In this conversation I talk the dawning realization that the celebration of Christmas in the last few decades has become about everything other than Jesus. The majority of our decorating features snowmen, reindeer, stockings, toys and of course the ever present Santa, none of which have anything to do with the Incarnation. What if Christians made Jesus the central focus on this holiday? What would that look like? Listen to find out!
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A Christ-Focused Christmas
Guest: Barbara Rainey
From the series: Rebooting Christmas (Day 1 of 2)
Air date: November 26, 2012
Bob: When the halls at your house get decked, what do they look like?
Woman: The first four years of our marriage we lived in apartments; so, to save on space—you know not having the big evergreen and then also not have to store it all year round, if you were to get a plastic one. We already had an indoor Ficus; so, we just threw some Christmas lights on it and went and bought fancy ornaments and put it on there. We were like, “It’s the traditional Christmas Ficus.” At one point, I was singing, “Oh, Ficus tree, Oh, Ficus tree….”
I wanted a tree just because it’s a part of Christmas décor, but it really was just, “We don’t have kids. We don’t have room. There’s really no point or no need.” And I was like, “We’ve got to have something Christmas in the house.” That’s when Josh was like, “We can decorate the Ficus.” So, we went out and bought fancy blue and copper ornaments. We were like, “We’re going to make it the high-class, traditional Christmas Ficus.”
So, we had that for a couple of years. Then, we had red and green for a couple of years. We’ll probably need to get new ones this year.
We still put the presents underneath it, and I remember—I kid you not—this is our tree. I mean we’ve got it and just like, “Yay! The traditional Christmas Ficus is here,” because everyone in our family just knows that, that’s our—that’s our tree.
Barbara: What has made me sad for years is that our trees don’t tell the story of Christ, they don’t tell the story of Jesus. I just started thinking about what would it be like if Christians all over the country and all over the world, in fact, would have the names of Christ on their trees and symbols of what Christmas is all about. It would be a statement of our faith. It would be a reminder of why we celebrate. It’s a way of bringing the truth of Christ into our Christmas celebrations.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional snowman or a reindeer, but what if your house could make a statement about Jesus during the Christmas season? We’ll talk about how to do that today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.
Dennis: It is more beautiful here in the studio today. (Laughter)
Bob: Would you like to explain why?
Dennis: That laugh you just heard is the reason, because wherever this woman goes, she makes things beautiful.
Bob: I’m just amazed—here’s what I’m amazed about—
Dennis: It’s my wife, Barbara, by the way.
Bob: Yes, that’s right. Barbara, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thank you, Bob.
Bob: I’m just amazed that you even had time to be here because the first half of the season is over—Thanksgiving is done, the turkey has been served, leftovers are mostly gone.
Barbara: In Tupperware containers or gone. (Laughter)
Bob: Now, we’re gearing up for the second half; because as soon as you put everything away for Thanksgiving, you’ve got to flip the house into Christmas mode, don’t you?
Barbara: Yes. Yes, you’ve got to switch gears and switch gears quickly.
Bob: So, is the weekend—is Thanksgiving weekend relaxing or is it just—
Barbara: For us?
Barbara: Yes, it’s relaxing because we don’t switch gears and put the tree up on Friday morning like a lot of families do. I just—I just want to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. It’s our favorite holiday. We often have kids home. We don’t usually have children, our adult kids, home at Christmas. We have them at Thanksgiving, and I want to enjoy them. So, we don’t usually start that until Monday after everyone is gone—or Tuesday or the next weekend, for that matter.
Dennis: She really does not like the whole commercialization of Christmas that starts back before July 4th. (Laughter)
Bob: There is a reason why FamilyLife Today listeners don’t hear us talking about Christmas until now.
Dennis: And it’s Barbara.
Bob: We don’t bring it up—there’s an embargo on our calendars: “You cannot mention Christmas”—
Dennis: You know what? Seriously.
Dennis: There are those here at FamilyLife on the team who -- it’s been brought up before that we should feature some of the resources we create for listeners -- but they said, “Oh, no, no.”
Bob: “No, no.”
Dennis: “You can’t do that. Barbara”—
Bob: “Barbara would not allow it.” (Laughter)
Dennis: —“would not allow this.”
Barbara: As if I have this great authority, which I do not.
Bob: Trust me. Trust me.
Dennis: Well, you did on this one.
Bob: More than you know.
Dennis: Years ago—years ago, you laid down the law. The law is still in the land.
Bob: So, we don’t talk about—we talk about Jesus—
Dennis: Of course.
Bob: —and his birthday, maybe; but we wait until we’re past—so, here we are, so that means this week is decorate the house week for you.
Barbara: Play the Christmas music and jump in.
Dennis: It’s get the boxes out of the attic.
Bob: So, are you pretty excited about that? You look forward to this time?
Dennis: Oh, I love carrying those boxes.
Barbara: He does not.
Bob: We talked to a dad about how this works in his house; and after we got done talking to him, our team decided we needed to rewrite the entire “Twelve Days of Christmas” song to be about the 12 days of decorating the house for this season.
Man: Sometime, in there, she wants to pull them out and start putting ornaments up.
Man: She’ll start hinting around; and then, the day will come, and it’ll sneak up on me. Then, she’ll say “I want to get the ornaments out and decorate today.”
Man: It means I’m not going to get to lay there and watch football. It means I’ve got to get my ladder and get into our attic, which involves going through our closet, climbing through a tiny, little hole in the ceiling, and getting down about 12 boxes of Christmas decorations.
Bob: Is it a great day?
Man: No, it’s not a good day. It’s a bad day to beat down. (Laughter)
When I finally get all the boxes down, I climb my way back down out of the attic drenched in sweat by that time—not in the mood to decorate a tree, not in a mood to be around my family, not in the mood to celebrate Christmas.
Bob: Can you relate?
Dennis: I can. I mean you’d have to see the section we have commissioned for all these boxes. Maybe we have some boxes that need Carbon-14 dating to determine how old they are. (Laughter)
Bob: This section, you’re talking about storage? I mean—
Bob: —how—what would you guess—how much space—is there a half bedroom full of space?
Barbara: Oh, no, no, no, no. No, it’s not that much. It’s probably five feet by five feet by—
Dennis: Oh, give me a break! It’s much more than that.
Barbara: It is too.
Dennis: All the wrapping paper and all the wreaths—I mean the wreaths up there are stacked at least 12 feet high. (Laughter)
Barbara: Oh, dear.
Bob: And you’ve upped the ante this year at your house, and are hoping that other families will up the ante as well. You want—
Barbara: I did.
Bob: —you want to revolutionize Christmas decorating.
Barbara: I would like to do that. I have had a desire for 20 years to find ornaments that talk about Christ, ornaments that really are the essence of the season and why we celebrate Christmas.
I’ve been looking for 20 years. I’ll occasionally find one that has something to do with Jesus or something to do with the manger or you’ll see a holy family ornament occasionally; but there just aren’t a lot to choose from. The ones that are there are often cheap. They’re plastic; or they’re something inexpensive looking that to me detracts from who God is. He’s the King, He’s the Lord; and to make an ornament that is cheap and, frankly, tacky is to take away from who He is.
Bob: When your reindeer looks better than your nativity scene—
Barbara: Yes, the Jesus ornament. Yes.
Bob: —something is wrong.
Barbara: Something’s wrong.
Dennis: Well, and it’s not just the quality; it’s also the message that’s on the ornaments that hang on trees. I mean you’ve got candy canes. You’ve got Santa Claus—
Barbara: —and snowmen and reindeer and footballs and cupcakes and—I mean the craft—our local craft store, which is in a lot of stores around town—last year when I was there several times just kind of perusing and getting a feel for what they had, there were probably four or five aisles, floor to ceiling with ornaments; and they were all secular. There was one section on one aisle that was maybe 12 inches wide that had a few ornaments that were about Jesus—a very, very few.
To look at that, I thought, “This is really telling,” that we have probably—I don’t know, a total of how many square feet that would be, but it was a lot of square feet. It would be a large sized bedroom or more; and that a very tiny, tiny fraction of those ornaments were devoted to the reason we even celebrate Christmas.
Bob: So, your tree for the last 30 plus years—you guys have been married for 40 years—what has your tree looked like?
Barbara: Like a lot of other trees. I mean we have lights, and I have found a few things over the years that are reflective of the Christmas story. So, we have some stars. We have a few angels, but we have a lot of balls. We have a lot of things that the kids have made. We have a lot of just random ornaments—Christmas trees and other things that really don’t have anything to do with Christmas because I haven’t been able to find ornaments that are about Christ.
Dennis: I want to underline what Barbara said earlier, Bob. I have heard her soapbox about this for the past 20 years. She would walk into a Hallmark store, Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby; and she would look at all the ornaments, and she would say, “Where is the King of kings and Lord of lords? Where is Jesus Christ in all this mass of decorating around Christmas?”
It was ultimately what caused us to get away almost three years ago and begin talking and dreaming about how she could use her artistic ability and design sense that she has—plus her theology and her love for the Scriptures and her love for families to be able to create something that families could use here at Christmas to communicate the truth about God and their experience of God to the next generation.
Bob: So, how is your tree going to look different this year than it’s looked in past years?
Barbara: Well, this year our tree is going to be decorated with the names of Jesus because we have come out with a set of Adorenaments® this year; and some of our listeners will remember that we had Adorenaments in years past, and they went out of print, so to speak.
We have recreated them this year and plan to recreate them in years to come with more names; but this year, we have a set of seven of Jesus’ names. They are the names we most commonly associate with the Christmas story—so, the names out of the Luke 2 story: Christ the Lord, Savior, and Jesus; and then names out of Isaiah that we also commonly associate with Christmas. Everyone knows them. It’s Prince of Peace, Mighty God, and Wonderful Counselor; then, we have the name Emmanuel, too.
So, we will have something that talks about Jesus on our Christmas tree for the first time, and I can’t wait to cover it with His names.
Bob: You mentioned that years ago we had developed a set of ornaments called Adorenaments. What’s different about what you’ve created than what we had before, in case any of our listeners remember the old set of Adorenaments?
Barbara: Exactly. The old Adorenaments were also the names of Christ. They weren’t what we are now calling His Christmas names. It was a different list of His names, but they were designed for toddlers and preschoolers, for young children. So, they were not breakable. They were brightly colored, and I remember when those came out—and I thought they were nice.
I liked the concept, but I remember thinking, “My kids are too old for these;” because when they came out, our youngest kids were in elementary school, and our oldest ones were teenagers. And they were very child centric, child-focused.
So, I wanted to create a set of Adorenaments that would be not focused on toddlers and preschoolers, but that they could handle and not be afraid of breaking them; but that would also be something that teenagers and adults would go, “Wow, those are really beautiful. I want those on my tree,” and it still had the message of the names of Christ.
Bob: And when you say these are the names of Jesus, some of our listeners who can’t see them—although if they want to go to FamilyLifeToday.com—
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: —they can see what they look like—but these are carved, metal names.
Barbara: Correct. They’re stamped out of metal for a couple of reasons. One, we wanted something that would last, that would be long-lasting for decades. We wanted something that wouldn’t break, so that a two-year-old can help decorate the tree.
We have twins, grandchildren, who are two years old; and I can imagine Piper and Lilly hanging these ornaments on the tree. There’s no way it can hurt them. They can’t break them, and they can begin to understand that this is the name of Jesus and “I can hang it on the tree as a two-year-old.” But they are nice enough that kids who are 12 through 18 and adults, families who don’t have children, single, men and women, who put up a tree—the idea is that these will span all ages.
So, it is the literal name of Jesus stamped out of metal with a hanger to hang on the tree.
Bob: The interesting thing is when you walk into a room and the tree dominates the room at Christmastime, so all eyes go to the tree. It’s got lights; they’re flashing and all of that. If your tree is covered with these seven ornaments that display the name of Jesus, it sets a different tone for—
Bob: —what the tree’s all about, doesn’t it?
Barbara: Exactly. It is the focal point—you’re right—in most homes. What has made me sad for years is that our trees don’t tell the story of Christ. They don’t tell the story of Jesus. And I just started thinking about what would it be like if Christians all over the country and all over the world, in fact, would have the names of Christ on their trees and symbols of what Christmas is all about.
It would be a statement of our faith. It would be a reminder of why we celebrate. It would teach us who the Jesus is that we love and serve and want to obey. It’s a way of bringing the truth of Christ into our Christmas celebrations.
Dennis: And we’ll talk more about this later, but each of these names is rich in meaning. I think, most of us walk past the name Jesus or Savior, or the concept of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace—we walk by those names and never stop to think about, “Why did God describe His Son in these terms?”
I think what’s cool about this, Bob, is that the package that contains all seven names of Christ here, His Christmas names, contains a booklet that you can read aloud even to young children. It’s interesting, we’ve done this in the past with our grandkids around some of these things Barbara has created, and it works. They sit and listen. They really do.
Now, it’s not going to last long. It’s not going to last more than five to seven minutes total.
Dennis: But it’s a chance to take the name, Savior, hold it up, talk about it, read what it says about Savior; and then go hang that name on the tree. Then, let it be a reminder of why God described His Son with that name.
Bob: The ornaments you’ve created are available individually; but as Dennis said, they’re also in a box with all seven of them and with the booklet. So, if somebody got all seven of them and the booklet, how would you imagine them using the booklet? Would they do it as a part of their decorating of the tree? Would they go ahead and decorate the tree, then use the booklet during the week? What would you think?
Barbara: I think either one of those would work. I think the two simplest options are— depending on the ages of your kids and their ability to pay attention—but one is to hang all seven names in the evening or over the weekend whenever you do your tree and read the story that goes with each one as that ornament is hung.
The other idea would be to maybe save them until the week right before Christmas and hang one each night for the seven days before Christmas, so that you really can focus on that; and it doesn’t get lost in all the other things that are going on, because most of us get our decorating done pretty early after Thanksgiving or sometimes before or in the first week in December.
And sometimes, that last week before Christmas is quieter. The parties are over. Kids are out of school and it might be an easier time to actually focus on this if you saved it for that week, but it’s flexible. Families can do it any way they want to—whatever works.
Bob: And with younger children, if you save it until that last week, they get that sense as they watch a new ornament placed every day—they’re counting down the days until Christmas anyway.
Barbara: Anyway, yes.
Bob: This helps them count down the days.
Dennis: Kind of like an—
Dennis: —advent wreath. One of the things we did for these resources for families was we wanted to make moms and dads really look good in front of their kids around these holidays.
So, one of the guys who tested one of these resources like this, he said, “I was able to pull out the little booklet that Barbara created, and I was able to read it.” I think they said they spent about 30 minutes kind of unveiling everything; and he said, “At the end of the time, I was kind of strutting around like, ‘I really did this thing. I led my family spiritually.’” Every man wants to do that. We just don’t know how.
Frankly, back when we had children, this was one of the issues for us. We talked about, “How can we make Christmas more about Jesus Christ? How can we do that?” Honestly, Bob, we did our best to read the Bible, to point the kids to the story and talk about Him and talk about the reason for the season; but we weren’t able to crack the code.
That’s what really excites me about what Barbara’s doing here. She’s really setting up the parents to really look good and to be effective as those who are really called to pass on the truth to their children.
Bob: These ornaments that you’ve created are just one of a number of resources that you have on your heart to be used around holidays or throughout the year; and as I’ve observed, it really kind of has three goals. One is to use the holidays for spiritual benefit. The second is to make the home reflect both with beauty and with message what the season is all about, and then, to be an equipping tool for you, as Dennis just said, to lead your family spiritually.
Barbara: Exactly, you nailed it, because that is the essence of what I’m trying to do. Holidays are natural gathering times for families. We naturally get together, even if it’s just with our nuclear family, around all the holidays; and they happen year after year after year.
I remember, as a mom, wanting to do something that was meaningful on all of the holidays, including Easter and Thanksgiving and Christmas; but I was so busy and I was so tired and I was so overwhelmed that often I remember thinking, “I just don’t have the energy to go find something or to create something or to come up with an idea on my own.”
I just didn’t have the emotional energy, but I had the desire to make it meaningful. I had the desire to proclaim the truth during those holiday seasons. I just didn’t have the ability or the energy to do it.
So, that’s what’s been so fun about creating these—is now I’m in a season in my life where I don’t have the kids at home 24/7, and I’ve got the energy and the time to take that longing that I had as mom, to lead our family in meaningful times together, when we’re naturally together anyway—for Dennis and I together to provide that instruction for our children, and I’m excited about being able to create resources for families around the annual holidays that we all celebrate.
Bob: You have some resources that we’re going to be talking more about as we get closer to Easter and toward Lent—things you’ve developed for that. But again, the goal is “Let’s not just let the culture capture the holidays”—
Bob: —“let’s remember what they’re all about in the first place,” right?
Dennis: I’ll tell you what I’m excited about: Papa is going to have all seven of these ornaments—
Bob: That would be you, right?
Dennis: That would be me.
Bob: Papa for those who don’t know—
Dennis: Papa of—and if you’ve not heard a recent broadcast we now have—
Bob: Get out your scorecard, ladies and gentlemen.
Dennis: This is going to stun some of our listeners, thinking our kids are rabbits; but we have 19 grandchildren—19 grandchildren. (Laughter) I mean unbelievable.
But Papa’s going to pull out Barbara’s set of the seven Christmas names of Christ; and I’m going to have fun with my grandkids—both pulling them out of the box and hanging them; but also reading what each name means—have a little discussion with the kids because our grandkids, some of them, are getting up there where they can get it.
But even two-year-olds, as Barbara said, they’re going to listen; and they’re going to sit still because these Adorenaments are shiny, they’ve got glitter on them, and they won’t break. (Laughter)
Bob: You know I mentioned that our listeners can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to see all seven names laid out: Jesus Christ the Lord, Emmanuel, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Savior, Prince of Peace. If they are interested in individual ornaments or if they’d like the entire seven-ornament set, they can order them from us at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order your Adorenaments from us online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. If you have any questions or you’d like to order over the phone, 1-800-358-6329—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, I also want to mention how grateful we are for those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. This broadcast ministry, on air, on the web, the events that we host, the resources we develop—all of this happens because folks like you believe in what we’re doing; and from time to time, you get in touch with us and let us know that God has used this program in your life. If that is the case for you, would you consider making a donation today?
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. And if you make a donation between now and the end of the month, feel free to request a two-CD set that we’ve put together—conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the subject of gratitude: How can we cultivate a spirit of gratitude in our own hearts and how can we help our children learn to be more grateful as well?
We talk about that in the CD set, and those CDs are another way we can say thank you to you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We really do appreciate you.
We hope you’ll join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking about decking the halls, not with boughs of holly, but with the names of Jesus. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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