How we keep Christmas about Christ

20 December 2016

While I very much hope that June grows up thinking of Christmas as magical, happy, and glowing, I hope even more that she always knows WHY we are celebrating — that for our family, Christmas is when we remember that Jesus, God-With-Us, came to live among us as a tiny baby! That can be a hard thing to focus on with all of the trimmings and trappings of the season competing, so I know we will have to be intentional about it as she grows. Here are a few things we’re trying, and I would love to hear ideas from y’all in the comments!


Interpreting the season. Even as we do things that our kids see others doing (buying presents, sending out cards), I want to invite conversation about why we do these things and why they are meaningful to us. For example, we send out a Christmas card to remind people in a personal way of our joy at the birth of our Savior, not JUST to share a cute family photo and update :) I think narratives and the stories we tell ourselves have a lot of power!
Being generous. As many of you know, giving away an amount equal to what we spend on Christmas gifts has been a passion of our family for three years now. It started with one of Adam Hamilton’s sermons where he spoke about the shepherds, and it really stuck with me: “Christmas starts with the poor and the nobodies. I think part of the reason God sent the angels to the shepherds first is because they didn’t have anything to celebrate. Let’s start with them. Let’s invite them to Christmas. We can celebrate every day if we want, and we have lots of reasons to celebrate. But to celebrate Christmas the way God celebrates it, we must start with the poor and the nobodies.” Celebrating with the poor and the nobodies — I hope that’s something our kids always have a heart for. We have a long way to go in this arena, but I think there are some good starter ideas on my list here. We’ve also done Angel Tree gifts and Operation Christmas Child boxes in the past. Though we’ve traditionally given our Christmas gift fund to our church’s Christmas Eve offering, I think it would be fun to decide as a family where we want to give it as our kids get older.
Decorating intentionally. Several of our Christmas decor pieces point directly to the Christmas story, like our Lindsay Letters canvas and our nativity scenes (we have two – one from Willow Tree and one hand-knit by my Aunt Nan!).
Filling our ears with good stuff. In addition to services at our home church, we always love listening to Church of the Resurrection’s December sermons – after all, they’ve radically changed our lives in the past! (See above!). One of our many Christmas playlists on Spotify is reserved for just “sacred” Christmas tunes, too.
Baking a birthday cake. This is an idea from Nancy that I’m excited to try as June gets older. Every year, her family would make a coconut cake on Christmas Eve, light candles, and sing happy birthday to Jesus. I love this, because it’s something that contextualizes Jesus’s birthday in a way kids understand (cake!) AND it’s something that’s undeniably fun (which not all “religious” things are to a kid, let’s be honest).

I also think that keeping Christmas about Christ is sometimes about what you don’t do as much as it’s about what you do, whether that means cutting out particularly commercial things or just paring activities/decorations/traditions/hubbub back in general to make way for quiet, service, and family time.

I would LOVE to hear: if you’re a Christian, how do you keep Christmas about Christ in your heart and home, whether or not you have kids? I’m always looking for ideas for me, too! :)

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 20, 2016 11:08 am

Emily, I love these things and how you are keeping Christ at the center of your home and lives! What a wonderful home you have created for your family! Merry Christmas to all of you :)

December 20, 2016 4:15 pm

I love these ideas and that you chose to touch on this topic in this space!

We are reading the Amen Paper Company’s Advent devotional together to encourage each other to spend time everyday focusing on the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2016 4:42 pm
Reply to  Maria

Oooh, I should have mentioned that – I’ve been reading it this year too for the first time! It’s great!

December 20, 2016 4:40 pm

We just bought “The Christmas Star form Afar” for LS to open on Christmas Eve and cannot wait to begin the tradition of hiding the star for LS each season! (Rather than elf on the shelf) Also excited for LS to one day be involved in our church’s little angel choir and taking her to our living nativity. We are still searching for a pretty advent calendar that points to the true meaning and we may one day serve with our church on Christmas Day at the soup kitchen (if we are ever in Columbia on Christmas Day) I think it will be great fun for kids to shop with us for our annual angel baby, too! I would love to make an afternoon of it, along with serving food as well or something. I’ve been enjoying our church’s daily advent devotional and while we missed the annual advent retreat, we are already planning to go next year. Merry Christmas, Thomas family!

December 20, 2016 4:44 pm
Reply to  Megan

Lara has been using the Star from Afar as well, and I like the sound of it! I am NOT a fan of Elf on the Shelf (just personal preference, I don’t mind if other people use it!), so I like that this sounds like a fun alternative!

December 21, 2016 9:38 am

I love this so, so much! I specifically thought that you did such a good job of pointing people to Christ in your Christmas card (it showed up yesterday!) and my favorite part of your graphic was “what Christmas means to us”… I might have to steal the birthday cake idea too! It’s such a tangible representation for sweet babes! Sending Christmas hugs from the Strader home to the Thomas home!! Thank you, too, for those photos! Some of them I had never seen and they absolutely made my day!

December 21, 2016 11:08 am

LOVE the birthday cake idea! May have to borrow that one too :) We light our Advent wreath every Sunday, but would love to”bulk up” that tradition a little more–one family I know sings “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” together as they light each candle and I thought that was a perfect fit, especially for kids! As you saw on my Instagram, we also celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas, which we think is a good opportunity to teach kids about giving and caring for the poor…and the original Santa Claus :)

[…] This blog post by Emily at Em For Marvelous is wonderful. I’m always trying to be more intentional about how […]

December 29, 2016 4:05 pm

I really love the idea of baking a cake for Jesus! I would love to carry on that idea one day when we have children. A co-worker of mine mentioned they bake Jesus a cake too, but they make it a blueberry cake (or any type of breakfast cake) and eat it Christmas morning! I like the idea of that too!