What are your dreams for this Christmas? Does December 1 come faster every year? The whole month can feel like a race to catch up. “This Christmas won’t take us by surprise,” many parents decide every year. Dreams of a perfect Christmas with lasting happy memories begin to take shape. Maybe you read inspiring articles on “how to have your best Christmas ever.” Does your list grow every year—lights and decorations, just the right gift for each one, a tasty Christmas dinner, and finding a Christmas activity you hope will become a new family tradition?
How many of these questions apply to you? Every Christian parent wants to make Christmas memorable for their kids. But the list of “dreams” gets too long. How can parents prioritize Christmas activities? Some activities trivialize Christmas and deserve to be abandoned. Other activities add to family life. They can become lasting memories to seal family bonds. Yet this season celebrates Jesus’ birth! Shouldn’t our goal be more than happy Christmas memories? In this season that celebrates Jesus’ birth we want to cultivate a deeper love for Him. What activities will help our family aim for this goal?
Four Questions to Ask
1. What activities will help our family value Jesus more?
“It wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts,” we often hear. A simple rhyme has helped countless parents manage gift-giving: “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” Truth is, clothes wear out, toys break, and we lose interest. Ask your family, “Where is your favorite gift from last Christmas?” You’ll likely get blank, guilty looks for an answer. What about those gifts you had hoped would create memories to last a lifetime?
Gifts can be sweet reminders of our love for one another. But how can a family experience Jesus as God’s better-than-anything gift? Jesus came to give us what is truly better—a new heart that will praise him joyfully forever. To all who in wonder-filled fear turn from sin and trust in Jesus, God gives forgiveness. What if this Christmas, we asked God to give us hearts to worship Jesus, Prince of Peace and King of history?
2. Which activities might God use to draw our family closer to Him and to one another?
The melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookie recipe you found may be a perfect new tradition for your family. A special Christmas dinner may be a delightful meal for the family. But what happens when a recipe calls for specialty ingredients and utensils you have to search for? We spend more time trying to make it all happen than we do together! How many parents know what it is to end up in the kitchen on Christmas day asking, “Why am I working all alone?”
Goodies at Christmas make for happy times. But even the best recipes cannot satisfy our hunger for God. God did not design these treats to be our greatest happiness. Christmas tells us that Jesus came to fill our hearts with Himself. We want to help our family taste and see that Jesus is good and ever so satisfying. What if this Christmas, we asked God to give our children hearts that hunger for Him?
3. Will this activity distract us from our joy in Christ?
For many families the list of “perfect” Christmas activities grows every year. Rehearsals, parties, performances, recitals, plays, shuttle service, fast food, and home late! Before falling into bed, under compulsion, we remember our Christmas devotion. At the end of an exhausting day, reading the Bible together becomes merely an afterthought.
Where is the joy? We end up spending more time with our kids in the car than anywhere else. How can we resist the sinful pressure to keep up? What if we asked, “If we give our time, money and energy to this activity, will our family have more joy?” True Christmas joy comes as we give our lives to Jesus. Joy increases as we do whatever He wants, even when it means changing our plans. What if this Christmas, we asked God to help us prioritize daily time for Scripture reading and family conversations that celebrate the glory of Christ?
4. How could this activity help us love our neighbors who don’t yet know Christ?
Lights and decorations are often high on the list of what makes Christmas “perfect.” We hope our hands-on effort will bless our neighbors as much as our own family. How could anything beat the beauty of dazzling decorations and sparkling lights? Yet even before we take down the lights, the excitement is long gone. Christmas is the time to love our neighbors with this truth: only the beauty of Jesus’ light never grows dim. What if this Christmas, we asked God to use our hands, feet, voices, minds, and hearts to help our neighbors enjoy the true beauty of Christmas?
So what are your dreams for this Christmas? Parents spend effort and money to see their dreams come true. Yet our dreams for our children will always be too small compared to God’s. What activity will you set aside this year? A better Christmas awaits the family that treasures Jesus. This year, why not lead your children to the One who is better than anything an activity-filled Christmas tries to offer?
Author’s note: I wrote A Better Than Anything Christmas, to help you lead your family to the One who is better-than-anything! See the Christmas story unfold to reveal the glorious truth of Jesus—who He is and why He came. God prepared the world for Jesus and He will prepare your heart to celebrate this Christmas in a new and lasting way.