Simply Celebrating a Christ-Centerd Christmas

Earlier this week I wrote about the Christmas that I got overwhelmed by preparations and tangled up in unrealistic expectations. I never wanted to have that kind of Christmas again so I decided to get intentional about making Jesus the center of my attention each December that followed. And it’s made a big difference.

The first thing I do is look for reminders of Christ everywhere I go. Each time I see a Christmas symbol, I pause and ponder its significance. For instance, when I see a Christmas tree, I stop and think about the wooden cradle and Cross that held my Savior. The evergreen also reminds me that from the cradle to the Cross, Jesus lived and died to give me the gift of everlasting Life.

Stars on houses and treetops remind me of the Star of Bethlehem that led the way to Jesus. Wreaths on doors remind me of His unending circle of grace and mercy. Christmas reds remind me of His lavish love and sacrificial blood that was shed for me.

A favorite of mine is the candy cane. The twists and turns of red and white stripes remind me of His Holiness and His promise declaring that “by His stripes we are healed.” Shaped like a shepherd’s crook, I remember and thank Him for being my Shepherd. Then I turn it upside down and see a J for Jesus, reminding me again that Christmas is all about Him.

Another secret to keeping my sanity is simplifying. This doesn’t come easy for me. Yet I can’t help but remember how that first Christmas was so very simple. So, I’m moving my heart in that direction by focusing in on what matters most to Jesus and me. I’ve started letting go of the things that stress me most.

I want peace more than anything this Christmas. Isaiah 26:12 reminds me where it comes from, “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” The truth is, Peace comes when I do less and trust Him more. Peace stays when I make room for it in my day, in my heart and in my home.

I’ve also simplified by asking my husband and kids what traditions and decorations matter most to them. Driving around looking at Christmas lights and having a Christmas tree was at the top of their list. They also want a few decorations in each room downstairs to remind them all day that it’s Christmas.

This year we’re putting out our favorite things, but not all our things. Andrew loves our Christmas village so it stayed but I did away with the white sparkly cotton that went under it. It was messy and drove me crazy. Now our little Christmas town warms our imaginations but doesn’t make me want to hide in the steeple of the miniature church. That’s progress.


Here are a few more “simplifying” suggestions some of you shared on my Facebook page this week:

  • Enjoy one fun activity a week – like going to a Christmas movie or play, staying home drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies, going to a Christmas church activity, or reading a Christmas book, Christmas magazines, enjoying Christmas games and puzzles. ~Joyce Watson
  • Find crafts that double as decorations. The kids have fun, and get to have pride in seeing what they did everywhere they look. Bake together and give treats as presents. ~Tricia Preston
  • Take pictures of your decorations so that next year isn’t stressful trying to find a perfect place for everything. ~Julie Leary Hull
  • Decorate only 4 main areas: door, table, tree, mantle. It “covers” enough to be festive but you don’t feel like you have to decorate every inch. ~Linda Elliot Moore
  • Let kids help decorate and don’t stress if your house doesn’t look like Southern Living:-) ~ Kelly Casse Thomas
  • Make bows with wired ribbon to put here and there, to add just a pretty touch. Pick long needle pine branches, put a bunch in a vase with a bow. Very Christmassy! ~Sandy Allen
  • Ask “Will it still be Christmas if I don’t…?” (Buy one more gift, make one more batch of cookies, host a Christmas party, etc.) Christmas will come whether we have presents or not, whether our husband is here or not, whether we have 3 Christmas trees, just one or none. Only ONE thing is needed. ~Deb Galetka Heath

This week God reminded me that by simply seeking understanding from Him, and acquiring knowledge from those we love, we can fill our hearts and homes with rare and beautiful treasures made up of Christmas memories, traditions, laughter, peace and joy that will last long after the parties are over, the leftovers are eaten and the decorations are put away!

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4*******************************************

Christmas Giveaway
Which Christmas symbol or tradition is your favorite and why? Are there things you are doing this year to simplify and make room at the Inn of your heart and home for Christ this Christmas?

Join in the Christmas conversation and enter to win “Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas”. Just click on the word “comments” below. I’ll leave this post up through next Tuesday, Dec. 14th and announce a winner here that night. “Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas” is written by my friend Sharon Jaynes. It includes wonderful and doable ideas for each day in December in a beautiful full-colored Christmas table top book!
About Renee

Renee Swope is a Word-lover, story-teller, heart-encourager and grace-needer. She's also a wife, mom, friend, daughter and author of A Confident Heart, a Retailers Choice Award winning book that became a best-seller and has been published in six languages, with over 150,000 copies sold. Renee is speaks around the country at women's events and and serves on the writing team for DaySpring’s inCourage blog. For twenty years, Renee served in leadership at Proverbs 31 Ministries and as former co-host of the ministry's radio program, “Everyday Life with Lysa & Renee.

Comments

  1. We have some of the same ideas…we don't have to do everything every year to keep the tradition and make the memories.

    Our favorite tradition is our Advent NativiTree (or the "Christmas House" as my boys call it). Each night we open a door on the Advent calendar to find a Nativity ornament. We hang it on the tree and read the corresponding scripture. I've also added a related story book (or two) and a Christmas carol as part of what has become a nightly family devotional time. (I'm sharing the details about some of the books on my blog this month.)

    We don't put up our big Christmas tree or other Christmas decorations until the middle of the month so we're well on our way to Bethlehem before we get caught up in any of the other traditions of the season.

    And as the month wears on and the list of things I haven't got done starts to be longer than the number of hours I have to do them, things get crossed off the list in proportion to what it will take to keep me sane and in a frame of mind to enjoy this special time and keep me mindful of its significance.

    Mary Hampton

  2. my favorite meaningful part of Christmas is the music. O Holy Night, Breath of Heaven, A Baby Changes Everything…they have such depth and move me in my heart to want to be holy.

  3. This year I've started a new tradition. This is the first year that our adult "kids" won't be home until right before Christmas so while our traditional Advent calendar is hanging in our kitchen and I'm placing the shepherds, angels, etc. on it….

    I purchased the Advent to Lent Wreath from Ann Voskamp's son Caleb. Here's the picture/explanation at http://adventtolenttoascensionwreath.blogspot.com/

    The wood Caleb carved is beautiful in its simplicity and brings a new calm tradition into our home for Christmas.

    Thank you for the opportunity to win the book.

  4. I love our Christmas tree and one of our traditions is to hang an ornament that is a nail in a hidden place close to the trunk. We talk about the true meaning of christmas: how Christ came as a baby to grow into a man and die for our sins. I also love reading Christmas books and one of my favorite is one that explains the meaning of the candy cane.

  5. We are building new traditions as a blended family. We go in search of our precious tree and then go to the Christmas parade and "freeze", we read a special book or message Christmas morning and eat Jewish Apple Cake for breakfast before the gift opening begins. We are building new together.
    Blessings,
    kareng

  6. I simplified decorations this year, putting out only the most meaningful. It still feels like Christmas, but isn't over the top. I'm looking forward to doing "What God Wants for Christmas" Nativity with my kids.

  7. Our favorite tradition is playing Christmas music or watching Christmas shows and going to church family gatherings and spending time with our church family as well.

    Blessings, In Christ…

    Tina U.

  8. Which Christmas symbol or tradition is your favorite and why?
    We are doing many new thing this year, in my quest to transition into a more intentional Christmas and in a year that involves the grandkids much, much more. I am looking fwd to much to come, still, in the next 2 wks (including watching them wake up on Christmas morning at our house), but so far, my favourite is our Gratitude Tree. This yr it's a second tree, but next year it may be our only tree. We tie "thankfuls" on the ornaments, tags where we all write 1 thing we're thankful for. No ornaments go on the tree w/o a thankful on it (something my almost 3 y/o doesn't quite understand yet…)

  9. The Christmas tree and the snowflake ornaments. My husband and I gather our tree as one of the few activities we truly do together. the snowflake remind me that as each snowflake is unique and perfect, I and everyone else are uniquely and perfectly made. The purity reminds of the finished work of Christ, who accomplished this with His death on the tree

  10. Thank you for sharing such great ideas. This Christmas I have really tried to keep my focus on the true meaning. Battling depression and losses has threatened to "ruin" Christmas but keeping that focus on Jesus helps give my soul peace and hope. I love your idea of stopping and appreciating Christmas symbols as you see them. I had a similar idea, but had not thought about really reflecting on the meaning behind them. It's the perfect touch. Thank you again.

  11. My favorite Christmas tradition is putting up a Nativity Set that I made as a 10 year old…I am now 60! I took Ceramics with a dear cousin for a few years and I made it in that class.
    When I put it up it transports me back to my childhood…remembering how my Dad patiently drove me to and from lessons each week..how he encouraged me always and how blessed I was as a child to have him.

  12. I love our candlelight Christmas Eve service. Family that is able attends. The lifting up of candles at the end is so simple, but such so uplifting. Jody B

  13. Love this post. I just put a poem on my FB called Blessed not Stressed I wrote a few years ago when I decided to start simplifying. This is the 1st year I have a nativity scene and I love it. I may just keep that up all year as I should be celebrating His birth all of the time. The kids get 3 gifts and I'm staying within our means. Just trying to really keep my focus on Him and one thing is to not compare myself to other women. Whether in the latest edition of Better Homes & Gardens or in real life or even in blogging. Try to be encouraged instead by their ideas. Thanks for sharing this Renee…you have really filled my heart up with encouragement today!!!

  14. My favorite tradition which you do not hear often anymore is the simple but so meaningful "Merry Christmas"! I say it to everyone everywhere I go, even when they say "Happy Holidays" my response is always "Merry Christmas"! The second would be having our families over on Christmas day for dinner and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Yes, we order a regular birthday cake and have a party in his glory.

  15. Our favorite family traditions are picking out a real Christmas tree and decorating it while listening to Christmas music or playing 'A Christmas Story' on the dvd.

    We also love baking Christmas cookies!

    Amy V

  16. Last night my family and I visited a church that had a village setting with a candy store, a cookie store, a church with a bell located in the top, a toy store, and much more. They served different snacks and drinks. There was alot of activities for small children. There was also Christmas music which we enjoyed. We had a wonderful time.
    While we were visiting, we saw some friends we haven't seen in a while. This time of year is a joy to know the Savior! Faith, Family and Friends are just a few things I enjoy at Christmas. Christ is the best thing_our Savior and Lord!

  17. I guess I have two favorite traditions…making sure to say Merry Christmas to everyone, especially clerks and cashiers. The other tradition are my different nativity sets…I've started a collection a few years ago and enjoy finding new unique ones every year. He is the reason for the season.

    Mary Lou
    dlowran1(at)comcast(dot)net

  18. This year it's going to be the tradition of Family. With hubby so ill…we just need to focus on what is important…the gift of Christ and the gift of life!!!

  19. What a great post. Each year less seems better. It truly does allow for more focus on Christ and I am less stressed and less irritable and nicer to my family. We love putting up the Christmas Tree right after Thanksgiving to enjoy it and take in the beauty of the season as long as we can and loving to decorate with angels, crosses, stars, and tiny white lights. Our favorite thing to do is attend our church's Christmas Eve service with Carols, Candles, and Communion and then come home and sit by the tree's lights, read about Jesus' birth, reflect on the year's blessings and our love for each other. Every year we encourage our son to pray about who he and we can be a blessing to. This week a close friend's husband had triple bypass surgery. We selected their family to run errands, shop, clean their home, pick grandma up at the airport, wrap gifts, whatever the need. What joy it is when we are able to lighten the burden of a dear friend and her family as her husband recouperates in the hospital. Our son and we are learning the blessing and satisfaction of giving love in action to others and not missing lots of gifts under the Christmas tree.

    Merry CHRISTmas,
    Donna

  20. I love how you described the symbolism wreaths can provide: "Wreaths on doors remind me of His unending circle of grace and mercy."

    My husband and I are really wanting to show our faith to our families through our actions more boldly. So we're discussing ways to really center on Christ this Christmas, even in all the other family traditions.

  21. Singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus is one of our favorite traditions, of course my boys love blowing out the candles. I enjoy doing Christmas crafts with them and reading them Christmas stories. I am finding it's the simple things that they remember and enjoy the most.

  22. Girl, I've simplified so much over the last couple of years! This year, my kids decorated the tree and took my decorations and put them out around the house. It's not Better Homes and Gardens but it's their home and they love it!

    We read the Christmas story around the tree Christmas morning as the children set up our nativity. I wrap Baby Jesus as the first gift of Christmas.

  23. This year we took a piece of the nativity each night and read a scripture about them. We've looked at Christmas lights, went to hospice in memory of my mother-in-law, and we'll go to the animal park and see the lights and animals next week!

  24. One of my favourite traditions is setting a place for Jesus at our Christmas dinner table. We place a crown that my son made when he was just little, on the special place setting and this gives a visual reminder of His presence as we celebrate His birthday.

    We are looking forward to welcoming Diane to our home this Christmas. She arrives this Wednesday and we are so excited about celebrating Christmas with her this year. It will be extra special. 🙂

    It was wonderful to spend time with Sharon Jaynes in January when she came to our church. Her book sounds delightful.

    Blessings to you my friend.
    Hugs,
    Joy
    PS. Did you get my email? No worries…just wondering if it arrived.

  25. our favorite tradition is setting up the nativities – we have quite a few, from all over the world… it helps remind us that "God so loved the world…"

  26. One of my favorite traditions is that we pick a day before Christmas to write letters to Jesus. Each year we write about something we want to give to Him, then we read our letters Christmas morning. It stops the Christmas frenzy and helps us get quiet and focus on the heart of our savior. We save the letters and reread them each year. They're a wonderful record of the passing years (some letters have pictures and baby scrawls). Our family looks forward to both the letter writing time and when we read them.

  27. Leigh Fant says:

    Last year we got a Nativity set where you read scripture every night and open a box to see what is inside of it. My kids loved it and couldn't wait to start it this year!

  28. I have 2 favorites…my first is our Jesse Tree (our children make each ornament) and my second is putting out our Nativity set on the mantel (and adding the Baby Jesus to the manger on Christmas morning).

  29. Emily B (emleepc@yahoo.com) says:

    This past Saturday, my mom and I had our 2nd annual baking day, and this year my aunt from Kansas was able to be with us! We had so much fun baking, laughing, spilling stuff, and we shared with each other what God was teaching us in the past few weeks. It was a special time to be with women in my family, and share our hearts with each other, share in the baking, and family recipes. Another aunt will be joining us next year!

    I love this new "tradition" we have started!

  30. My favorite Christmas symbol is the star. The reminder of the guiding light placed in the sky by God that wonderful night to guide people to Christ.

    My favorite tradition is making cookies. The fellowship while baking, be it with friends or my daughter is wonderful! We always make them to give away as gifts to people.

  31. Our favorite tradition is baking and decorating cookies and decorating the tree and watching some of the memorable Christmas movies together as a family. Thank you for the giveaway. Merry Christmas

    koinonia572001@yahoo.com

  32. My favorite tradition is remembering the Reason for the Season. Remembering God gave Jesus to us as a gift. I also like to go look at decorations with my daughter just before the 25th.

  33. This is my first Christmas as a married woman. My husband has a three year old son and we are attempting to start our own traditions as a family. Putting up the tree has been our little one's favorite so far. A personal tradition I have is reading a Christmas book or devotion everyday during the few weeks leading up to Christmas….hoping the Christmas spirit will stay in my heart all year.

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