We’ve all been at a Christmas Eve service, holding our candles high, but thinking, I’ve missed the meaning of Christmas this year. Or we’ve found ourselves surrounded by a pile of wrapping paper and empty boxes, and thought, Well, I guess that’s it; that’s Christmas for this year. Sure, we had a great season that was full of all the cheer, but there was something lacking.
Not this year. This year will be different because you will choose the abundant life, including the abundant Christmas, that Jesus came for you to have (John 10:10). You know that gifts are awesome, but they do not fulfill. You know that parties are fun, but they are not enough. You were made for more than just having a good Christmas. You were made for a sacred, holy, and set-apart Christmas. Choose today to pursue a better way.
These eight things will make your Christmas more meaningful:
1. Just Say “No” (to All the Things)
This has been a hard one for me, but it has been the thing that created space for all the following ideas and more. When we say “no” to the things that don’t bring us closer to Jesus and others, we create space for all the things that do. Each year you’ll find it easier and easier to say “no” to all things. Give yourself grace as you begin saying “no.” Also, be aware that although you feel confident that you should say “no” to something, others might not appreciate it so much. That’s OK. It’s not easy, but it’s OK to disappoint others if it means you are doing what you feel the Lord is leading you to.
The easiest way to determine what you should say “no” to is to ask yourself, What brings me the most chaos that I don’t have to do? For example, at the top of my list of chaotic things is my three girls. However, I’m clearly not going to say “no” to spending time with them! I can, however, say “no” to some of the parties. The amount of party invites has started getting out of control. Being an extrovert, I struggle with serious fear-of-missing-out syndrome and do not like missing out on a Christmas party. However, there are just too many. So we choose just a couple each year.
Another thing I say “no” to now is sending Christmas cards. I love getting cards, but putting them together, spending money on them, and then sending them out is an added stress that I don’t enjoy. So a few years ago we decided to use that money to do other things instead of paying to be stressed. Plus, our friends see all the pics and updates they need on Instagram.
What is one thing you can say “no” to this Christmas that would immediately feel like you are choosing less chaos and/or more Jesus? Scratch it off the list, and take a giant deep breath of relief.
2. Say “Yes” to What Brings Joy
On the flip side of that, and because you’ve created space, say “yes” to the things that bring you joy. I have a good friend who is a walking-talking Pinterest girl. She used to feel bad that she was this way because other friends would give her a hard time for it, so she would do less and down-play what she was so amazing at doing. She finally got over it and realized that’s who she is and she has more joy doing those things—and so does everyone around her when she is being herself!
Sometimes it’s embracing who you are and sometimes it’s about embracing something that’s good for you, even if it feels like the worst season to say “yes” to something. Two years ago, I decided to host a small group for one of our Sacred Holidays Advent Bible studies. I was afraid that this decision was counterproductive since I was trying to say “no” more. That ended up being one of the most significant Christmas seasons because I celebrated the greatest meaning of it with others each week. I had never felt so connected to the Christmas story and message.
3. Do an Advent Bible Study
If I can encourage you to do anything this Advent, it’s to do an Advent Bible study. Nothing has fixed my heart on the true meaning of Christmas like doing one of our Sacred Holidays Advent studies. Again, this might seem like a crazy time to start a Bible study. That’s actually one of the reasons why I started the ministry Sacred Holidays with an Advent Bible study. Since this is the season churches break from their regular Bible studies, women tend to break, too, because their schedules are so inconsistent. Don’t let this happen! You deserve a better Christmas than that! And your Father is worthy of being celebrated.
Grab an Advent study, and as I shared in the last tip, I’d also grab a few friends and do the study together. You will find that the accountability of others—whether you gather in person or encourage and challenge each other in a Facebook group—will radically affect how your heart connects to the meaning of Christmas this year!
4. Display and Light Advent Candles
Advent candles are an easy way to engage your heart and your eyes in the power of the Christmas story. They are a symbol to celebrate the Light of the World, Jesus, coming to earth. You begin four Sundays before Christmas with five candles unlit. This is a reminder that without Christ in our life we are in darkness and without hope.
On the first Sunday of Advent (the Sunday four weeks out from Christmas), you light the first candle. Then each Sunday you light an additional candle. Watching the light grow will build the anticipation for celebrating the Father of Lights. Finally, on Christmas morning you will light the fifth and final candle! The brightness of these candles will display the same awe of Christ’s coming.
I can’t wait to hear how the Advent candles begin to develop the same sentimentality that the sparkly Christmas tree holds for you.
Tip: If you have young kids or live in a dorm, get battery operated candles. This is great for safety but it also makes it accessible to them to participate too. Also, consider putting battery operated candles somewhere at work if you have your own desk space. This will be a great encouragement to your heart to remember the Light of the World has come! Also, it might help foster some meaningful conversations with co-workers.
5. Write a Giving List
A great way to shift away from the greed at Christmas is to shift away from making your own Christmas Wish List and instead make a Giving Wish List. I know some people that have completely stopped the gift giving part of Christmas because it just feels too commercial to them. I’ve continued to do gifts for others because I feel like it aligns with the generosity of the Father. So, I focus on who can we give meaningful gifts to and start a Giving Wish List.
I would highly recommend doing this with your kids, too. My kids have never made a wish list for themselves. They do for sure at birthdays, but they know Christmas is about others. We have them work on a Giving List.
Tip: This can all be done on a budget! Generosity doesn’t mean you have to go into debt. My husband and I talk each year about what we want to give and then for an entire year, we set aside 1/12 of that amount so that it’s not a strain to our finances, and we don’t have to go into debt. Don’t go crazy with gifts; it’s not worth it.
6. Make a Jesus or Jesse Tree
I love visuals, and doing a Jesus or Jesse tree is a great one for Christmastime. This is especially fun to do if you have kiddos in your life. But don’t let that turn you away if you don’t. Either of these would be great to do if you live by yourself or with other adults.
We’ve done a Jesus Tree a few times, and I have loved doing it, both because of its simplicity and hands-on approach to focusing on celebrating Jesus. This is something I just made up, so there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. It’s a “celebrate-what-Jesus-has-done” tree! (We also do this at Easter.) I grab a branch from our yard or a fake branch from the store and hang pieces of paper from it that I’ve hole-punched and tied with a string. I place a sign next to the tree that says, “Celebrate Jesus and all His coming means to you! Grab a paper, write your celebration down, and hang it on the tree for others to celebrate with you.”
A Jesse Tree is a bit different and requires a bit more planning and preparation. Its history goes back to the medieval days. There are twenty-five Bible stories, from the Garden to Jesus’ birth, and twenty-five coordinating symbols to go with each story. You create an ornament that represents the symbol to you and then read the Bible story for that day. There is a ton of information about this online.
7. Go to Church
This might be an obvious one, but one of the most meaningful things you can do during Christmas is to go to a Bible-believing church during the Christmas season. Like Bible study, church attendance can drop off our priority list because of the craziness of the season. Don’t let that happen. Gather with others who believe like you and celebrate together this very significant holiday!
If you aren’t currently plugged into a local church, this is the perfect time to find a church home. Use this season to visit a few churches in your area. If you aren’t sure where to start, I’ve found asking for suggestions on Facebook to be very helpful.
8. Pick Out a Memory Ornament
There is nothing specifically spiritual about this item other than it’s super meaningful to us, and we know God celebrates these things with us, too. Each year our family goes to a store that sells a ton of ornaments to pick out our memory ornament for the year. We think of a meaningful or significant event that happened that year. Once we get home we record that story in a journal and hang the ornament on the tree. We go through all the memory ornaments then and re-share what they were for.
Tip for those with kiddos: We also do this for our kids, not just with them. They pick out an ornament for themselves, but we then also pick an ornament out for them of something we’ve seen in them. I envision packing all these ornaments up and giving them to my girls when they have their first adult Christmas. They’ll be able to look back on a lifetime of significant milestones and special memories.
As you can see none of these ideas involves a degree in rocket science or a certain amount of money in the bank. All they require is that you do something. Breaking old traditions and starting new ones isn’t easy, but it is totally possible. This year make Christmas a sacred one, holy and set-apart.
If you found this article helpful and would like more ideas, challenges, and encouragement for all the holidays—Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, summer, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and birthdays—grab your copy of Sacred Holidays where books are sold online.
Becky Kiser’s greatest hope is that women would find confidence in following Jesus, studying His Word and living out what He has said. Becky's first book, Sacred Holidays: Less Chaos, More Jesus, was released in October 2018 to help women find more meaning and less crazy during the holidays. She often speaks at women's events and prisons. She is the Founder and CEO of Sacred Holidays, a ministry dedicated to connecting the heart of women to the heart of God during peak seasons of women's lives (the holidays they celebrate). She is a certified Myers-Briggs Personal and Executive Coach. She is addicted to iced tea and nail polish, loves Texas summers, and usually is reading three books at the same time (although it's a lot of picture books these days). She lives in The Woodlands, Texas, with her husband, Chris, and their three daughters: Karis, Moriah, and Chandler.
This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!
What is Christmas? Understanding History, Origin and Traditions
When Was Jesus Born? History of December 25th
Where Was Jesus Born? 5 Things to Know about Bethlehem
The Birth of Jesus: Bible Story and Scripture Verses
What is Advent: Definition & Meaning Behind Christmas Tradition
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