There are certain times in the year that just go by faster than others.
Christmas is one of them.
There is so much going on from the time we clean up the turkey to when we take down the tree that if we’re not intentional, the big day can come and go and we will have missed the true story of Christmas.

How is that possible? How can a person be surrounded by Christmas and yet miss Christmas? I’m not exactly sure, but I managed to pull it off several years ago. Yes, there was a year when I honestly could not remember if I had stopped long enough to talk with my kids about the true story of Christmas.

My three kids were preschool and young elementary age at the time and my husband and I had our hands full working in a church plant. It really is a blur as I remember back to those days.

I organized the school Christmas party.
Bought the gifts.
Wrapped the gifts.
Watched the movies.
Cleaned the house.
Decorated the house.
Volunteered at church.
Donated the toys.
Hung the stockings.
Cooked the ham.
Baked the cookies.
Played the music.

And before I knew it, it was December 26th and time to take it all down.

When I realized what I had done—or in this case what I had not done— my heart was broken. I had let all the things of Christmas keep me from the most important part of Christmas—the only part that actually matters—Jesus.

Jesus is the true story of Christmas, and I had missed the opportunity of sharing Him with the ones I love most.

Before I put another decoration in a box, I grabbed our wooden nativity set and my Bible and asked my three kids to sit with me around our coffee table. Then I used the nativity figures to tell them the true story of Christmas.

Sure, it was days after Christmas, all of us in our pajamas with messy hair and unbrushed teeth, but for those sweet moments, we paused to reflect on God’s perfect gift to us. It was not a new story to them, but one worthy of repeating over and over until it is hidden deep in their hearts.

Thanks to that Christmas, I began to tap into a few traditions that would help me not miss what is most important, no matter how busy things get. Here are a few ideas that you might also want to consider to keep the real Christmas story alive this season:

1. Visit a Live Nativity

I have one child who really connected with a live nativity when she was younger so we made it a tradition to go to a local Christmas light show that ends with a live nativity. We still visit and imagine what that night was like as we watch.

2. Celebrate with Birthday Cake

Part of our family Christmas tradition now is to make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve. It’s just a box cake mix, but decorating it, lighting a candle, and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus helps us remember who we are celebrating.

3. Read Christmas Books

I have an assortment of Christmas books that focus on the true story of Christmas that I put out as part of my décor. Just having them out all season makes them more accessible for people to pick up and read. These are a few of my favorites:

B Is for Bethlehem: A Christmas Alphabet by Isabel Wilner (preschool and up)
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann VosKamp (great for a family of all ages)
The Christmas Story Board Book by Autumn Ward (toddlers and preschoolers)

And of course there’s the Bible. There’s just something special about opening the Bible and reading the Christmas story together. It can be a children’s Bible with pictures or a Bible laid open to the side while you use nativity figures to act out the story like I did.

4. Countdown with an Advent Calendar

There are many different versions of countdown-to-Christmas calendars. You can make your own, buy one, or find one online. We’ve created a free one that you can download below to help you share the story of God’s perfect gift: Each day leading up to Christmas, you can read a small portion of the Christmas story and do an activity together that reflects God’s generosity.

There are so many great ways to share the true story of Christmas with both older and younger kids. What’s one way you will focus on telling it this year?