked about how we can be confident that Jesus will save us, because God always keeps his promises. We will have this type of discussion every day in the month of December as we build sets from her Lego advent calendar. Thank you, Lego!
You can do this with any type of Christmas cultural element that you cherish. The beauty of it is we all have the opportunity to create our own family traditions, to be creative in how we keep the gospel fresh on our minds every day.
One final spiritual exercise I would recommend relates to your Bible reading habits. Author Tony Reinke has produced a simple Bible reading plan that takes you through the book of Isaiah in the month of December. Every day Reinke helps you know what to look for by sharing a few insights about the upcoming reading. He also helps you understand the overarching purpose of the book of Isaiah and how it relates to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. I would recommend reading his introductory comments by clicking on the link here. There is one extra step, and that is to create a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Perhaps someday he’ll make everything available on his website, but until then you will need to search #IsaiahChristmas on Twitter to read his comments.
This format has given greater meaning and depth to my daily devotional reading. I look forward every day to opening my Bible and learning more about Christ’s incarnation from the Old Testament. Then I just take a moment to Tweet my favorite verse from each day’s reading. Today’s verse was Isaiah 9:6:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
My hope and prayer for you is that you will truly be able to keep Christ in the center of your Christmas, not by competing with Christmas, but by leveraging it. I encourage you to establish a routine every day that keeps the gospel in the forefront of your mind. May you see more of Christ this Christmas than ever before.