kingsChristmas is like water. It can be a great source of nourishment—but it can also drown you.

The beauty can be eclipsed by a distracted extravagance we can’t afford. So here are 12 ideas to help make Christmas more meaningful for you and your family.

(FYI, I’ve borrowed many of these ideas from friends and some from So I can’t really take credit. I do enjoy making commentary though.)

For those of you with young ones, keep in mind that these kinds of daily practices in the home are incredibly significant in the faith development of children.

1. Nativity Scene
Close to Christmas set up a Nativity Scene. It’s all about the story.

2. Baking for Others
Bake (or buy—don’t feel guilty) something for someone who could use a pick-me-up. If you can’t think of someone, ask.

3. Carolling
We usually think of caroling as some big production. It doesn’t need to be. Put on warm jackets, get a few carols that express the essence of the season and head to the neighbours’ houses. (We’re doing this Saturday at WPC.)

4. Movie Night
If your kids are old enough, or if you don’t have any, rent/watch “The Nativity Story.” Movie nights are great. If you want to do something extra, have popcorn and then make some extra to make into strings for your tree as a reminder of the experience.

5. Simplify
This may be hard because social and family pressure is at play here. Simplify schedules and gift-giving. Still give gifts as if you’re all living in the same house? Time to cut back. Have some honest chats with people and decide to buy less for fewer people. There’s only 24 hours in a day and I don’t think God plans on making more. Plus, have mercy on the dumps who feel bloated a week after the 25th.

6. Three Gifts
Want a way to think more clearly and creatively about gift-giving for those close to you? Why not follow the example of the 3 wise men and their gifts to baby Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh? Give a gift of gold (which is the fun/flashy gift). The frankincense gift is a spiritual gift (like a devotional, or CD of faith-based music, or something to help them grow in their faith). The myrrh gift is something they need (like clothes).

7. Friendship
Christmas can be very sad for many people—especially those who have lost a loved one the past year or suffered any other difficulty. And it’s dark before 5pm! Invite someone over for dinner. Or perhaps a visit. You’ll soon be confused about who is helping who.

8. Generosity
Pay attention to drives that try to help those who struggle. Plus most churches have “white gift” Sundays for food banks, or mitten tree Sundays. (Or donate here right now to help with relief in the Philippines.)

9. Listen
Read the sermon on the mount and reflect on it (Matthew 5 to 7). What is God saying to you at this point in your life? There is a lot of distraction at this time of year. But you hear the voice you make time to know. (This is a part of my Advent Challenge to Westminster—click here.)

10. Birthday Cake
Make (or buy) a birthday cake for Jesus. After all, it’s his day! Have it as a part of your dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Light the candles, sing the song!

11. Worship
Worship is the heartbeat. Hearts get on their knees. Go to church on Sundays and Christmas Eve and mean it–inject your life with praise, reflection and gratitude. That’s Christmas 101.

12. Hide and Seek
If you have kids (or maybe even if you don’t!), on Christmas morning why not have a fun game where someone hides the Jesus from your Nativity Scene and then the rest have to find him. After you do so, you can open gifts knowing that the true gift has already been found.

If you try to do all 12 I won’t have helped. It’s not a competition. Less guilt, more grace. Pick a few. (Or share some ideas below).

What will your Christmas be? Think of the water. Nourishment? Or something that drowns you?

Max Lucado says that “We live in an art gallery of divine creativity and yet are content to gaze only at the carpet.”

Don’t settle for carpet. The same stars that shone above the shepherds shine over you.

This blog is updated from my 2012 entry called Reclaiming Christmas. The picture is cropped from a card I got in the mail by Pinecone Designs.