By: Kris Dolberry– When I was 9 years old, my parents decided to take a weekend trip to the Smokey Mountains in early December. Needless to say, it stuck. Over the years grandparents, extended family, and friends have made the trip with us. Now 28 years later, our weekend trip to the Smokies has become one of the great highlights of the year for my kids, and ushers the Christmas season into full swing for us.
Traditions are important. They can be significant spiritual markers for your family. And, the holidays are a great time to start. Here are a few easy ideas:
Focus on the Gospel
Having grown up in a Southern Baptist Church, Advent was not something we talked about very much. In fact, until only a few years ago, I was only casually aware of the concept. Then as a pastoral team, we decided to lead our church in a more “sacred” Christmas series. My eyes were opened to a new tool to leverage to delight in the gospel and to point my family to Christ throughout December. Here’s what we do… Each Sunday night we gather around the dinner table and light a new candle celebrating Jesus’ birth and anticipating His return. At dinner each night, our kids fight to be the “one who lights the candle”. We don’t have a heavy Bible study. I’m simply intentional to focus our conversations on the gospel and celebration of the hope of Messiah’s coming. After dinner, we read from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Even my 13-year old man child loves it.
One of my fondest Christmas memories as a child was riding with my dad on Christmas Eve morning as he delivered homemade candies and small gifts to elderly people in our community. This was not a ministry of our church. It was a ministry Ron Dolberry led his family to do. I still remember the joy in the eyes of some of those dear people as they were recipients of the love of Christ being lived out. Someone once said, “You’re never more like Jesus than when you serve.” My dad modeled that for me. Your kids need you to do the same.
Date Your Wife
Each year I give my wife the gift of a special Christmas date. Some years it has been extravagant with limos and expensive restaurants. Others, it’s been as simple as time away from the kids talking and laughing together. We literally talk about this date and look forward to it all year long. You could even go next-level by giving your wife 12 pre-planned dates (one per month) for Christmas. There are loads of ideas on the interwebs. Oh, and… you’re welcome.
Ever since we’ve had kids, we have spent some time the week after Christmas cleaning out old toys and clothes, organizing our storage areas, and giving our budget a fresh coat of paint. But, 2014 for us was an exceptionally challenging year. So, I decided to take some time moving into 2015 to recalibrate every domain of my life. I wrote vision statements for my marriage, parenting, work, physical fitness, and of course spiritual life. For example, my marriage vision statement is, “I will selflessly pursue Vanessa in a way that leads to her greatest flourishing.” So hard as it may be, take a day or two over the holidays to rest and reset.
Dream and Pray
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day provides you a great opportunity to dream about what God may want to do in and through you and your family in the next year- a mission trip, inviting a neighbor to church, or maybe reading through the Bible. Vanessa and I take some time to set goals for our marriage and our family. It provides great clarity and focus for us as we enter the new year. Whatever you do, don’t forget to pray. You have the great privilege to go before the God of the Universe on behalf of your family. Lead them to pray and ask God to give you His vision for your family rather than asking Him to bless your plans. Your prayers could be the key that unlocks God’s power in and through your family next year like never before.
These are a few of the Dolberry family traditions. I’d love to hear yours. What would you add to the list?
Kris Dolberry is a pastor, Bible teacher, writer, church consultant. After serving in pastoral leadership for 16 years, Kris now leads Ministry to Men at LifeWay and serves as Executive Editor of Stand Firm, a daily devotional magazine for men. He is passionate about serving churches in their mission of making disciples. Kris is husband to Vanessa and Dad to Konnor, Emma, and Brady. They live outside Nashville, Tennessee.