By Jarod Dyess

Whether it’s setting up the Christmas tree, loads of food, time off from work, or putting lights on the house, we all enjoy the season that has its own genre of music. Every year we happen upon what we call the “most wonderful time of the year”, but why is this so? What makes Christmas time so wonderful?

Decorating for the season is a joy for families everywhere. I’ve always enjoyed driving in neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. One of my fondest memories of my youth was in 2004 on Christmas Eve – it snowed in Houston. (Shock, I Know!) Blankets of snow all over the area, even down to Galveston, created a magical evening. My family loaded up in our SUV and drove around Deer Park, as the snow fell, looking at people’s Christmas lights. Looking back, I have no idea what Christmas gifts I received that year, what I remember more that anything is that that was the last Christmas I had with my mom; Being with my family and celebrating Jesus together mattered most.

There are so many reasons that we love Christmas, each one being delightful in its own way. Yet there’s so much irony in the fact that we spend only one day in November being thankful for what we have, but we spend the entire month that follows fighting each other in department stores for the gifts we can’t afford and don’t need.

For centuries families across the globe have found ways to celebrate Christmas. For the day that we have chosen to celebrate our Savior coming into the world, we should have festivities that focus on Jesus. I know there are dozens of traditions that we follow and have no real reason why, after all there aren’t other holidays that we drag trees into our home for decoration. Not that I speak against those, but what if we were intentional about choosing to follow old traditions and create new ones that have purpose and draw our focus to Jesus.

Advent is a tradition that many churches have forgotten but has been an integral part of how the church has celebrated for thousands of years. The word “advent” means arrival or appearance and is intended to generate anticipation of the Messiah coming into our world. This year Advent start on November 27th and for the next four weeks that lead up to Christmas Day, families do activities that direct their attention to the arrival of Jesus, and what that means for humanity.

Make memories with your family, start a new tradition, choose a different way to celebrate Christmas. What’s most important is finding a way to love God and love people this season – So whatever you do this year, consider celebrating Christmas with your family and others in a way that is fun, meaningful and honors God!

Below are some ways that you can celebrate Advent and its climax, Christmas:

  1. Make a Jesse Tree. This is a small little tree that you can create or purchase. Any style that has several Make some ornaments to hang, each ornament can be a picture or symbol of the lesson. In Isaiah, God says “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him”. The idea is each day you hang a new ornament and read through scripture that tells the story of God’s love for man from Creation all the way to Jesus.
  1. Choose an Advent Wreath. Similar to wreaths you might hang on doors, but these lay flat on a table top and have four longer candles and one larger in the middle. Each week your family will light a candle until finally you light the large one in the middle on Christmas Day. You might accompany this by evening prayer and a short devotional and may be done before or after dinner, once or multiple time a week.
  1. Go Christmas Caroling! A neat way to reach your neighbors. People enjoy singing the tunes of Christmas and it’s a great way to share joy of Jesus. After your song set at each home, you can offer prayer and converse with them about Jesus, your Missional Community Group or the Church.
  1. Choose a way for your family to serve. This is an awesome means to help alleviate the self-centeredness that comes from an abundance of gifts and secular ideals instilled into us. Be intentional, don’t simply donate your leftovers or things you have to spare, but do something out of love and sacrifice to others around you.
  1. Set up a Nativity Scene in your home. One thing you can do differently though is to put all of the pieces in different parts of you home. The Magi in one corner or room, the shepherds in another and Mary and Joseph in another, and hide the baby Jesus. Each day you can move each piece a little closer to the manger. As you do this you can excite your kids about what the journey would have been like for each of the sojourners and read the stories from scripture that accompany each character. On Christmas day you can have all the characters arrive and place baby Jesus.
  1. Find an Advent Calendar. This is a neat tool to teach your kids patience! It can be made of cardboard, hardwood or a number of materials. This has 24 little doors that conceal a candy. On Christmas Day there is a special treat, maybe a larger candy or a toy of some kind. Each day you can discuss a different principle of depending on Jesus and what a joy he is when he comes into our world.
  1. Host Birthday Party for Jesus! As the days count down you can get your kids involved in helping to prepare for the party. Will you have cake, presents, songs, decorations? This can be something that you invite others to if you so wish and make it a community event – Go as big as you want.
  1. Create a Paper Chain Garland. Each day you can write a short bible verse or someone you want to pray for. Make it as festive as you can! Coordinate colors, markers, glitter etc. You can hang this around the tree or over a window ledge or on the fireplace mantle.
  1. Hold a Talent Show. Allow each of your family members to use their talents and creativity to make a contribution that displays their love for Jesus. Tell a story, write a poem, sing a song, paint a picture, perform a skit. You can have each person do something once a week or all in one day however it fits for you. Remind each person that they are offering their talent or gift to God with family enjoying as well, rather than just a performance for family.