Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Works for Me: Simplifying Christmas

Honest confession: The past few years about this time on the calendar, I start to get nervous and anxious.  Hear that?  It's CHRISTMAS around the corner, and this gal turns into a nut!

A while back, I had a heart to heart with myself (ok, really it was God and me, because, talking to yourself it just weird.  We all do it, but we know 'self' doesn't answer back.  God does) to figure out why I was absolutely, toes dug in the dirt, kicking and screaming dreading the coming holidays.

My conclusion is that I was panicking at seeing so much of this:

and not enough of this:

Wow, where does one even start with the difference?  So, with Isaac's encouragement, we set out to change Christmas for our family.  We can't change culture.  But we can change our hearts and how we respond, so we did.

First, we decided we wanted to celebrate Advent, not just Christmas Day.  This gives our days in December purpose and meaning as we journey through hope, peace, joy, and love each week.  Daily devotionals from Buckner keet us focused on God's Word daily. 

Second, we threw out the vast majority of secular Christmas decor that was eating up space in our storage closet.  Was that necessary?  NO.  But, we wanted our focus when we were at home to turn to Christ, not what we were already seeing plenty of on TV, at work, and around town.

Then, we sat down and became very intentional about how we planned our month of December.  We still do this each year.  We want the things that we spend our time doing to draw us closer to Christ and away from the busyness of our regular days. Worship services, volunteer opportunities, being with friends and family-this is how we want to spend our time.  We bake Christmas cookies and decorate our home together so we have intentional time spent with each other. Our exceptions to the cut-back are our work parties.  The intent is to be Christ-focused-not Scrooges!

Next, we've cut back on presents.  Oh, have we ever cut back on presents.  There is a conscious effort to buy fair trade or to give to ministries we support instead of buying knick-knacks that we don't need.  Several of our friends with kids have implemented a rule for presents in their homes: one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing to wear, and one thing to read.  I love that!  It's definitely something that sticks in my mind as I'm shopping and making the list that my family always asks for.  It's gotten to the point where I'd much rather family donate to a ministry we love in my honor than give me something.  We've also learned to save the things we 'need' (like a new backpack because the lining on mine is falling apart after 10 years), for Christmas lists so we know we're actually asking for something that's been on our minds for awhile.

Some people think we're nuts for living this way instead of the way that was making me nuts a few years ago.  Oh well.  They're entitled to their opinion.  No skin off my back!  But what I've learned from the extra time spent meditating on Baby Jesus can't be found in Santa's Workshop or a gingerbread house.  It's helped me appreciate God and His gifts in huge, lovely ways. 

I know with kids that someday this is all going to be difficult to keep up with as they see friends doing fun things.  My prayer is that they fall so in love with Jesus and love how we celebrate Advent that each day's excitement will overshadow the short-lived burst of secularized Christmas. 

Y'all, this works for us!  How do you keep Jesus your focus at Christmas?  I'd love to hear more ideas.

Places we turned to get started:
Reclaiming Christmas
Advent Conspiracy
Buckner Advent Guide (they'll send you an email daily or a paper copy)

Ministries we love to support a little extra at Christmas:
Alliance for Children
Living Water
Show Hope


Lana @ ilovemy5kids said...

Love doing Advent and a Jesse Tree.

The Granberrys said...

I love all of this. We are definitely looking to be more intentional with how we celebrate Christmas, especially as we start traditions as a family of 3!

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