It’s game time, friends! This is the week that, depending on your holiday tradition, Santa comes to town, that Rudolph shines his nose so bright, that every mother’s child is gonna spy to see if reindeer really know how to fly.

And it’s also the time that the world takes a pause and reflects on the birth of a baby, an event that would change the course of the world and eternity.

In all the preparation, travel, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and frenzy, it can be all too easy to skid into the celebration and find that you haven’t had the time or brainpower to focus on the central reason for the season. But taking a few minutes to pause and meditate on the birth of Jesus with your family doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, keeping it simple is in keeping with the events surrounding the arrival of Jesus into the world. He wasn’t born into royalty or aristocracy. He wasn’t born into fanfare, wealth, or notoriety. He was born to a young girl, her working-class husband, in a small town, outside the spotlight of the metropolises of the time. There was no complicated baby equipment, no extensive infant wardrobe, no maternity photoshoot, and no push present.

He was born in a simple stable, to inexperienced, unqualified people, who said a simple “Yes” to God. 

And so, perhaps taking a simple moment with your family, before the presents are opened, before the meal is eaten, before your celebration expands into its colorful, chaotic joy, is the brightest way to begin.

As your family gathers, read the following verses and thoughts together:

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him…” – John 1:9-10

At Christmastime, we see lights in the Christmas trees and adorning homes and businesses. Light has always been associated with Christmas and it’s because Jesus is the light of the world. Let’s take a minute to look at the lights on our tree and in our yard and remember that Jesus always brings light and is light in any situation, any darkness, any challenge.

(Pause to look at the lights)

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

We’re getting ready to open all kinds of fun gifts. We’ve all taken time to try to choose just the right thing for each other. We’re able to give each other gifts because we are walking in generosity. We’re thinking of each other and each other’s happiness. And when we give gifts at this time of year, it’s in celebration of the best gift we’ve ever received, Jesus. God’s gift of Jesus to us brings us mercy, grace, forgiveness, and hope. Let’s look at all the gifts under the tree. Let’s take a moment to be quiet and to thank God for His goodness to us, that we are able to give each other gifts. And let’s be reminded that each of these gifts is a symbol of Jesus, God’s most incredible gift to us.

(Pause to look at the gifts)

“And there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.” – Luke 2:8-9

When Jesus was born, it wasn’t something that became known because of a news release or an interview. It wasn’t something that was declared from the highest ranks of government, and it wasn’t something that was only known to those in power and withheld from the people. When Jesus was born, it was the regular people, the people who were going about their jobs in a usual way, the people who were working overnight, the people who weren’t known for their power or influence or connections, who got to hear about it first. It’s a reminder that God isn’t concerned with what you achieve in what the world calls success. He’s ready to interact with those who are ready to receive. And so, a handful of guys, making sure that their sheep were staying safe in the night, were the ones who got to hear about the world-changing event of the birth of Jesus first. So let’s take a minute to thank God that He can use anyone, in any situation, in any job, no matter how it’s seen by the world. 

(Pause to thank God for how He comes to us with this Good News, no matter our jobs, achievements, status)

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

The name Immanuel means God with Us and it’s a very special name. Now, we usually call Jesus by the name we read in the New Testament and it’s an incredible name, one that means salvation or God is Deliverance, which is what Jesus came to give us. In the Old Testament, in the verse we just read, the name Immanuel is used because it was a promise to the people that God would come and be among them, that He would be with them in a way they couldn’t even imagine. And so, the name Immanuel for Jesus is a very special one, particularly as we celebrate Christmas because the birth of Jesus means that God came to be with us, to experience life as we experience it, to allow Himself to have a human experience. There are many ways God could have chosen to bring us the message of hope and forgiveness. But He did it through the birth of a baby, through bringing Himself to us. We’re going to take one minute to bow our heads and to thank God for sending Immanuel, so that we could experience God being with us, with us in our every day, with us in sorrow and joy, with us in understanding what it is to be human.

(Pause to have a moment of silent prayer of thanks for Immanuel)

This simple experience with your family will take less than five minutes and is a beautiful way to open your celebrations. When we remember why we take this time of year to celebrate, it truly does make the season all the more bright.

From all of us here at Altrua HealthShare, we wish you and yours the merriest of Christmases. May the light of God shine in your heart. May the gift of Jesus fill you with hope. May the mercy of God meet you right where you are to renew your joy. And may the wonder that Immanuel has come carry you throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

Julie Lyles Carr is a best-selling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas, with her husband Mike Carr. They have eight kids, two unfriendly cats, and an antique dachshund.