Christmas Day can be magical and filled with family and fun. It can also be chaotic and stressful, filled with dishes to make and people to visit. Whichever end of the spectrum you land on (or perhaps in the middle like me!), it is important to make sure that your family remembers to focus on the reason for the holiday. After all, Christmas is a holy day–one of the holiest of the year.
In the middle of the mistletoe and the memory-making, the stockings and the stuffing, here are:
5 Ways to Focus on Christ This Christmas
1. Go to Church
One simple yet profound way to keep the focus on the Nativity this year is to attend church together as a family. In the Orthodox tradition, this means going to Liturgy at midnight. Some churches also have a Liturgy earlier in the evening to accommodate families with young children. Find out if your church is having a service on Christmas or Christmas Eve. If not, try to find one at another church to attend. There is something simultaneously solemn and joyful about the Orthodox Nativity liturgy–if you haven’t ever attended an Orthodox church before, know that you are welcome!
2. Read the Christmas Story
Reading the Christmas story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke is another simple way to remember the reason for the holy day. Our family reads the story from both the gospels and from a children’s Bible. We sit around the fireplace and revel in this moment of quiet, pondering the deep mystery of our faith: God himself became man and dwelt among us.
3. Sing Christmas Hymns
I grew up in a musical family, so one of my favorite childhood memories of Christmas is of our entire family singing Christmas hymns together. I can still hear my grandfather’s tenor singing out “O beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” If you are Protestant, Catholic, or Western rite Orthodox, you probably know most of the classics already. Have a family sing-a-long where you all join in “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” If you are Eastern Orthodox but aren’t familiar with all of the tones or troparian for the feast, you can look here or here at some great YouTube videos to hear examples.
4. Pray Together as a Family
Taking the time to pray together as a family in your icon corner sends a powerful message to your children. You could pause and say the Morning Prayers before or after you open presents. Or, you can come together for Evening Prayers before you have pie and coffee and play games at night. Each child can hold an icon (making sure that one holds the Nativity icon) for the adults to venerate. Whatever you do, be sure to lead your family in praying to the God who became flesh for us.
5. Greet Each Other with “Christ is Born!”
In the Orthodox Church we have responsive greetings for most feast days. You may have heard the Easter (Pascha) greeting before: One person says, “Christ is risen!” and the other responds, “Indeed he is risen!” There is a similar greeting for Nativity. One person will say, “Christ is born!” and the other will respond, “Glorify Him!” We taught our children this response at a very early age, and they love saying it over and over on Christmas. We can be opening presents, eating dinner, or playing with toys and someone will cry, “Christ is born!” Everyone else joyfully calls, “Glorify Him!” What a beautiful, and enthusiastic, way to remember the birth of Christ on Christmas.
May your Christmas be filed with the light of Christ. A blessed Nativity to you all.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
What Christmas traditions do you have? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.