Friday, December 13, 2013

Contemplating Christmas...

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Last year at this time, I was rubbing my pregnant belly, cherishing a sweet little kick and dreaming about how much fun things would be in a year with an eight-month-old crawling around our Christmas tree.  Now that she's here, I am so loving this season with her. And I know that as the years go by, things are only going to get better.

But,  y'all.  I am seriously struggling with how to approach Christmas with a child.

Because I have the most wonderful childhood memories of Christmas.  We didn't have a whole lot of traditions set in stone, but we always decorated a tree.  (One year, my dad and I picked ornaments to match my pee-wee basketball team's colors.  Teal and purple probably weren't a super obvious choice for most, but we rocked it.)  We always got to open one present early on Christmas Eve after we got home from my great grandma's house.  And even when my parents didn't have a lot to spend, we got goodies in our stockings (although I do remember being a little confused when I found oranges and walnuts instead of toys at the bottom of the stocking during a year that had been particularly tight - ha!). 

I was enthralled with the magic of Santa and marveled at how he could make it down every chimney in the world in one night.  And I loved listening for reindeer hooves on the roof as I tried my darndest to fall asleep so that morning could get there faster.

And I want that magic for Grace, too, because I loved it so.  

But honestly?  

It seems nearly impossible to perpetuate the spectacle that Christmas has become and still honor Christ at the same time.

I know that some of you incredible mamas manage it, but I'm really having a hard time with it.

Because I know I've said it before, but we have so much, y'all.  Every single one of us.  If you're reading this post on a computer or your cell phone, you're unquestionably rich by any real standard.  You probably have a full pantry, a closet full of clothes, and more stuff than you know what to do with.  I know that I do.

And I keep having this image flash through my mind of Grace at age 8, surrounded by a ridiculous pile of presents, tearing through each package in a blind fury, surrounding herself with even more stuff, and still very likely being unsatisfied at the end of it all.

Because isn't that what happens?  Isn't that exactly what every celebrity in Hollywood experiences on a daily basis?  And aren't our January credit card bills evidence that we've all sort of bought into the lie that more stuff equals more happiness?

I. Just. Cannot. Handle. It.

When I think about the fact that 80% of the world's population lives on less than $10 a day, the mounds of presents under my Christmas tree seem more than a little silly.

So I'm trying to figure out how to do less... and more at the same time.

Less stuff.  More Jesus.

I certainly don't want to ruin the magic of Christmas.  This time of year is so beautiful and magical, and I want Grace to have memories of Christmas lights and hot cocoa and the thrill of Christmas morning.  But above all else, I want her to know why we celebrate.  I want her to see Jesus and to appreciate the beauty of Advent.  And I want her to understand the importance of giving.  Giving to those who truly need things way more important than iPads and Vera Bradley.  Like this.  Or this.

I'm not entirely sure how we get there.  I feel sure it will be a struggle each and every year to avoid becoming entangled in the decorations and parties and shopping.  But here are a just few things I'm thinking about that I think might narrow my focus in the right direction.

Skip presents for extended family.  This year, Micah and I aren't exchanging gifts with either of my parents or with my brother and sister-in-law.  We decided that what was essentially becoming an exchange of gift cards (none of us are particularly good gift-givers) was just silly.  Instead, we're all pooling the money that we would have spent on one another and directing that money to a real need.  This year, it's a pair of teenage girls that we know.  Next year, it might be here.  Or some other worthy cause.

Fewer presents for kids.  I like Jen Hatmaker's approach:  "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and something to give."  That does away with the mile-long wish lists but still gives children something to look forward to.

Less Santa.  Look, I'm not declaring war on Santa.  And I don't think we will end up doing without him altogether (although I totally get why some parents go that route).  But I really don't want that big red suit to be the focus of Grace's anticipation and excitement.  Because the true magic of Christmas has nothing to do with and is so much more incredible than reindeer.  So we're thinking maybe just having one present be from Santa.

Celebrate Advent.  We didn't put up our A Meaningful Christmas ornaments this year because Grace is too young to get it, but I'm regretting that now because Micah and I sure aren't.  I think spending some time each night to talk about the Christmas miracle is such a fantastic way to create buildup for the grand finale - Jesus's birthday!*  I'm on the hunt for an Advent calendar, as well.

And hey.  I'm not trying to be a Grinch, and I'm not judging anyone who thinks I'm a crazy lady and wants to continue to exchange gifts and celebrate in the traditional way.  This has just been on my heart, and I wanted to share with you in case you might be feeling the same way.

So what do you guys think?  How do you honor Christ as you go about the holidays?

* And yes, I realize that December 25 wasn't Jesus's actual birthday.


Elizabeth said...

I completely get you on the whole Christmas thing. We have decided that Santa will only be doing stockings and the rest will come from us. We are going to start doing the Jesse Tree next year that goes along with the Jesus storybook bible. I like the idea from Jen hatmaker about only doing so many presents. I think I would have to reel myself in because I LOVE to give gifts to people at Christmas! I just love to give to those I love but I know there are others that need it more.

Also as my little one gets older I want to take her to some places to volunteer to help so that she can see how blessed we are.

Thanks for sharing your heart!

Emily said...

I agree with everything you are saying here. It's so hard to balance Christmas, elfs, Santa Claus and Jesus. I haven't allowed myself to really stress about it this year because L is so small, but Stephen and I have been discussing and praying about how we will handle it as she get's older. Jesus is the most important thing and the entire reason for the seasoN!

Kate said...

This is a great post! We don't have kids (yet), but it's something I think about constantly--how will we keep them from becoming super into the culture of stuff? I think one tradition I want to do with my kids is the advent wreath--we had one on our table, and every night before we prayed before dinner we would light the candles, according to each week of advent.

Kate said...

p.s. I nominated you for the sunshine award on my blog today! :)

Brooke said...

My hubs and I don't have children yet, but we have already began to think about Christmas once we have children. We want the Christmas magic, but not focused on Santa. Traditions we have talked about is having a birthday cake for Jesus, a party, etc. One of the things my family did when I was a child was everyone piled in my parents bed (7 of us) and we read the story of Jesus' birth, before we went to the living room for presents.

Kathryn said...

Now that raising a child is a more tangible idea. I have been thinking about this a lot the past few weeks as I see different families celebrate the Christmas Season. Definitely something we will be talking more about in the future, and how to celebrate the real "reason for the season."

Jessie said...

You're such a good mama! I completely understand! There has to be a good balance out there somewhere, and I think you're well on your way. I've been working on my own ideas this year, teaching Jed the story of Christ's birth through a nativity he can play with and books centered around Christ's birth. :) We'll do this, raise good faithful kids.

Laura said...

This is so true!! And grandparents get so out of control with the presents that I honestly hardly buy anything. A couple of things we do is read a book from our advent calendar every night (the story of Christmas) and I just got the kids the little people nativity set. We play with it mostly but talk about Jesus and his birth. I'm also lucky that Phillip's school teaches a very Christ centered approach to Christmas. I think kids can't help but end of loving Christmas so my focus is more like yours: teaching about the real meaning of Christmas and hopefully about giving back. I plan I start a tradition we had as kids of picking an angel or two from the Salvation Army tree and finding gifts for others. Wow that was an essay sorry!!

Jessica K said...

I think it's a constant struggle. My daughter is 4 this year, and I truly believe this is the first year she "gets" it. She knows about Santa, and that he brings gifts, but she knows that it's Jesus' birthday. We do the Advent calendar - read a scripture each day - but I also know that this magical time in their life only lasts a few years, and I can't not let her experience it. I tried to explain to her that it's Jesus' birthday, and Santa is nice enough to bring gifts since Jesus is in Heaven. Haha. It's hard. I think you will figure it out along the way. :)

Mandy said...

We have been having this exact same convo this year b/c every year it seems to get a little more "out of control" and while we want our kids to experience the whole "magical" idea of Santa, we don't want them to think that's what Christmas stands for is all about. But it's amazing how much kids soak in and we can already see a huge difference in the "small" (really not so small to us!) things that we've been doing to help Jackson (Ann Elise is still a little young, although she's soaking it in too) see what this season is all about. One of my absolute favorite things that we just started this year is called "The Sparkle Box". There is a book that you can get that comes with your very own "Sparkle Box" and then you can use it every year. We aren't reading the book until Christmas morning when they get ready to open the Sparkle Box, but we are excited about it and what it will help be a visual aide to them. You're a great mama and I know you guys will do an amazing job of showing your sweet girl why we celebrate Christmas!

The Tale of Three P's said...

Love this! We will be follow Jen Hatmaker'a idea as well. It definitely will keep things in perspective.

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