Suggestions for Celebrating Jesus’ Birth
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14 NIV)
As I countdown to Christmas, I want to anticipate the celebration of Jesus' incarnation with awe and wonder, as though it were the first Christmas. Would you like to join me? Here are some suggestions to make the days prior to Christmas wonder-full:
Follow an Advent Devotional Online.
Begin your day with Biola University's Advent Devotionals. These beautiful devotions include artwork, scripture, music, and thoughtful notes by professors from Biola. Go to http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/2019/#day-dec-1. You can subscribe to access all the advent devotionals.
Read an Advent Story with your children.
When our children were young, one of our favorite activities leading up to Christmas was reading a story through Advent. Each of the four Sunday nights we lit an Advent candle in anticipation of the coming of the Light of the World (Jesus).
Jotham's Journey, by Arnold Ytreeide, is one of the four books we read together as a family. The story takes readers from the first Sunday in Advent to Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. As ten-year-old Jotham travels across Israel searching for his family, he encounters robbers, wise men, and inn-keepers - but I don't want to spoil the story. Other Advent books by Arnold Ytreeide include Bartholomew's Passage, Tabitha's Travels, and Ishtar's Odyssey.
Simply Christmas: A Busy Mom's Guide to Reclaiming the Peace of the Holidays: A Devotional by Tama Fortner is a fun Advent book for moms. It’s a wonderful holiday accompaniment full of Biblical insights regarding the birth and life of Jesus. Just as the title suggests, Simply Christmas also provides thirty-one helpful ideas for keeping the best of Christmas without losing ourselves in the business of the season. Tama Fortner gently centers our focus on Jesus Christ in a fresh and personal way.
Listen to Handel’s Messiah.
Listen to Handel's Messiah as you decorate, write Christmas cards, or bake cookies this season!
Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isaiah 40:1-2a RSV)
Love those around you.
As we anticipate the celebration of God's greatest gift of love to us—His Son our Rescuer. Let's prepare our hearts by loving those around us. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (I John 4:10 NIV)
So today, let’s be lovers of the people who God places in our path—grocery check-out staff, the librarian, the trash collector, the neighborhood kids, the bus driver, and the people in your own home. We can love them with our encouraging words, with prayer, with small gifts of appreciation, with service, or even with cookies. God's word says, if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete (or perfect) in us. (I John 4:12 NIV).
Glory in God’s creation.
Open your eyes and see the love of God in the world he's given us to enjoy. Go for a walk and notice the bird song, cloud formations, sunset or sunrise, cool breeze, etc. Worship God in the glory of his creation today.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10 NIV)
Thank God for the joy of our salvation!
During my time of prayer, I asked God to restore to me the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51:12). He did just what I asked of him. As I considered the joy of his salvation, my mind flooded with memories of how the Lord loved me into his kingdom. Gratitude has a way of changing our perspective. It redirects our attention so we can see God. As we prepare for Christmas this year, let’s remember the works of God in our lives, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Thank people who’ve contributed to your walk of faith—and pray for them.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy… (Philippians 1:3-4 NIV)
God places so many people in our lives who encourage our faith, our perseverance, and our hope in Christ. He never meant for us to stand alone. God made marriage, family, community, and the church so we might walk through life hand in hand. Join me and send Christmas greetings to friends, family, and other significant people in your life letting them know how much you appreciate them – how praying for them gives you joy!
Actively love people in your community.
The Bible admonishes us to demonstrate the love of God by: Loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:39), caring for orphans (James 1:27), meeting the needs of widows (James 1:27), showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2), and feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:37).
As we anticipate the celebration of God’s gift of his Son, let’s look to those with needs around us and see how we might extend his love to them.
Read a children’s Christmas book to someone.
One of my favorite things to do during the days of Advent is to read children’s Christmas books. Some of my very favorite children’s Christmas books of all time are: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, One Wintry Night. These books and so many like them, fill bookstores and libraries at this time of year. Why not go get a few and read them to someone today?
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a story is about a church pageant rehearsal invaded by a family of ruffians – the Heldmans – who come for free food but end up commandeering the main roles in the Christmas pageant. They succeed in putting their spin on the traditional version of Christ’s birth, much to the congregation’s chagrin. Nevertheless, their perspective and performance make it the best Christmas pageant ever!
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is the story of a widow and her young son who come to Jonathan Toomey and ask him to carve a set of Christmas figures for them. As he works on the project, the widow and her son become frequent guests and reopen the heart of the lonely woodcarver. The lovely images of wood carry us to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham is the story of a young boy who is lost and injured in the woods during a snowstorm and seeks refuge in the home of an older woman. While he waits for the weather to turn, she tells him the story of Christmas from creation to resurrection.
Singing has a way of changing our mood. God knows this well and encourages us throughout the Bible to sing joyfully and to make a joyful noise. Our hearts turn outward and upward as we sing. Gratitude comes on the wings of praise and God receives glory. As you go about your Christmas duties, turn up the radio and make a joyful noise to the One who loves us and wants our joy!
Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:10 KJV)
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!
Nicole Schrader is a retired homeschool mother who loves to travel, bake bread, read, and spend time with her kids and grandkids.