Christian Living

Celebrating Advent and Book Recommendations

Author Greg Koukl Published on 12/05/2013

In the past, I have not been the best Christmas-season dad for my daughters. My background was not so much Christ-oriented as it was festive and family-oriented. In an effort to get better, here are some things our family is doing to be intentional about investing Christmas with both the meaning and the seasonal “magic” that makes this month so memorable.

The goal is creating a meaningful and memorable family celebration of Christ’s birth. We want to focus on Christ, but there are many other aspects of the Christmas celebration, some more “secular,” that add to making the entire season’s focus on Christ special.

In general, there are three ways to refocus during this season. First, slow down. There are so many obligations and things to do this season. Find small ways to say "no" in order to free up your schedule and take the season a little slower. For example, I recommend saying "no" to Christmas cards this year. Christmas cards take a lot of time to make and send. Can you think of the people who didn't send you a card last year? I can't. Maybe forgoing Christmas cards this year is one way you'll find rest.

Second, be together with whoever is most important to you. For me, that's my immediate family. If you're single, like I was for 48 years, attach yourself to another family. Don't be alone this Christmas.

Third, simplify. Buying gifts online using Amazon Prime is a great way to simplify. When you sign up, you get 30 days for free, which includes free 2-day shipping on a vast amount of products. So, you can get all your Christmas shopping done in about 30 minutes, and then visit the mall or go out to dinner stress-free.

Here are some specific ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful:

  1. If you are going to send out Christmas cards, choose a meaningful Christmas card (no “Happy Holidays”), and send it out early.
  2. Put out a nativity, though don’t put baby Jesus out until Christmas morning.
  3. Greet/thank people with a Christmas greeting that stands out (e.g., “Happy Christmas").
  4. Display a magnetic car sticker of a stable and Bethlehem star and “Keep Christ in Christmas” (
  5. Celebrate Advent during Sunday evening dinners with candles and a short reading.
  6. Play CDs of Christmas music.
    • Manheim Steamroller
    • Amy Grant
    • Traditional hymns sung the traditional way
  7. Watch meaningful videos.
    • “The Nativity Story” (We watch this the first week as a kick-off.)
    • “It’s a Wonderful Life”
    • Some version of “A Christmas Carol” (I like the 1951 version with Alistair Sim.)
    • “The Star of Bethlehem” (more for older kids and adults)
    • Any others meaningful to you
  8. Have a “date” with the kids to buy the other parent's Christmas present and eat out.
  9. Attend a Church Christmas concert.
  10. Visit the mall to look, not buy.
  11. Practice Christmas charity.
    • Give to an organization, e.g., Salvation Army, Operation Christmas Child.
    • Give face-to-face to someone needy in your community (financial help or visit with act of kindness).
  12. Attend Christmas Eve service at church.
  13. Have a Christmas morning reading from Luke before presents are opened.

 Christmas gift book bundle: