Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finding Christmas

Bah hum bug.

I have a confession to make.

I am a scrooge when it comes to Christmas.

Well you see, it’s not that I don’t like Christmas- it’s just that I don’t like how Christmas seems to somehow always get lost.

Just the other day when I ran into Walmart, everywhere I looked were blow up Santas and reindeer that moved. There were stocking as big as the front door and wrapping paper galore. There were lights and wreaths and stockings in every size and color. There were yard signs, candy canes and dancing elves. Down every isle there were signs that Christmas is almost here- and even in this economy, many of us will fall into the trap of thinking we have to ‘having it all’ to make Christmas good.

It gets lost.

It seems that Christmas is no longer about the babe in a manager- because the nativity gets lost in the cookies, the bows, the packages, the tinsel, and the ribbons. Its gets lost in the gifts that are larger that life- the ones that we didn’t need in the first place. The ones we purchase because they were just too good of a deal to pass ( never mind that we have no idea what to do with them anyway). The ones we buy just so that the kids get ‘even’ amounts. The ones we buy just so that our little dumplings have something to open- and you know, get that excited feeling on Christmas morning. It gets lost in the stress of our credit card bill. It gets lost in the stockings and the decorations.

It gets lost when we rob our children of the joy of truly understanding the greatest gift they have ever been given- Christ.

It gets lost.

Soon many children will begin to sit down with their crayons and markers and compile their lists for Santa that are a mile long. They will eagerly present their requests to a man in a big red suit sitting in the middle of the mall. They will smile for their picture and then and sit back, sucking on a candy cane and dreaming of Christmas morning when these treasures will ‘magically appear’…all the while being trained that happiness is found in 'things'.

Please understand- I do not mean to say that gift giving is a bad thing… but it’s when that giving becomes about putting a smile on your child face through another piece of plastic, when giving becomes a financial burden that sends you swirling in a pit of never ending debt, when that giving robs your child of ever being able to grasp the important of the true meaning of Christmas- that I believe we become lost.

I want more than anything for my children to have the very best- and for them to recognize that the very best was giving to them when Jesus came to earth in human form on Christmas day.

I want them to see how that gift changes everything. How in that gift there is true hope- true happiness. I want them to understand that Jesus is enough- all they will ever really need.

I want them to recognize this gift as the ultimate present of all. I want them to do something with that gift- not just tuck it away in the corner of their hearts as the plastic toys will be tucked away in the corners of their rooms.

And I want them to understand that while it might be fun to receive a new toy, an iPod or a shiny new bike- those things are only temporary in this world but that what Jesus has to offer is eternal.

I want them to hear the Christmas story and when they come to the part about there being no room at the Inn- I want them to understand that still today many people do not make room in their lives for the King of Kings.

And I don’t want to just tell them that- and then confuse them by living my life in a completely different way. It can be confusing even to Christian adults when we fall into the pit of trying to ‘create’ the perfect Christmas by giving the best, looking our best, serving the best and wanting the best.

Lost.

So can you help me out and prevent me from turning into a complete scrooge? What are some of the things your family does to keep the real meaning of Christmas from getting lost?


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28 comments:

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

Did you read my post yesterday?

Our hearts are once again perfectly matched!

We don't have a tree, lights or anything - the kids get one family gift. Friends and family still can't quite figure us out for this - but it all goes back to what you said. Christmas is CHRISTmas for us.

He is the gift! We celebrate Him and not us or ask for anything - because we have already received more than we will ever need in HIM!

This year the children want to bake a cake for Him. They want to make gifts for Him and are participating in shoebox gifts for children who need the essentials of life. We are going to wrap up our boxes next week and send them off with Sumaritans Purse.

Big hugs and much love - you are glorifying GOD! SHINE SHINE SHINE AMY! No worries about pleasing man (readers) - He is our goal!

Jill

Jaime (@ fearfully and wonderfully made) said...

my hubs and I pretty much dislike Christmas. we prefer Thanksgiving because it's about being around loved one more than giving gifts. we love the the actual holiday of Christmas, just not how it is all about gifts and not so much about Jesus these days.
We're raising our son to be somewhat "anti-commercial Christmas". The stocking gifts are gifts from mommy and daddy. the gifts under the tree are from family. He only gets 3 gifts from us (something he wants, something he needs and something from the heart). And we always ALWAYS read the Christmas story from scripture. And any Chrismas music we listen to is actual Christ-mas music, not Grandma got ran over by a reindeer stuff.

Ugh.... I'll be pretty cranky from now until Chrismas day.

Anonymous said...

Good post-really gives me something to think about this Christmas. This kind of thing has been on my mind a lot lately. I would love to hear how your family celebrates Christmas! I can't wait to hear everyone else's comments too!

Kimberlie said...

In our family, we really focus on Christ. We do have Santa, but in the person of St. Nicholas. My husband is of German decent, and they celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6. Our kids and the two of us will have clementines and nuts in our stockings as these are traditional St. Nicholas Day treats. We tell the story of St. Nicholas and how he gave everything he had to those in need because he wanted to be like Christ. He spent years in a Roman prison because he refused to bow to Caesar and deny Christ. After being released he continued to spread the good of Christ to all who would hear in what is modern day Turkey.

For Christmas this year, our children are each going to only get one gift from us. The rest of what we would normally spend is going to go toward helping others in the world by giving money to a micro loan program that allows those in poverty to start their own business to support them and their families. We give to orphans often already, we decided to help families this Christmas. My immediate family is foregoing the usual gift exchange and doing this too. I am trying to convince my DH family to do this too. We adults don't really need anything that we couldn't buy on our own if we wanted to. Our children certainly don't need more "stuff."

So while I am very grumpy right now that we have not even reached the end of October and I have to see Christmas on display everywhere, we do "do" Christmas. But not until the first Sunday of Advent. Then we will bring out our Advent wreath, and nightly have a devotion, that will fill us with the anticipation of the day we celebrate God come down as a baby to free us from death and sin.

We have also done a birthday cake to Jesus in the past and the kids really love it. As I said, we do "do" Santa for right now, but we always make it known that every good gift comes from Jesus and that Santa is merely His helper. I know that my two oldest Dumplings know what Christmas is all about. My youngest one, home just 9 months, is struggling to understand the God and Jesus. I think we will have to alter our usual way of doing things so she doesn't confuse Santa with Jesus or lose Jesus in the excitement of the holiday. This year, it's going to have to be just about Jesus because my littlest one can't understand Jesus right now. I don't know why she's having such a hard time wrapping her mind around it but she is.

I am with you Amy about being sad about how everything that Christmas is truly about is getting lost in our culture, but don't let it stand in your way of experiencing the wonder and joy of the blessed Advent season and the coming of Our Savior!

St. Paul says to be in the world but not to conform to it. We don't have to. It doesn't matter what others think about how you celebrate or don't. I think when people make comments to me about the lack of "loot" under the tree, I think they are really being defensive and their consciences have been pricked that maybe they too need to think more about others and not indulge themselves and their children so much.

Blessings, Kimberlie

Shonni said...

OK, your one of the first people that I am telling this to (well, and anyone who reads comments...LOL)...
we don't do Christmas anymore - GASP. Shocking? May be..two years ago, Steve and I decided we had HAD it with this new world order of Christmas, so we left. We went up to the attic and threw almost everything away, no more Christmas tree, no more spending 100's to decorate...
We now have a special family evening that we call our Nativity Celebration. So this comment want get to long, if you want to know more, feel free to email me...
I can tell you that neither us, nor our children are missing "Christmas" because we have simplified back to what it really is about.
Thank you for sharing about this!
loves,
Shonni

Andrea H. said...

You Scrooge, how dare you. Ha, Amy don't feel bad,I am the same. I get sick when I go to the stores and I barely do that anymore unless I have to. At work, all people can think and talk about is how much money they need for Christmas and how much they are going in debt again over Christmas and how ungrateful their children are. I still get a Christmas tree but my tree has things that glorify God and not Santa. Also my tree look really simply. Our tradition is also that we all go together as a family and cut the tree and bring hot chocolate and cookies while we do that. We read stories, bake cookies and just talk a lot about Jesus and his Birth and the real meaning of Christmas. Glad you brought this subject up. Have to come back tomorrow and read what people are doing because I am curious too.

darci said...

Amen!! Amen!! and again, can I just say Amen!! :) (I obviously really like this post...)
Well, first off, and I may get shot down by some for this, but we don't do the Santa thing. They do watch Rudolph, read the Night Before Christmas, etc, but we have never had our kids believing Santa was real--we have told them the story of St. Nicholas, and how the legend was born, and that Santa is a fun 'fairy tale'..but one of the main reasons we have not done the Santa thing is this: He has all the attributes of God-He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and he can be everywhere at once (or at least close to if he manages to get down everybody's chimney in one night). So, if we tell our kids this Santa guy is real, and that God is real, and then one day the truth comes out that Santa isn't really real, why would they believe us when we tell them that God, who really IS omniscient, omnipresent, and all powerful, really does? Maybe that's a bit over the top, but it works for us..:)
One thing we do that is such a blessing for US is to go carolling to the retirement homes and the nursing home in our town. We can't really sing :) but it doesn't seem to matter-we are a big hit (ha!) and it truly is better to give than to recieve. Collecting things for the Christmas shoe boxes, giving to the Salvation Army pots, taking cookies to older people who have no one-these are all ways we have tried to incorporate giving AWAY rather than always 'gimme gimme'. We have a special breakfast Christmas morning-of oranges and cinnamon buns-and then cuddle up and read the Christmas story.
As our kids get older, we plan to be out serving at the soup kitchen's dinner-at this point we have a crew of little ones, so that's not possible.
I guess the biggest thing is thru the whole year, we just try to instill gratefulness in our kids AND in ourselves-we are so so rich compared to most of the world, and it is ok to appreciate that blessing, but to hold it very lightly, and to give it away whenever we can. :)
I have to admit i LOVE Christmas-it has always been one of my favorite times of the year. But I guess another thing we do is avoid stores, avoid the Sears wishbook that comes out in August..and just try to foster gratitude.
we have a little nativity set that comes out every year and our girls spend hours setting int up and playing the nativity story..
so FINALLY I'm going to wind down my rambling and just say the biggest thing we do to offset the materialism craze at Christmas is probably the year-round focus on Christ-when Christmas comes around it is natural to celebrate His birth.
darci :)
mhovdestad at hotmail dot com
( i am private,,if you want to read please email me your addy,,if not no prob. :)

Mandy said...

My friend and her family started a great Christmas tradition. They spend Christmas day serving other people. I think they went to a nursing home and a soup kitchen last year. They try to give gifts to Christ by serving him.

My family bakes a birthday cake and sings happy birthday to Jesus. We act out the nativity while my dad reads the story from Luke 2. This often leads to a longer discussion of various scriptures.

In the past friends and I have decided to give gifts to Christ. Instead of New Year's resolutions based on physical appearance, we decided to find something in our lives that we needed to change and gave that change to Christ as a gift for Christmas--the celebration of his birthday. That completely changed the focus of our goals and made them something we really wanted to complete.

I have to admit that I still love giving gifts to the people I love. I love planning and wrapping everything. However, these days almost everything I give is homemade. For me, making gifts takes the materialism out of the giving.

My sister gives donations to different charities in our names for Christmas, and I also really enjoy her gifts. I like knowing that the gift she gave me is doing good in the world instead of collecting dust on my shelf.

If you want a way to support orphans while buying your Christmas cards, check out this website. I volunteered for 4 months at the orphanage where these cards are made. OSSO is an incredible organization. I buy almost all my cards all year from OSSO. :) http://www.orphanagesupport.org/cards.html

There are other websites out there that also let you do shopping and support orphans at the same time. That could be a way to give gifts and support a good cause. :)

I am excited to hear what ideas other people come up with.

Anonymous said...

I felt that way too until I read Lisa Welchel's The ADVENTure of Christmas, A Mom's guide to helping children find Jesus in our holiday traditions. She says,"Feeling like Jesus had gotten lost in the frenzy of the holiday season, I asked the Lord to show me what I could do to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas. I was caught off guard when He simply replied, "Don't do anything differently. Look in the middle of the celebration and you will find Me." She discusses 24 Christmas traditions and how to focus on Jesus in each of them. For each one there is an explanation of their history, and then questions to ask your kids. So like when you are talking with your kids about sending out Christmas cards you can ask, "How can we spread the Good News of the gospel by sending Christmas cards?" There are tons of crafts and activities to do with kids throught the book as well. I highly recommend it to you.
I absolutely love Christmas. I love that there are so many opportunities to share the love of Christ with our kids and also others such as neighbors and friends who are not believers. Here are some of the things we do as a family: Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas child, Angel Tree, having a birthday party for Jesus and inviting the neighbor kids. I also love that there are so many things we can do as a family like decorating Christmas cookies and letting our girls take them to our neighbors, going out to get hot chocolate and looking at lights, and decorating our house.
I think it is up to us as parents to not let the real reason of Christmas to get lost in all of the activities and busyness of the season. I am going to try hard this year not to let that happen!!

SMW

Will and Aileen said...

I have been feeling the same way as well. Just today I was in the store and saw so much "Christmas" stuff, and yet nothing about Christ. Not even one nativity scene.

Last year we started a new family tradition that goes along with the traditional Guatemalan Las Posadas celebration. We don't do it just like in Guatemala, obviously, but we make it a point to focus on the story of Mary and Joseph going from place to place looking for room to stay on that first Christmas. We go to family and friends' homes and reenact Joseph asking for a place to stay, and when we are told each night (we only do 4 or 5, not the traditional 13 or 14!) that there is no room but we are welcome to have refreshments, then we enjoy spending time with family and friends and talking about the nativity and Jesus' birth. On the last night, Christmas Eve, we finally find a home with room for Mary and Joseph, and we reenact the entire nativity story while reading it from the Bible. Traditionally it is actual people doing this, but we use nativity figurines since that is much more manageable for us.) We pray and we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and just enjoy fellowshipping together. It really takes some of the emphasis off the tree and gifts and puts it back on that first Nativity and Jesus.

We also participate in a Christmas play every year. This year is a retelling of the Nativity story from the prospective of the innkeeper and his guests and servants. We're hoping that really keeps us focused as well.

The kids each get one "big" gift and maybe something else small that I think really suits them. We don't exchange gifts with our siblings but rather just enjoy visiting and playing games.

I have to admit that we do the "Santa" thing, but just for fun and we have an ornament and display that shows Santa kneeling before the manger that we make sure we show the kids each year. That really helps them see who Christmas is really about.

I love reading others' suggestions and I'm so glad you posted this!

Are These Kids All Yours? said...

We do NOT do Santa. We do have books that talk about St. Nick and they reality of what that means.

We do give gifts, but they are all generic- like the gifts are for everyone in the family- books, Christian dvd's, maybe bikes- but they are for everyone- not one child, maybe games to play with each other....on top of that they know this. We open one present a day (and enjoy it together)- sometimes in October, November, December, whatever- doesn't matter because although we emphasize they are gifts we give to them- to share as a family- NOT because of commercialism. I do all of our "shopping" well ahead of time before the hype- literally we have a lot of birthdays & adoption days surrounding Thanksgiving & Christmas...so we plan very far in advance.

We love the manger scenes in our home and the kids love putting them up and we talk about the TRUE Christams- reading different passages that tell us Christ was coming & prophets that foretold what would happen. We have put 25 days worth before and read them, or 25 names/characteristics of Jesus and read those with scriptures before

We love singing Christmas songs all the time this time of year. There is just something about singing together as a family!

We do have a Christmas tree- and everyone gets an ornament every year, but it is low key, and NOT expensive things. We talk about Christmas past and all the things God has brought us through as we reminisce over the ornaments.

We love to bake cookies together, but it is something we do because we normally love to bake together and cook- homeschooling & just living cheaply requires it :)

We make it a habit- YEAR ROUND to give to organizations, that give food and gifts to others....so we do this at this time of year too- but again- we do it year round.

Christmas Day, Eve- we don't open any presents......it is not for presents....for us!

Oh yeah......our kids don't make out a wish list. They have never even thought of it.....because we don't allow it- for birthdays, adoption days, or Christmas. We just give them things that are educational, fun, and something we can all enjoy. Not to say our children don't have any specific gifts ever....but not much. They are things they can all play with. Our rule of thumb for Birthdays & Adoption days- they can play with it- with no one "stealing" it for the first day....after that- it's everyone's. We do allow them to have a "box" for gifts they want to keep, but over the past few years- ask anyone of our kids.....they will let you play with anything in their box, as long as you put it back. It is more to keep the "nicer" things from being destroyed by the younger children.

***please do not think our children don't ever fight over toys....but if anyone one of you have children like that- let me know how!

I believe that Christmas should not be about any debt!!!!! What we get for the kids are usually sale items- e-bay items, used, etc.

Thank you for this post!!!! Much needed, and I loved looking at others suggestions. People in our own church think we are off our rocker for not doing Christmas- well you know the crazy things that have nothing to do with Christmas!

E.T.'s Mom said...

We don't do Santa or stockings or gifts within our family. We do give thoughtful gifts to others. We decorate a tree in our yard with lights and balls. The neighbors all love our outside tree and it doesn't take up any space in our small house or require any purchases. We don't feel like we're missing out without all the deorations and shopping....we're so thankful for the abundant time with extended family and sharing joy to the world without all the holiday stress.

Kelli said...

I'm with you 100 percent. In fact, I'm not afraid to say that the "holiday" season makes me down right cranky and I'm always glad when it's over. The gift hype annoys me to no end and I've gone as far as to consider boycotting Christmas shopping/receiving, but have yet to take that step because I still have young siblings. I've weeded out some folks, though...the adult relatives that show their faces once a year expecting a gift? Yeah...they get ZIP from me, and it wouldn't hurt me a bit if I didn't receive another useless, unsentimental knick knack as long as I live. That money could do some good elsewhere...I'm already thinking about what to do about this Christmas.

Sally- That Girl! said...

I am on my way to getting there as well. For the last few years, we have been changing all our tree ornaments to "Christ centered" ornaments. We are reading Christ centered Christmas children books for our kids as well, sure we read the fun other books, but the importance is placed on the real reason. We have not done "santa" for our last two children through adoption. We kind of feel like we are getting a second chance with our second set of kiddos. It has been refreshing. The biggest problem I have is not being able to get the rest of our extended family to get quite on board as we would like to be. We are taking baby steps.

I too get scrooge like with all the commercialism of Christmas. I often have wondered what has stole my joy, but really it is the gift I have been given of knowing my savior that has all my joy!

Love your post!

Sally- That Girl! said...

I am on my way to getting there as well. For the last few years, we have been changing all our tree ornaments to "Christ centered" ornaments. We are reading Christ centered Christmas children books for our kids as well, sure we read the fun other books, but the importance is placed on the real reason. We have not done "santa" for our last two children through adoption. We kind of feel like we are getting a second chance with our second set of kiddos. It has been refreshing. The biggest problem I have is not being able to get the rest of our extended family to get quite on board as we would like to be. We are taking baby steps.

I too get scrooge like with all the commercialism of Christmas. I often have wondered what has stole my joy, but really it is the gift I have been given of knowing my savior that has all my joy!

Love your post!

Janet said...

Great!--I started to do a halloween post on my blog, but have the flu, so I didn't. We have many of the same thoughts as other readers. Several years back I read an article aabout not lying to your children about Santa, tooth fairy, etc., because when they find out it is a lie, will they believe what you have to say about Jesus? I thought it was pretty extreme at the time, but it sunk in over time. We asked our older kids opinion about doing Santa with the younger ones. They did not us to do Santa, I was surprised by their input, and glad they agreed. We only do 3 gifts, and a stocking, one of the gifts is always PJ's--so really just 2 gifts. This year I heard a friend was telling about gifts she bought at yard sales, and I thought--why not!, it is the thought that counts! SO this year I already have a few things stashed that came from a thrift store, and a few other bargains.
Last year we started doing The Jesse Tree Devotion, and loved it. Each little one finger painted a big tree on paper, we hung them on doors around the house. Each night (29)we did the devotion and decorated the paper ornament to glue onto the tree. I copied enough from the book so everyone had their own. We started early, so family parties,etc., would not get us off scfedule. There are different versions of the book available for differnt age groups. We use the blue one by Marilyn Breckinridge. One thing I love about it...if we do this every year,our kids will know these verses and symbols when they are grown, we're hiding this in their heart.
I would love to know if there are similar books you use for everyday life.

Dardi said...

I have been interested in reading everyone's comments & have really been thinking about this before posting. We, too, have done a lot of changes over the years with the way we go into the holidays. However, like many things, we have to be careful not to start feeling like we aren't religious enough or something based on how others do it (this is an overall thing with Christian attitudes that I struggle with...I think we have to respect that everyone is at a different place in their walk...Just as I don't do things now the way I did a few years ago, so it is for others).

We do still decorate, do cookies & exchange gifts. HOWEVER, it is the meaning behind doing these things that we stress. Jesus was born as the ultimate gift to us, & we remind the kids that it's b/c of this wonderful gift that we have any gift in our lives. We choose to celebrate the gift of family & spending special time together. We may give a family picture to extended family, but that is it...time is much more precious.

For our children, we probably still do what some would consider "a lot", but we also keep birthdays & the rest of the year very minimal. And much of what they receive is actually stuff they need more than anything (the traditional underwear in the toe of the stocking is always a hit), it's just fun to put thought into each child. The kids' favorite traditions involve what we do as a family on Christmas Eve. They each receive new books & jammies after church (this is the only time they get new jammies, so they are special) and they exchange gifts between siblings. As our family became larger, we began years ago doing a drawing. It's a very neat thing b/c it gives them the opportunity to thoughtfully consider a gift for one sibling. I will never forget when Kade was just 4 years old. He drew Kaelee, who is ten years older. I took him shopping thinking I would still be helping him choose, but I asked him anyway what he thought he might like to get his sister. He looked at me & very seriously said, "Something pink". It touched me b/c even though they are further apart in age & he was so little, he was still very aware of what his sister would like (she adores pink). We have hoped that they might continue this into adulthood so that they never feel the need to buy for everybody, but still get to focus on one of their siblings.

As far as decorating, we string white lights on the bushes out front & put candles in the window to shine light for Christ. We go as a family to get a live tree & I also have a very special tree that I put ONLY handmade ornaments that the kids have made over the years. It's a celebration of gifts of years' past from my children.

We make cutout cookies together & share them with friends, family & neighbors.

We also join with others at church to adopt a family. In all of it, we remind each other that it's all because Jesus was born.

trustandobey said...

I really love Christmas. I have my parents to thank for that. I have such special memories about that time of year growing up. We had Santa Clause as well as presents from my family(so we would have someone to personally thank).Even so, Jesus was always the emphasis. But then He was at all times of the year. He was a constant presence in our home. We did make b'day cakes for Him and always attended the Christmas Eve services as well. However,I do think there was less commercialism then than now. I do think we have to be on our guard a little more these days. I find keeping my children out of the stores is helpful. Out of sight, out of mind. Plus you stay healthier. But one thing my husband and I started doing a few years ago is taking a few nights during the week leading up to Christmas and watching Jesus of Nazareth (1977)as a family. It is THE BEST NARRATION of the life of Christ we have ever seen (outside of the Bible). It would be good to watch at Easter as well. If your family has never seen it, please consider renting it this Christmas season. It is powerful and riviting. The kids cannot help but think of Jesus after watching this film. The crucifixion scenes are somewhat graphic. But watching and "experiencing" what Christ was willing to do on our behalf and seeing why he was willing to leave Heaven in the first place and be born of a woman at all will grab your heart all over again.
Satan has flooded this nation with distraction of every kind during Christmas. But I think we ,as believers, can think of it this way: Our streets and neighborhoods and towns and cities NEVER look lovlier than they do at Christmas time. The world is, inadvertantly, dressed up and decked out for the most momentous spiritual and physical event in the history of mankind and it doesn't even know it. So, who really gets the last laugh here.

Jacksmom said...

We do do Santa, but we have a book (much too long to even attempt to read a 2 year old-I got it as a Christmas gift one year when I was about 8, but it's all about where Santa comes from-St. Nicholas, etc), and some fun things mixed in like Santa's costume, etc. We do Christmas and CHRISTmas. This year our son will turn 3 exactly two weeks before Jesus' birthday.

We've already begun to talk about what CHRISTmas means, and I have a hard time explaining Christ to him. We've talked about how Jesus was a little boy like him once, but that he was born to show us the way to live our lives, and that one day when he was older, he died on the cross for our sins-the bad or wrong things that we do as humans in our everyday lives. I told him that one thing God would like us to do is to help others who have less than we do, that we are very lucky to have all that we have, a house, toys, food, and that a lot of people don't have those things. I asked him if he'd like to help me get together some items to do the shoeboxes for children through Samaritan's Purse, and he said he would. Then I had to explain that that means he can't play with or keep the things we buy, that he has enough, and that the things we buy for the shoeboxes are for kids who don't have coloring books, toys, or food.

I don't think he really gets it, but every year I'd like for us as a family to do something to help others so that he can learn what a good thing that is, and that the feeling we get from helping others is just as special as a feeling of opening gifts. I wish he was old enough to do soup kitchens because I really enjoyed doing that as a young adult through a research project I was involved in.

I hate that stores have Christmas stuff out before December, and never seem to have an answer to the dreaded "What do you want for Christmas?" I just want our son to have a fun day, to go to church and hear the story of Christ's birth, and to spend time around the dinner table with family, maybe with a game afterwards.

triplehmoms said...

We have tried hard to keep the "gimme" out of everything--birthdays, adoption days, and especially Christmas. Yes, the kids get presents, but they don't typically ask for anything. Our rule is that you can only ask for one thing, but again, they typically don't ask for anything at all. One year, my oldest asked for her own package of gum. :) We put the focus on Christ and giving as He gave. We make presents for many of our family friends and typically don't buy gifts for inidividuals. We wrap everything--new socks, underwear, etc. We talk about finding joy in spending time with one another too.
Now, I love Christmas but I don't like the commercialism that goes along with Christmas. We just do our best to keep that aspect out of it.

Holly said...

We just had this sit down conversation at our house a few weeks ago!
For years we have been purposing to focus MORE on Christ than on stuff during Christmas.
We do the Jesse tree and devotions during the month of December.
We also do something called the Secret Christmas Elves' 12 Days of Christmas where we secretly leave a gift and poem on a neighbor's front porch for 12 days in a row and ALWAYS end with Jesus in a manger and present the Gospel message. Last year was our first exception as we mailed them all off to the Riggs family in 2 big boxes.
In the past the kids have gotten 3 gifts to represent the gifts Jesus was brought...gold, frankincense and myrrh. This year one of their 3 gifts was sacrificed and the kids each chose an orphan to sponsor through Operation Giggle in Ethiopia and China.
I had decided we would get no gifts at all simply because even just 3 gifts tends to turn our selfish hearts towards the gifts more than THE GIFT-JESUS.
However, after much prayer, I believe that taking away all gifts for US, may be going too far in the extreme, so the children will each get one gift.
We always give a personal gift to Jesus and read the Bible story but this year we've decided to do more and serve others in practical ways as a gift to Jesus.
I find that people are more receptive to the gospel at this time than any other in the year and we must take advantage of every opportunity.
We try to go Christmas caroling with some other families and pass out Candy canes with the "Legend of the candy cane" attached to each one.
Also, we do put up the tree...I feel that it sets the mood that this is a time to CELEBRATE....it's like decorating for the party and Jesus is the guest of honor!
We do not fill it with gifts under the tree...just a Nativity.
Several years ago, I made something called the 12 Gifts of Christmas and it is sort of like the Ressurection Eggs...only I made it up using scripture and different symbols in little gift bags that are opened one at a time and they tell the true Christmas story. It is really cool and the last gift is a birthday candle for Jesus!
The rest of our family probably does think we are nuts but I'm past the point of worrying about it anymore!
They all do Christmas quite differently than we do and that's okay.
May the Lord direct your steps concerning how to celebrate this miraculous season!

Renea Lynch said...

We still do Christmas but the kids get one special gift, stockings are filled with candy or apples/nuts. We spend time with extended family but do not exchange gifts. Just share in our family, we have birthday cake at church for Jesus and always attend Christmas service on Christmas eve. Rather than reading the kids the Night Before Christmas we read the Christmas story from the bible out of Luke.

It really bothers me that most everyone I know has to spend so much money to get the best gifts, the most gifts or bigger than the thing they heard their neighbor buying for their kid. Maybe the federal budget could be fixed if we all skipped Christmas!!! LOL

Hilltrain said...

Lots of great ideas!

We've been doing Advent for a few years now; there are some neat books out there like the Jotham's Journey trilogy. Too intense for little ones so editing is necessary! :) Plus, Joe Wheeler's Christmas in My Heart books. Kids love reading by candle light and having an occasional treat (tea, cocoa, cookies, etc.) w/ the readings.

If you do gifts, don't put them under the tree till super close to opening time. Helps keep the focus off who's getting what and how many.

Amy Jo said...

Great post! I so relate. Thanks for sharing your heart and passion. I know God is glorified, Sweet Friend.

Thank you SO much for praying for our family!!! God heard and answered.

Sweet blessings,
Amy

gloria said...

Amy,

Not sure "how" I found your blog... but I am glad I did! I have been blessed by what I have read so far! :)

I too am a Guate adoptive mama! 5 bio kids and 5 kids from Guate. :) They are precious.

I also wanted to share a hearty AMEN to what you shared here on Christmas. I so hear ya!

We don't give gifts at Christmas... it's all about Jesus! I love it! Christmas has become so wonderful because we don't get wrapped up into "us" but into Him!
I feel badly when I see so many stressed out mamas at the stores running around and feeling so burdened.... I wish I could just tell them to stop and realize this holiday has nothing to do w/us but our precious Lord!

We do lots of baking, singing carols, and service projects... but don't do any of the commericalized stuff. Love it.

If you do decide to go that route, you will never regret it. :)

God bless,
gloria
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sonja said...

What a great post! Boy do I agree with you. We have 6 grandkids and Christmas Eve is at our house. Each child prepares a part in our Christmas Eve program. I print out a program with each name and what they will be sharing and put it in a paper Christmas frame which one of the kids passes out in a Christmas basket so everyone can join in and share. (They LOVE to see their names in print!)From the oldest, a flute solo, to the youngest, "Jesus Loves Me" boldly and loudly sung at 3 years old. Then one of the girls has baked a Birthday cake for Jesus and we sing "Happy Birthday Jesus" and finally our son gets out his guitar, and plays Carols as the little ones sit all around him and join in. Finally my husband reads the Christmas story in Luke and briefly shares the story of Jesus and his birth, one more time. What surprised us so was how seriously they each took their parts and did their best. The girls who sang a trio did it perfectly, and even the 9 year old who whistled "Away in the Manger" and turned his back so he wouldn't catch my eye and giggle. They were involved, and they 'got it'! Such a wonderful celebration... If we direct their thoughts and activities and involve them, they are 'right there!'.... Thanks for the post, it reminds me again of choosing to instill real values, not the material.... (we do have a huge stocking carefully hidden for each child, full of nothing but Dollar Tree treasures purchased through the year). I have never seen any expressions of excitement that were any greater when we gave much more expensive gifts....

mommy24treasures said...

I came over from Jill's blog and wanted to tell you I have the same sentiments exactly. One thing we do as a family is ring the salvation army bell on a Saturday. We all take turns and when children are ringing the bell people reach deep in their pockets. I want to find more ways we can reach out this year. My desire is for my children tor ealize that no matter what the world is busy doing our work here is to be reaching out to others it is more blessed to give than receive.
Thank you for your post. If it weren't for other bloggers I would feel so alone with my feelings on these matters.

Laurel said...

Great post, Amy ... and WOW to all of the comments.

The biggest thing we decided to do many years ago, was to not take the children shopping with us between Thanksgiving and New Years. There is no need for them to even see all of the commercialization of Christmas. However, last year we had to tweak that rule a bit. It was our first Christmas home with our 3 kids from Ghana, and we really wanted them to learn how to GIVE. Our older kids had been doing a draw-names-gift-exchange for a couple of years, so this past year we let the younger kids draw names, too. Then ... a couple of week before Christmas, we woke them up at Midnight ... drove through the blowing snow to the Big City (30 minutes away) ... and took them shopping at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night. We paired up a big kid with each little kid (we have 6 of each), so that the young ones had a "shoppers helper". We had already really talked about giving, and we had made lists of what we might want to give. It was TOTALLY fun ... and we avoided the crowds. (It was, actually, our 3 African children's first shopping trip, and they'd been home 9 months.)

Presents always depend on our financial status for the year ... sometimes we don't do presents, sometimes we give each child a present or two (never more than that). Each child always gets a new ornament (which now means 13 new ornaments a year ... I shop for them all year). Oh yea ... I bought 7 of my ornaments in TEXAS this year. :)

Then, each child gets a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve. (The only new pjs most of them get each year.) Then ... they MIGHT get another present from us or they might just get the present from the sibling that drew their name.

We LOVE Christmas. It is definitely NOT about the presents. We sleep in. Get up and eat a Christmas Coffee cake. Open a couple of presents. Play games. Eat brunch. Read Scriptures. Open a couple of presents. Make dinner. Play games. Open a couple of presents. Watch "It's a Wonderful Life". We just slowly disperse the presents throughout the day ... no big deal. (Also, presents do not go under the tree until everyone is in bed on Christmas Eve ... so there is no focus prior to the day of opening.)

We LOVE to decorate. Our nativity is the FOCUS of our living room for about 6 weeks. It's up on the mantle, with a spotlight on it. Sometimes it stays there until February. I also love to decorate with snowmen. I love to decorate for all seasons, so the snowmen are just my "winter decorations". NO Santa, except a little stuffed one under our tree that is from my childhood.

We bake Christmas Candycane Coffee Cakes every year on Christmas Eve Morning ... and deliver them to 12-18 friends that afternoon. It's about an 8 hour project, that we LOVE to do. NO stress involved. We've given these to our closest friends for 25 years. Many of them plan on them for their Christmas breakfast.

3 years ago we took the whole family (10 kids at the time) and spent 2 weeks ministering in New Orleans for Christmas. Wow! We did NOT do presents for our family ... we spent ALL of our Christmas money giving presents to the children of New Orleans. Our little guys did not complain even once. They loved GIVING to others.

Our Christmases are ALL about CHRIST and all about FAMILY. They don't stress me out. (I already have most of my shopping done.) I'm just always excited to get most of my big kids home.

Hugs!

Laurel