Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Anew: Expectant Waiting, Preparation, and Celebration!

         Ever since I found out I was pregnant with Caleb, I began to question everything.  Many of the things that I experienced as a child and never thought twice about were suddenly questionable....simple seemingly obvious decisions were agonized over and conclusions were reached only after hours of research, discussion and prayer.  There's something about being fully responsible for a precious-beyond-comprehension little life that can make you crazy!  But....while part of it may have been me being a "crazy" overly cautious mom, I know with great certainty that a great deal of my stepping back and examining everything has come by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

        I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has called us to change our plans time and again and to follow His lead.  Homeschooling is one prime example.....the thing we said we'd never do......that suddenly when our son was just a year old we were already talking about.  We made lists of pros and cons, I did hours upon hours of research online, examined every curriculum out there.....talked to every homeschooled teenager I know.  I even had a period of inward grieving for all that I felt my children were going to miss out on.  And now? I could go on for hours about how wonderful this change is and how grateful I am that God put this on our hearts!  I would have just done the normal, expected, obvious thing and sent my kids to would never have occurred to me to question this, even as a potentially crazy overprotective mom : )  (Please do NOT read into this what is not written.....I have nothing against sending kids to public school, this is just what we feel God has put on our hearts for our family).  

      All of that to say that in much the same way, God has been working on my heart for the past year about something we celebrate Christmas.  Growing up, my parents never did the whole santa thing with us, so it wasn't difficult for us to follow suit.  So I guess in some ways, our Christmas already seems radical to many in that sense.  But I've felt, since last Christmas, that so much was missing....and I was determined to take the time to figure this out before my kids were old enough to see a difference in how we celebrated Christmas from one year to the next.

      Advent.  Okay, I'm going to be painfully honest.....when I hear the word advent, I picture the wreath looking decoration with candles at church, and lighting one candle each week before Christmas.  That's it? So I started at square one.  Advent, what is it?  Turns out advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth at Christmas.  And so began a time of figuring out what that will look like for not only myself...but for my family.  Purposeful planning for a time that should be understood and celebrated.

       I've started this year with a devotional specifically for advent.  Interestingly, I found a family one that my mom had bought for us last Christmas, in my own collection of books.  I think the kids are a bit young for it this year, but it got me thinking.  We will use it, or one like it, each year during Advent to prepare our hearts and to truly celebrate the coming of Jesus.  I love it especially because it has practical applications you can do as a family.  This also got me thinking......what about 25 days of gifts for Jesus?  What about counting down the days to his birth in true celebration.  But what would that look like?  I think it's sometimes easy to automatically want to do for others what we would want done for us. But I had to step back and think....what would Jesus want? And I found and you shall find! "And the Birthday Child tells us what He wants: Give to the least of these and you give to Me." And so that is what we will do......together come up with a list. Not a "getting" list of things we want for ourselves, but a giving list. A list of ways we can give to the least of these and in doing so, give to Jesus. Some of these things may require money, others just time or efforts....but all will be done to celebrate Jesus, to sacrifice and give to Him.

      And what about the big day? What about the actual birthday....Christmas Day? For the month of December in addition to the daily gifts we've decided on, we will sacrifice.....whatever it may be.....maybe not buying treats at the grocery store that we usually enjoy, or not ordering out one week.....but reminding one another throughout the month of ways we could sacrifice and instead save for Jesus' gift. And on Christmas morning we will put together all that we have saved and sacrificed for. The plan for now is to divide this amongst the kids and have them spend time choosing gifts. I love the idea in the blog above, for the kids to look through various catalogs and choose things for those in need. It may look different from one year to the next, especially as the kids get older and have more input. But the focus will remain the same.

      So what about gifts for one another?  I know you're wondering......I was too.  I struggled here.  Again I had this fear of them somehow missing out.  But I know I'd rather they understand and appreciate the true meaning of Christmas far more than I want to hold onto my own traditions and fears.  And I know that the true joy and satisfaction comes in celebrating Jesus and becoming the gift!  We finally came to the conclusion that we will do minimal gifts.....three actually.  It was something I'd heard before, but wasn't really sold on until I read this post.  So after we've taken our time to give our gifts to Jesus, we will give to our children.  Not because they've done anything to deserve it, but because we simply want to show our love for them and bless them.  But our plan will be to do three gifts each as follows, and to talk about the significance of each as we give to them: (Most of this was taken from the above blog post, I take no credit here!)
Gift #1: The Wise men brought Jesus myrrh.  Myrrh was a valuable gift of practical use.  It was used medicinally for all sorts of ailments from coughs to open wounds.  Our children's first gift will be a practical one.  Something they need and can use often if not daily - clothing, shoes, a bike will depend on the child and the year I guess!

Gift #2: The wise men brought Jesus frankincense.  Frankincense is the purest form of incense and was primarily used in worship.  When burned, the white smoke and sweet smell it produced was a symbol of prayers going up to heaven and created a meaningful experience for everyone present.  It's also symbolic, pointing to Jesus being full God, Emmanuel, God with us, the only one worthy of our worship.  Our children's second gift will therefore be an experiential gift.  Something meaningful to them and us as a family - maybe tickets to a show or event, or a coupon for a night out.  

Gift #3: The wise men brought Jesus gold.  Gold was as valuable then as it is now.  It was a precious gift, but also very symbolic in that it was given to princes when they were born.  And that is what Jesus is - royalty, King of the world, King of the whole universe, King of our hearts.  Our children's last gift will be a gold gift - something they really really want or we think they want.  This may be a gift larger in size, or sightly more expensive, or it may be small an inexpensive.  It will be something that they will value and appreciate....maybe something they've waited and hoped for.

       So that's really our family plan for now....the traditions we'd like to start now while our children our young. Sometimes I make myself crazy analyzing things, but I think it's so important to question why we do the things we do. What we want our children to really learn, remember, and hold true. Because if they're watching and learning from my example, I can't honestly say I'd be content with what that has looked like thus far. But God is continually refining thing at a time.....and I'm grateful for His patience and grace as I learn ever so slowly. I don't think this is how Christmas should look for anyone else....I think there are many ways to celebrate in a way that honors the One who's birth we celebrate. But I think for us....this is a good start. And as always, my fears and hesitations towards change and long held traditions have faded, and I'm excited for the new ways we'll experience Christ in the changes He's called us to make!

     “I’d rather only fill a child’s tummy than fill my house with anymore things.
Maybe that’s the choice our Christmas needs to make: feed our own wishes or feed the real hunger of Christ?” Ann Voskamp The Greatest Gift 

    While I fully intend to make a list of ways we can serve throughout the month of December each year with my children....I have started to brainstorm some ideas and thought I'd share them here.  Our boys are still a bit young to come up with a huge list, but I do plan to do a shorter, simpler version for the week or so before Christmas.  It may be as simple as them making a card for someone, or helping me bake cookies to give to a new neighbor.  So it will definitely look different each year as they grow.....but if you're looking for ideas, here's a few:

Baking or making something for those who serve us:
               Fire men
               Garbage workers
Chose an orphanage to help
Spend a day coming up with ideas of things to make inexpensively that others could use (pinterest!)
Make the ^ gifts
Check with how you can help the Artic Mission
Chose a foster child to bless
Chose a widow to make something for and bring it to her/visit
Visit a nursing home
Pay for someone’s items at the store
Do something unexpected for someone
Providence Rescue Mission - serve a meal, or meet another need 


  1. Make sure you email me and let me know how it works for you this Christmas!

  2. I will! Thanks so much for sharing!