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What is your favorite thing about Christmas? Can you narrow it down to just one thing? I did my best and only narrowed it down to two things, a success in my book! As I said in a blog previously, Christmas is my second favorite holiday next to Thanksgiving.

There is so much to love about the celebration of the Lord’s birth. I think if I had to narrow it down however, I would say that spending time with family and giving gifts are two of my favorite things associated with Christmas.

I am an extremely family oriented person, and Christmas is generally a holiday that the world spends with family. I think family is one of the greatest gifts the Lord gave us on this side of eternity. Sure, they’ll get on your nerves, let you down and sometimes make life harder than necessary, but none of that ever outweighs how much I love spending time with my family.

Some things I’ve enjoyed in past Christmases are going to Christmas Eve services at church, reading Luke 2 before opening presents together, going to look at Christmas lights with my family, playing Scattergories (which we do at almost every family gathering), playing some sort of sport outside and just being together.

One thing that has added to the joy and merriment of spending Christmas with my family is the addition of my nephews and niece. I told someone the other day that Christmas just seems so much more magical when you celebrate with children, and I hold to that! There isn’t anything better than seeing someone you love take joy in something. Nothing beats seeing a baby only care about the bows and wrapping paper or laughing at something one of my older nephews says. Kids really do say the “darndest” things.

At my sister-in-law’s house, we open presents early on Christmas morning, so a sleepover on Christmas Eve usually takes place. Last year was the first year my husband and I slept over as opposed to driving in the morning of Christmas, and it was a blast.

We stayed up late playing games and laughing, then crawled in bed knowing that in just a few hours we would be woken up to open presents together.

The next morning, we all woke up and poured ourselves a cup of coffee or cider and had a Christmas morning breakfast feast. Once we all had our fill, we opened presents in our Christmas pajamas. Each person opens a present as the rest of the family watches, which I love. I love that tradition so much because I take so much care in picking out presents, I want to be able to watch people open what I chose to buy them.

That brings me to my other favorite thing about Christmas. I absolutely love giving gifts. I truly find it to be a sport of sorts. If the gift exchange I am a part of isn’t one with my family, or people I’m familiar with, I study them to find out what they would like to best receive.

There’s an art to gift giving. If you have all the money in the world, that of course makes things a lot easier. But you don’t have to have all the money in the world to pick something that someone wouldn’t normally buy themselves and surprise them with it.

The more surprised the person I give a gift to is, the more accomplished I feel. I remember spending nearly two hours in Toys R Us the first year Casey and I were married, carefully picking out toys for each of my nephews and my niece.

I have guidelines like ff the child is younger than one or two-years-old, they get a book with a sentiment inside from Aunt Emily. The book also has to some way remind me of each child. I don’t buy super noisy toys that will ruin any of my brother and sister’s lives if their child were to bring it home, however I have sent home a few “weapons” like foam swords and Nerf guns.

I generally set a budget for each person I am buying a gift as well. This is where I struggle, because gift giving is one of my love languages. Every Christmas, my parents deserve a private island, but I have yet to follow through on buying them that private island due to insufficient funds. Nine times out of 10, however, I will sacrifice getting myself something while out shopping, so I can up the budget on everyone else’s gifts. I can’t help it! And my husband Casey is adorably accommodating.

I think most of all though, I love the gift that I received when I invited Jesus into my heart. God took time picking this gift out. He set parameters, and he sacrificed the thing he held most dear in the world, His Son.

There was travel involved in that first Christmas. One could even say travel to see family, as a census was taking place and families were instructed to return to their home cities. Much like our family gatherings, people are put anywhere and everywhere trying to fit everyone in the house to sleep, although none of us have slept in the barn, yet.

The wise men came bearing gifts to the newborn king just as we do for each other. But the comparisons stop with the birth of the one true King, the Savior of the world. The greatest gift God could have ever given mankind is the life of Jesus, and eventually the death of His Son who he loved so much.

I challenge you to think about a few of your favorite things this holiday season. Is the Lord’s birth at the forefront? Is He a part of your Christmas celebrations? If He isn’t, I encourage you familiarize yourself with the story of His birth. Then, take time to thank Him for the traditions you and your family hold.

I hope you have the merriest Christmas this Christmas season. It’s only November 27, but I am excited to celebrate the Lord’s birth with my family, I hope you are too!