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Replacing chaos with Christ at Christmas

It’s that time of year again when elves are popping out with their hilarious high jinks, bringing joy to children and guilt to mothers everywhere.

I knew the season was back in full force when a little girl asked my daughter recently on the way to school, “Our elf came last night. Has yours come yet?”

My daughter informed her that we do not have an elf that visits our home, but we do have a stuffed snowman who comes during the holiday period and occasionally does things like throw underwear on the tree or play Monopoly with the Barbies. I admit, our snowman is a little lazy and also has about a million other things to do during the holiday season, including work deadlines and volunteering in a smattering of class parties and church activities. So get off his back already, OK?

So our particular holiday visitor sometimes forgets to do something adorable and memorable every morning. But kudos to those elves out there that do. Seriously. I’ve seen some creative ideas that make me want to rally our little snowman into action. But then he gets cold. And tired. And just looks at ideas on Pinterest instead with no intention of ever doing them.

Yeah, he’s kind of a dud.

Because sometimes it’s all just too much. Between the advent calendars and the light shows and the treats for teachers and neighbors and the ugly sweaters and the gifts and the “Has your elf come yet?” guilt trip, it’s amazing that mothers survive December.

And all we really want to do is make the holiday memorable for our children, teach them it’s better to give than receive and somehow amid all the chaos, make the whole thing about Christ.

It’s a tall order.

This year, though, a new idea by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is helping at least this mother take the last item on that list and restore it to its rightful position as the most important.

The "Light the World" initiative does two things: First, it focuses our entire month on how Christ changed our lives and second, it encourages us to follow in his footsteps.

For each day, the "Light the World" calendar invites everyone to perform acts of service by following a specific example of Christ. For example, one day says, “Jesus healed the sick and so can you,” and then provides some ideas for service, such as visiting an elderly person or learning about mental illness.

In our house, we’ve decided to follow the "Light the World" calendar by writing on slips of paper what we did that day to be more like Jesus. Each night, I pick one of the papers and put it and a treat behind the next day’s door of our advent calendar. Whoever did the act of kindness gets the treat and gets to share what they did.

So far, I love it. It’s fun for the kids, and it focuses our family on the one thing that truly matters at Christmas.

Our other fun-filled holiday traditions will continue, and I’m sure I will always feel the chaos of December. But at least for this moment each day, we can remember the greatest gift and try in some small way to pause and extend the same love to the people that cross our paths as we hurry about our holidays.

Are you participating in the "Light the World" program? How do you plan to center Christmas on Christ this year?

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her and her newborn son wins hearts with his dimples.