Adoration of the shepherds reni

In years past, despite our efforts to maintain focus throughout the holiday season, despite whatever plans and preparations we went through, Christmas morning still seemed to come and go without so little as a passing thought of why we were really celebrating. I remember feeling disappointed and spent when it was all through. The flurry and bustle of the gift-giving, discarding the papers and bags, the ribbons and bows, tearing away to find what treasure lay beneath – only to cast it aside in lieu of the next treasure waiting to be discovered — it was crazy.

You might think I’m overthinking things or getting a little carried away. Correct me if I’m wrong – if something is worth celebrating, shouldn’t we at least think about it once while we’re celebrating it?

With each passing year, I’ve searched for ways to make Christmas morning more meaningful. I don’t want to squelch the joy of giving to each other, and I don’t want to work all month to remember the joy of Christ’s birth only to squander it all at the sight of a neatly wrapped package with a pretty bow.

How… HOW…can you remember that Jesus is the reason during the unwrapping of gifts, in the midst of something so… material and physical and almost… selfish?

I know, I know, we give gifts to each other because we love each other, we like lavishing gifts on each other — but we like GETTING THEM TOO. You can’t argue that. You can’t, right? That’s where our humanness kicks in and says, “ooh, goody, mine!!!”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to give up gifts.

I might tell you to cut back a little…

Keeping Christ in Christmas Morning

  1. Setting the scene on the nativity can help set the scene for the morning. If you’re doing the Traveling Nativity, finish bringing all the pieces together when you first get up. The kids know that everything has been gravitating to this point all month long. They know that Christmas morning it comes together, and they’re excited to finally see it finished. Doing this first reminds us that this is what we’re celebrating today.
  2. Eat a big breakfast before opening gifts. We’ve done this for most of my oldest daughter’s life. Sure, the kids are eager to get to their presents, but we let them go through the stockings while I make a big breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, biscuits, and so on. We enjoy the big meal together with our family that comes over and then all open presents together. This isn’t something that helps us to place the focus on Christ, but this is something that encourages us to spend time together as a family rather than diving straight into the mad Christmas morning frenzy. Plus, there’s the added advantage of praying a blessing over the food first, in which we thank God for the greatest gift of all, his Son.
  3. Follow the lead of the Magi, bring three gifts. Several years ago, I learned of a tradition where each child receives three gifts for Christmas – each gift representing the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. One gift represents the gold. It is the highly valued gift (either in cost or in desire – something your child has been dreaming of) and is wrapped in gold paper. One gift represents frankincense. Frankincense was used in meeting with God, so this gift contains something to help your child meet with God – a bible, devotional, book or worship cd, etc. This gift is wrapped in silver or white paper to represent the spirit and holiness of God. The third gift represents myrrh, an oil used to annoint the body, and contains some kind of item for comfort – lotions & perfumes, toe socks or pajamas, etc. It is wrapped in bronze or brown paper to signify the color of myrrh. Giving gifts this way can lead straight into the telling of the nativity story if you so chose. We don’t do this every year, but we’ve done it a couple of times and it was well received by the kids. (P.S. They also got a ‘Santa’ present and a stocking. More on that in a minute.)  {UPDATE: We improved out Gifts of the Magi tradition, read more about that here.}
  4. At some point during the day, take time to pray and thank God for the many blessings you have received. Thanking God for the gifts you’ve been given and the sending of His son, takes the focus back to God after the gift-giving is over and gives honor and glory back to the One who deserves it.

But what about Santa?

{Update: I’m going to leave the following section on Santa, because that’s how things stood back in 2008. But since then, Santa and I had a falling out, we fired Santa altogether, and we addressed 4 common arguments for doing Santa.}

Oh, Santa and I don’t even have a love-hate relationship. I’ve gone back and forth between tolerating him and despising him. I have my reasons why, and they are many.

Nonetheless, you cannot avoid Santa. He is everywhere.

As a kid, I remember learning the truth about Santa Claus. I had already figured it out, but hadn’t said anything until my younger brother spilled the beans — about that AND the tooth fairy AND the Easter Bunny. Younger brothers have no sense. Needless to say, I was upset, but only because I was worried the Santa presents would end. My mom explained the whole idea behind the Santa gifts though, and about Saint Nicholas who gave anonymous gifts to people. But you see, I didn’t care most about Santa, I cared most about the gifts. Once my mom figured out what was going on in my head, we settled on an agreement. We would still receive Santa gifts. Gifts that we did not see until Christmas morning and had not had the opportunity to shake, listen to and ponder over. They were surprise gifts that were extra special. (Santa never gave clothes.) But instead of reading “from Santa” on the tag, it read “From: Santa Mom.” (Or was it Mommy Claus? I forget now…) Regardless, we kept this arrangement all the way through high school, people. It was a tradition of our own, and one I didn’t mind sharing with my own children.

So when we had our first child I didn’t mind going along with Santa a little,… I figured that once she learned the truth, we’d have Mommy Claus presents and all would be well. Also, I’m not sure how to tell a 5 yr old not to run off and tell all their friends what Mommy said about Santa. So I never promoted Santa, but Santa brought gifts each Christmas. And you know what? It’s funny, because when she did learn the truth, she was worried about the same thing I was. After I reminded her of Saint Nicholas (which we had read in a book several times that year), she wanted to know if she’d still get Santa presents. It’s all about the stuff, people, I’m telling you. But she has younger siblings, so “Santa” still brings gifts and stuffs the stockings for a few more years yet.

I still haven’t figured out how to convince 5 yr olds not to run around and tell everyone everything they know.

But somewhere between when Princess was born and a couple of years ago, I really began despising Santa. I wanted to stop calling it the Santa present, and start calling it the Jesus present or anything else but the Santa present. I realized, however, it’s okay tl *call* it “the Santa present”  and once all my children have learned the truth, we’re going to call it the Saint Nick present. Not only to remind us of Saint Nicholas who gave gifts anonymously, but also to remind us of how he was so filled with God’s love that he gave of everything he had. The Saint Nick gift, something special, something treasured, is a surprise gift, given in love, and reminds us to love others in return. Like Saint Nicholas. Like Jesus. You see,… it’s all good.

Now, having said all that, you should choose to do what God leads you to do, and what is best for your family. For us, we don’t visit Santa at the mall, we don’t write Santa letters. We do watch Christmas movies with Santa in them and we do have Santa presents. When my children ask if Santa is real, I ask, “What do you think?” and then we’ll talk about it. I never lie about Santa, that’s one of the things that bothers me, and one of the things I don’t do.

So for us, Christmas morning is all about Jesus. Santa pops in for a visit. We get twitterpated over presents for a moment. And then we thank God for Jesus. The greatest gift of all.

Click here to find more of my Advent/Christmas related posts.

Photo Credit: Guido Reni [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!