Here is suggestion # 4:
SEE THE MOVIE "THE NATIVITY STORY."
This movie opened this weekend across America. This is the first time in fifty years that a major Hollywood studio has bankrolled a biblical epic. It has drawn rave reviews for being a masterful portrayal of the events surrounding Jesus' birth. The production chief for New Line Cinema said, "When I first read the script, I cried, and I'm not a Christian." This movie is true to the Scriptures and is a wonderful love story between Mary and Joseph. Mary is played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, a 16-year-old who was nominated for an Oscar two years ago.
Attending this movie would be a wonderful family or Sunday School or Grace Group activity.
Suggestion # 5 is a question:
AREN'T THREE PRESENTS ENOUGH FOR A FAMILY MEMBER?
One of the young families in our church has three children, all under the age of 12. The parents have explained to the children that Jesus received three gifts on his birthday — gold, incense, and myrrh. If three gifts were enough for the Savior, three should be enough for us. These children have been trained to anticipate just three gifts on Christmas morning.
If we want to prevent Christmas from becoming a materialistic binge with a year-long financial hangover, limits must be set now. Uncontrolled gift-buying may be good for the economy, but it neither honors the Savior nor is good for us or our children.
Here is the sixth and final suggestion:
ON CHRISTMAS MORNING READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY (Luke 2:1-7) AND SING "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS."
You can do this either before or after the opening of gifts, depending on the age and patience of the family members. We must not forget the reason for the season.
Remember the purpose of all these suggestions. We should model a positive Christmas celebration for our culture. We should transform Christmas from a chaotic, exhausting, materialistic binge into a deeply meaningful, peaceful, joyful celebration of Jesus' birth.
Let me conclude with a story about a boy who really understood what Christmas is all about. Jimmy was in the 8th grade, but because of his mental limitations as a Special Education child, he couldn't really do all of the 8th grade work. The teacher in that class planned a Christmas play. Jimmy wanted to be in it very much. The teacher doubted that he would be able to memorize his lines, but all the students wanted to include Jimmy. So, he was assigned the role of the Bethlehem innkeeper, primarily because that character had only two words to say: "No room." Then after Mary begged for special consideration, he was supposed to say those same words again, "No room."
Eventually the day of the performance came. Lots of family and friends were in the audience. Mary and Joseph approached the inn and knocked on the door. Jimmy opened the door and said flawlessly, "No room." Then Mary said, "But I'm very tired and I'm going to have a baby real soon. If I don't find a safe place for my baby to be born, I'm going to cry."
Jimmy paused for a moment, and then said, "I know what I'm supposed to say . . . but you can have my room."
Jimmy was willing to violate a script in order to follow the higher impulse of love. We Christians must be willing to violate the cultural script about Christmas if we want to truly glorify the Savior.
Bill Bouknight is Senior Pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, TN.