If you have kids of any age, can you pledge right now to curb your extravagance. It’s probably not THEIR birthday. When I was working full-time and had school-aged children, I took a cue from my spendthrift grandmother and heartily indulged them – out of a mixture of love and guilt – telling myself I wanted to make Christmas as “magical” for them as it had been for the child-me. Then I’d spend January trying to figure out which bill could be paid in February without imperiling our credit. Instead of a truckload of gifts, give them a massive amount of your positive attention so that they’ll actually want to be around you when they grow up. I can promise you this: the latest Nintendo game is not going to strengthen your parent-child relationship.
While you’ve got them at home, gather them up for a service activity, like taking chocolates and cookies to the residents of an assisted living home or, together, shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk and driveway after a snowfall, followed by a treat of ice-skating or bowling or whatever the kids would enjoy doing.
Reread the Gospel infancy narratives as a family and place yourself in the fields with the startled shepherds, in the stall with the Holy Family, in their midst when the Magi arrived.
Add a few extra thoughts to grace before meals, to thank God the Father for the gift of His Son, for faith, for each other, and asking Him to bless those without faith or loved ones at this time of the year.
None of these suggestions requires any great sacrifice of time or money, but if even a small number of Christians were to make these efforts, year after year – to restore Advent to its rightful place and make Christmas again about the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior – we’ll find more peace in our homes and our lives, which will prompt others to ask us how they can, too.
And don’t fret unduly about the Satanic Temple or other snarky atheist groups. Public Christmas displays are not Christmas and they won’t lure anyone from the faith. Nothing can spoil Christmas for us except our own misguided ideas about what we “have to do” between Thanksgiving and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God or Epiphany (or the Presentation if you’re hardcore). If you allow Jesus a place in your heart and home, all shall be well.
Susan E. Wills
is a senior writer for Aleteia’s English-language edition.