Can I just say that I love, love, love this time of year?! Each year when summer ends, I keep thinking that fall is my favorite time of year, but then Christmas rolls around, and I remember that I actually like Christmas more! I just love driving around neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights (and I love how my kids are in awe of light displays!), and I love the smell of Christmas with cinnamon and baked goods. I love being able to see my breath outside, and I love snuggling up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. There's something that is so relaxing and peaceful about this time of year.
You may be reading that previous sentence and be thinking, "Uh, huh...relaxing and peaceful! Have you seen those lines at the mall?! And I still haven't figured out what to buy for Uncle Bob!" Yeah, I understand because I've been there. But over the last few years, my husband and I have decided to take a very intentional approach to not only the Christmas holiday, but the entire season as well. This has restored peace and joy to Christmas time, and I have begun to cherish every little moment.
What We Do
We do a lot of fun things for Christmas. We see all the huge light displays throughout Oklahoma. We roast marshmallows on the fire. We eat pies. But we also try to add some intentionality to the holiday. As a family, we decided that there were certain traditions that we wanted to add to our Christmas celebration to enhance the holiday. One of these traditions is the Jesse Tree. If you are not familiar with the Jesse tree, here's a great post on the subject. Even though we're already on the 8th day of the month, it's not too late to start. You can double up for a few days, and then you'll be caught up. The kids and I do the Jesse tree together for our Bible time during school. We have a live pine tree outside that we hang our ornaments on (ours are just laminated paper.)
I have also been teaching the kids about various Christmas symbols (tree, stockings, Santa, mistletoe, etc.) In learning about the history of these symbols, the kids have started thinking about which symbols point us to the Lord at Christmas, and which ones really have no place in our worship of Jesus. As the kids learn about each symbol, we add it to the lapbook we're making. I love that we will be able to pull it out each Christmas, and that it involves the kids in how we worship at Christmas.
Our family also enjoys participating in the Advent Conspiracy. The basic premise of this movement is to reject what they call the "hyper-consumerism" that has gripped this country at Christmas. Instead, give yourself to others through your time and effort. Here's a wonderful video about their mission.
So this year, we are having a completely homemade Christmas. My husband and I have enjoyed thinking through what we wanted to give each person for Christmas, and then I make everything. I takes a lot of time and love, which I think is a much better way of sharing Christ's love than handing someone a gift that they don't really want or need.
With the money that we could have spent on Christmas, we are planning to do two things. First of all, we adopt a family in need, and provide them with a Christmas dinner and goodies for each of the family members. Last year, we did this with the kids, and we had only adopted our kids just a few weeks before. They couldn't figure out why we were going grocery shopping for a different family, but you know what? That night that we took all the goodies and food over to that needy family's house was burned into their memory, and they still talk about it all the time. We don't do it for accolades, but rather to show the sacrificial love of Christ to others. When my kids gave that ham to the family last Christmas, they knew that they had given up a toy to buy that. I want my kids to not just talk about helping the hurting, but to be in the trenches along side them. And I think it really helps them battle the "gimme gimme's" that strike children and adults alike at Christmas.
Also, with the money we're saving, we're looking into sponsoring an orphan or two this coming year. This past Sunday, our church was visited by World Help, and we were very touched by the fact that so many people in our world do not have clean drinking water or food. So, we are considering sponsoring a child to help them receive schooling, water, and food.
So, these things have helped to bring a deeper, more fulfilling meaning to Christmas. We don't have to wait in long lines at the store, or wait to sit on Santa's lap, or any of that. By getting back to Christmas without the consumerism, we have found peace and joy in our celebration again.
I'd love to hear from you...what are some fun and meaningful traditions that your family embraces to worship Jesus at Christmas?