This week, we are joined by guest, Beth Runkle who shares with us 10 practical ways to celebrate Jesus at Christmas, no matter where you’re stationed.
A Life-Giving Christmas: 10 Ways to Celebrate Jesus at Christmas
by Beth Runkle
I plopped down on the couch to rest for a moment while my kids were napping. Just as I was sipping the last of my mid-afternoon coffee, I heard a pitter-patter across the floor of my entryway as my four-year old son skipped on his tip-toes.
“Mommy, wake up Gracie!” he begged. “It’s time to open the book box, and it’s my turn.” He grinned from ear-to-ear.
I smiled, gently placed my finger over my lips, and whispered, “Shh! Give me just a couple minutes more before I wake your sister. Let’s look at one of the books we opened earlier and see if you can remember the story.”
Moments later, my kids were hopping eagerly next to the Christmas tree with its lights and sparkle which made our basic military base home seem almost magical. Under the festive tree was a single package.
This box contained a material item, but that is not what gave it value. It was the intangible blessings associated with the package. The container was a simple plastic-coated box printed to appear like a wrapped Christmas present.
Inside, was a story about Jesus’ entrance into the world.
Each day my children took turns opening the special container and gathering the jewel inside. The tale was a gift of time, warmth, and joy. It contained the undeniable favor of the message of the good news of Jesus Christ.
I settled onto the sofa and gathered my precious children around me.
“Read it Mommy, hurry!” begged my son.
I smiled as I opened the cover to read of the first Christmas, told from the creatively-imagined perspective of the animals that witnessed the birth of the Christ-child. I and my sweet blessings read the story once and then again as the little toddler with pigtails wrapped with pink bows plead, “Again, again!”
Anticipating the True Meaning of the Season
We focused all of this anticipation, excitement, and pleasure on celebrating the entrance of our Savior into the world. During a month when the attention of many adults and families is largely focused on the fat little man in the red suit, all of this enthusiasm was centered around our Lord and Savior.
Many families center their holidays on gathering together with extended family. Since my husband was military, this was often challenging due to overseas or cross-country assignments. Additionally, my husband’s deployments caused a family-centered Christmas to be extra difficult.
No matter what base or part of the world you celebrate Christmas, I hope to inspire you to create memorable traditions steeped in the long-term satisfaction of knowing Jesus. You can generate warm memories for you or your children just like the true snippet of my life I shared above.
Finding Real Satisfaction and Peace
Although I was raised in a loving home, my focus during December was mainly on pouring through the pages of a catalog and circling all the items I wanted for Christmas. We followed that search by gathering around the television to watch the Rudolph special. These are fond memories, but they did not create lasting joy for me. I remember how unfulfilled I felt the day after Christmas. All the material things I had hoped for did not truly satisfy.
I also recall the anxiety I felt, wondering if I had been good enough for Santa to visit. I had consumed countless Christmas goodies, but still felt empty. As an adult, after accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf, I dedicated my children to the Lord. One of the things I felt led to create for my children was the opportunity to hear the gospel spoken, not just once, but every day.
But, I wanted the gospel to be enjoyable and fun.
I wanted to obey the instruction in Deuteronomy 6: 6-10 to teach my children about the Lord and His commands. One of the ways I practically accomplished this was by centering our holidays on Jesus. I wanted to resist the temptation to give into the commercialization of Christmas and celebrate Jesus on the anniversary of His entrance into the world. I did not grow up knowing how to do this. But now I am passionate about sharing my ideas with others because I know how it transformed my own family – not just temporarily but for eternity.
Although you may be a military member or spouse who cannot celebrate Christmas at home with family, I want to challenge you to implement new and distinctly Christ-centered traditions. I hope to inspire you to immerse everything about Christmas in Christ and make celebrating the joy of your salvation the center of your celebrations.
10 Ways to Celebrate Jesus at Christmas
Here are some ideas you can implement to center the season on celebrating Jesus’ original entrance into the world and looking forward to his coming again.
- Decorate in such a way that your neighbors and visitors know that you celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birthday. More nativities than Santas, a lighted cross display in your yard, or a Jesus themed tree.
- Read an Advent (the season before Christmas) devotional. There are many on the market for individuals or families. Be sure to pick one that focuses on Christ’s birth and anticipated return.
- Center your seasonal movie watching around the birth of Christ
- Consider building a Jesse tree throughout the season which traces the lineage of Christ and God’s faithful fulfillment of promises.
- Host a birthday party for Jesus in which you briefly share the Gospel.
- Bake and decorate nativity shaped cookies and “paint” them with thinned, colored icing. We always sent these into the military base cookie drive
- Every few nights, gather the Christmas cards you have received and pray for the sender(s).
- Make or buy some nativities designed for young kids.
- Host a nativity making competition with your friends or family. Gather graham crackers or a kit that you transform into a nativity scene.
- Celebrate Advent with countdown books. Read a different book focused on the birth of Christ each (or every other) day.
It doesn’t matter whether you are married or single. An empty nester or a parent to pre-teens or toddlers. Celebrating with loved ones or nurturing the ache of an empty chair. Deployed, close to home, or overseas. Wherever God has you planted, you can always find more ways to celebrate Jesus at Christmas.
After coming to Christ as an adult, Beth and her husband passionately shared the truth of the Gospel with many military families they met during her husband’s twenty-five year career with the Air Force. After her husband’s retirement, they desired to continue sharing Jesus with the their favorite people – military families – and joined the staff of Cru Military, working with cadets at the Air Force Academy and ministering to military marriages in Colorado Springs. Beth loves to invest in other women and shares her ideas for distinctively Christ-centered celebrations and living at https://BethRunkle.com.