So much happens this time of year by regular rhythm of the Christmas merry-go-round that it can actually feel like a month-long routine instead of a season of genuine spiritual focus. Most of us do Thanksgiving and then we pivot – turning on the Christmas music to get us in the spirit. We roll right into Advent, we shop, we decorate, we order Christmas cards, we attend parties, we host relatives, we wrap gifts, we spend more than we should, we stress, we overeat, we watch Christmas movies, we light candles and read Luke 1 and sing Silent Night. And if we’re not careful, it’s over and we’re cleaning up pine needles and buying new year planning calendars and we’ve missed the miracle of the manger.

I want this year to be different. What might change if we approached Christmas intentionally?

If you knew that a baby – not just any baby by the the way – but a baby was arriving at your home with his attendant entourage in 24 days from today would you approach December differently?

Today, make a commitment to God to intentionally prepare your heart to receive the gift He wrapped in human flesh and sent to be the Savior of the world. Commit to intentionally prepare your home and the home of your heart for the coming King.

Five ideas for a Merry Intentional Christmas:

1.  Be intentionally present with others in the spirit of Christ who came as the greatest present we’ll ever receive and the greatest presence we’ll ever know.

2.  As you hang Christmas lights, intentionally call to mind the Light to the World who stepped out into darkness to open our eyes and help us see.

3.  As you put up your tree, intentionally remember the Tree on a hill called Calvary. As you hang every ornament, remember the One who hung there for you.

4.  As you drive around and see all the decorations that point to Santa, elves, Rudolph, Frosty, the Nutcracker and a thousand other lesser gods of cultural Christmas, be intentionally merry as a living, incarnation demonstration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no room for humbug in the heart of a Christian! Play during Christmas with the joy of little children on the first snow day! The good news of the Gospel is genuinely good and it is to be heralded through our lives with great joy to all people.

5.  As you set out the nativity scene, don’t think of it as another item of Christmas decor. Use it as an opportunity be intentional about the preparation of our hearts and minds for the Christ who came and is coming again.  

As we set out the figures of the shepherds and the wise men, the angels and the animals, Mary and Joseph in your Christmas creche, take the time to read and recall each of their stories. These are not decorations, these were real people who really encountered the living God at a point in history when the world knew not the reality of the Gospel.

Mary’s story is recorded in Luke 1:26-38 – and then recall other stories about Mary

Joseph’s story is found in Matthew 1:18-25 (want more? Read The Forgotten Man of Christmas by J. Howard Edington)

The donkey – for this we watch the new Christmas classic movie: The Star.

The shepherds and the sheep receive and respond to the heralding angels in Luke 2.

The Magi’s story is told in Matthew 2.

The angels – they appear in each of the texts we just read. Talk about their mission, their messages and their joy. Talk about the reality of the unseen realm as you recognize how angels figure into the Christmas story. What are those angels from the realms of glory doing today? (for more on this, read Michael Heiser’s books Unseen Realm and Angels; listen to my conversation with him here)

Jesus. Having read the birth narratives in the context of the stories of Mary and Joseph, read Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:5-11. Consider the Christ.

Every year, as I unwrap Jesus, I consider the eternity changing reality of His incarnation. Wrapped in human flesh and delivered to us that we might be delivered by Him. It is truly amazing grace. Let us commit to intentionally unwrapping that Truth this Christmas.

Find more Merry Intentional Christmas ideas here.