Written by Traci Runge

Turn on the radio, television or walk into ANY STORE and you will be inundated with holiday merchandise and gift giving suggestions. Every year it just seems to come earlier and with greater force than the year before.

We dress up our homes inside and out, attend parties, make goodies and treats galore for friends and family, stand in line after line to get the best deals, and WHY do we do all of this….to prepare for the birth of our savior?!? Huh, I can’t help but feel as though we may have missed something.

You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways…

Luke 1:76

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas! I certainly didn’t mind waking up on Christmas morning as a child to a room filled with presents, and as a mom myself I absolutely LOVE the joy on my kids’ faces when they open their gifts. I just wish we could stop and take a look at what we are teaching our young ones about the holiday and how we celebrate it.

As a family that makes an effort to live our faith every day, I struggle with how commercialized holidays have become. I guess I rant about it pretty regularly because one of my fifth grade Faith Formation students made a comment the other day about it. I had most of the students in my class back when they were second graders as well as having them this year. Last week we were studying Saint Patrick  when one chimed in and said, “You HATE St. Patrick’s Day!” WOW….strong words! I explained to him that I don’t dislike the holiday, I feel that St. Patrick is one of  THE MOST influential saints of all time and deserves to be revered, what upsets me is how his feast day is celebrated. But that’s a different story for another time.

Back to THIS time of year! We are no different than any other typical family celebrating Christmas…this is the sixth year that our friendly elf Chester has come to visit our family. A yearly event that we ALL look forward to… even our oldest daughter who is in college 😉 We decorate the house, not over the top just enough to be festive. We have a family tree in the living room downstairs that we decorate together with ornaments that we have collected, made or been given. We have a great time reminiscing about each ornament and Christmases past. There are reminders of trips we have taken and special events in our lives. I love the trees that are perfectly decorated with ribbon and glass ornaments…I used to have one of those trees…but over the years, it is one little area that I learned to let go of my need for perfectionism and enjoy the beauty of our “Family Tree”. I secretly sneak downstairs when my family is away each day at work and school and take in its perfectly imperfect beauty. It brings tears to my eyes to see all those memories hanging on our tree and think of the fun we had decorating it together.

We don’t go crazy with gift giving at Christmas. It is so tempting to buy them all the latest gadgets and gizmos, but we keep it simple and try to put the focus on time spent together. There are many activities that we enjoy during Advent and Christmas. There will be cookie decorating, rereading all our favorite Christmas books, there are those yummy treats we love to make that we only get this time of year and each of us have our favorite Christmas movie that we will enjoy at least once. This year thanks to The World Theater, I had the opportunity to take Payton to see one of my favorite Christmas movies…White Christmas. It was so wonderful to share this special experience with her and it is MUCH better on the big screen! We have It’s a Wonderful Life scheduled as this month’s Family Movie Night. (I wonder if this year I will get through it without crying) Not likely!

Christmas Eve Mass and the Epiphany on January 6th are two of my favorite celebrations during the liturgical year in our church.  I love sitting in our pew each week surrounded by my loved ones, but there is just something magnificent about the Gospel this time of year. We make prayer a regular part of our lives, but during Advent I hope that we can each carve a little extra time out of our day to praise God for the gifts he gives us each and everyday. One of my daughter Payton’s favorite quotes is, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” So appropriate! Just a few minutes each night, gathered together.

I am grateful for the wonderful people God has brought into my life, the opportunities he gives me to share my blessings and the gift of Christ in our lives and hearts. I pray that each of us will know God’s peace and share his love with others at Christmas and all the year through!

How does your family keep Christ as the focus of the season?

About the author

Traci Runge

Traci was born and raised in San Diego and has called Kearney, Nebraska home for the past 18 years. She is married to Darby Runge and together they have 6 children. They own and operate Pro-Tint, a window tinting business. Along with being a full-time mom, Traci is also a Manager and Certified Trainer with SendOutCards, she works with businesses and individuals to build relationships and grow their income through Relationship Marketing. Traci works hard to balance her roles of mother, wife and business owner. She strives to help make the world a better place through kindness and love and leading by example. Traci is committed to her family, church and community and can often be found volunteering in some capacity.