Dec 16, 2023

A Different Family Christmas

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by Katie Rapp

Christmas isn’t always filled with Santa Clause, Christmas trees, and all of the lawn ornaments you can find. Sometimes Christmas is a little bit different. For our family, Christmas doesn’t look like the traditional take on the holiday.  

Why Our Christmas Looks Different

Our family Christmas looks different because it is important to us to focus on Christ (like many families do) and help our kids see how they can be part of reflecting Christ on Christmas, which in turn is their birthday gift to Jesus (since Christmas is supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ). 


What we do shouldn’t take away from what your family does to celebrate Christ. Our approach is just a little bit different. This is something we choose out of our desire to contribute to children’s growth as disciples. We aim, like you, to be very intentional in our parenting. We don’t usually have a traditional Christmas tree, and the big one that catches people off guard is that we don’t give our kids gifts on Christmas. 


This plays into the conviction of truly keeping Christmas about Christ. Keep reading to find out what we do instead. 

What We Do Instead

You may be wondering what we do if we don’t have a traditional tree and gifts.  That is a great question. We actually did have a traditional Christmas tree last year but we still used our much loved Jesse Tree ornaments. 


If you aren’t familiar with Jesse Tree, this is an advent tradition. There is an ornament for each day of advent with a corresponding passage in scripture to read about the Christmas story. 


Usually, we use a different type of tree. In the past, it was something that Erin’s dad made out of pallet wood. Now we use an artificial tree, however, we still use the Jesse Tree ornaments.


We also deliver cookies and candy to those working on Christmas. In the past, we delivered it to those at the hospital, but Covid redirected us, so we began to hit gas stations, hotels, and restaurants that were open this past Christmas. A New Tradition we started last year is what we call “Spy Christmas.” Spy Christmas is part of the Christmas day experience, which is my new favorite and is already underway. 


The concept is that you look around, open your eyes, and really see the need around you. Someone who could use some encouragement, a family struggling financially, a mom who takes care of everyone but herself, a child who has a less than ideal family situation.  It could be anyone for any reason. 


Then you shop. You think about what they might like, what would bless them or surprise them. Go big or go home.  Fill the gift bag to the top. The best part comes next. 


They can’t know it was you, and neither can your siblings. Find a time to make a quick and sneaky delivery before you drive away. 


Our family loved this. On Christmas Day, the kids have the names of each person that they chose wrapped and they open it and share with the family why they chose who they chose. Then I remind them of what Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 25 “when you have done unto the least of these you have done unto me”.  We use this as a way to lead our children to the understanding that their lives are the gift to God.


And before you panic, because we don’t buy our kids Christmas gifts, we have a different family holiday for that.  We do something called family birthday. On Jan 1 we celebrate my and my wife’s wedding anniversary as the birth of our family. 


We give our kids gifts and we also do something called Secret Sibling. We use Secret Sibling, as a way to teach our children the discipline of paying attention to the needs and wants of those in their family. We have a drawing of names and keep a tight lip on who has a whose name. The excitement connected to this is very fun for Erin and me. We get to see them pay extra attention to one another and show incredible value to one another in this process.


No matter how you celebrate Christmas, we want to encourage you to find ways to keep Christ at the center of it because he is our reason for life and for hope. 

Are you looking for a community or someone to grab coffee with who is in a similar life season? We’d love to connect with you and get to know you better! Below you will find a few people that can’t wait to meet you!  Shoot us an email so we can make a plan!

Tyler OJ Campus

Teresa Ator:

Bethanie Tayler:

Tyler UB Campus

Max Heller:


Lindale Campus

Molly Pontius:

Debra Kirby: