I wrote this post on December 10th. I got busy with some sort of child-rearing or home-making task and decided to leave it for a bit and come back to it to edit and revise if needed. Then, a couple of days of Christmas gift-making got in the way. And then the national tragedy that split my heart in two. And, then I just didn't have it in me. Somehow, we got busy living this thing called Christmas and almost a month went by before I had time to revisit this post. So, although Christmas has passed, here are my original thoughts from three weeks ago. I hope they bless you and your family in some way.
I read a blog post recently about how Christians should stop whining about the secularization of Christmas. It did a great job of putting into words many of my own thoughts, so I shared it on Facebook. Along with the "share", I said something along the lines of how keeping Christ in Christmas is up to the individual family and home, not the media or the stores. I also might have mentioned that my own home has been "all about Christ" for two weeks now.
About an hour later, I got a private message from an old friend of mine (whom I love, by the way) wanting to know what I meant. I thought I'd share some of what I meant here.
I could start by giving you the actual, physical examples of how we're keeping Christ in Christmas. I mean, there are things we're doing that are setting the tone. As I said in this post, we have several rituals going ...
As I type this, my seasonal candle is burning. Whenever I pass it and notice the flame, I try to remember to say a small prayer for peace ... in my heart, in my home and in the world.
As I write this, I am listening to Christmas hymns and carols on Pandora. Now, I'm not going to try to tell you that my children don't also like songs like Frosty, the Snowman or ... well, would you look at that. I can't think of another title. Haha. Not to say that we're not also listening to the traditional ones, but as soon as I tried to make that statement for you, the only stuff that came to mind was about Jesus. I just proved my own point ~ we are listening to Christmas music all the time, but we are not just listening to the silly, secular songs. We are mixing it up ~ beautiful songs about the birth of a baby, classical songs from a certain ballet we love, country songs about Christmas and the silly, secular songs. The girls know and love a variety ... and I know their hearts are focused on the right things.
We have lit the Advent candles on the wreath every day since December 1st. And, the girls are tickled pink about the Christ candle, which doesn't come until the 25th.
We have each written something we are thankful for each and every day and placed it into our Jesus stocking. Although these are secret and are to be read on Christmas day, I've accidentally seen things like "Jesus" and "God" and "food" and "family" written on their cards. That makes my heart smile! My children really get it.
The girls have opened the next door on their Advent calendar each day and we've read the next story in our Advent book each night.
We visited Bethlehem. That in and of itself is a totally indescribable experience.
We are reading books every day. We are reading about the story in the Bible, but we're also reading books about animals and inspiring individuals. While not directly Biblical, each book is inspired by Christ and His message. We're reading such a beautiful array of inspirational stuff right now. Again, it centers the focus each and every day.
The girls can't wait to make a birthday cake and birthday cards for Jesus.
They're excited to bake for the neighbors.
They're excited to bake for the homeless and go out and deliver the goodies on Christmas eve, something we've done for the past two years.
I mean, really, there has literally been something every. single. day. to celebrating this season. I think that has a lot to do with our family's keeping Christ in Christmas. Christmas is not just this day at the end of the month that everyone is impatiently awaiting so that they may rip open the presents under the tree. It's a month-long celebration of something beautiful.
So, I think that keeping Christ in Christmas has a little bit to do with what we spend our time doing and just as importantly, what we aren't spending our time doing. But, I think it is much more than that.
Keeping Christ in Christmas has more to do with the spirit of your home. It has to do with what Christ was all about and truly honoring that with everything we do and say. It has to do with a focus on family and traditions and love and fun and relationships and giving, rather than a focus on shopping and me, me, me and stress.
We live in a secular world. Whether we want to or not, we cannot shield our children completely from what the world has to offer. What we can do, however, is to lead them happily in the other direction, down the Narrow Path, you might say (you like that plug?).
The world is all about me, me, me.
You have to work hard to make your home about Him, Him, Him.
The world wants to make money off of this special time and so the commercialism is at its best right now. I don't know exactly how we've done it, but I'm proud to say that my children have grown to be a little bit immune to it. When we discussed what they would want for Christmas, the Princess only wanted one thing and the Hippie said, "I'm really satisfied with what I have. Of course, I always want books and craft supplies. Oh, and some of those silks and scarves for dress up would be nice." (For the record, the Hippie's birthday is two days before Christmas, so she hasn't gotten a gift in a year. I think she's entitled to wanting 3 things. And, she melts my heart when what she wants is more books).
I don't know about you, but I'm proud. They both said that their favorite part of Christmas was the giving. I kid you not. They LOVE to make things for each other and for everyone else in the family. They can hardly wait for Christmas morning, but because they are jumping to GIVE what they've made, not because they are chomping at the bit to receive.
The Princess will tell you that she loves Christmas time because of the "JOY" ~ her words. "It's such a JOYFUL time".
So, how does one keep the focus of this JOYFUL time on Jesus?
Live your life as He would have. Do what He would have done.
Give ... and get your kids excited about the giving, rather than the receiving.
Love ... love your family and love those around you, your "neighbors".
Feed ... feed your family and feed your neighbors and most importantly, feed the hungry.
Honor ... honor God in all that you do and say, each and every day, but especially now.
For tips on the more practical side of things, especially with children:
Intercept the catalogs when they come in the mail ... before your children get their hands on them. We are all human. We can know that we are satisfied with what we have, but when we see the marketing, we are all susceptible (especially children) to falling for it.
Skip the television. Find some way to ensure that you're not watching the commercials at this time of year. Again, they will work on you and your children, telling you that you need something you don't. But, more than that, all of that "noise" will take away from the quiet and peace that you are cultivating at home.
While you're at it, stay away from the malls and shopping centers. The focus there is all wrong. I realize we have to give some gifts, but there's just no reason to go to those places. Make your gifts or buy them from someone else who made them on Etsy. Or, if it must be a toy or book or gadget, you can shop online, from the comfort of your home ... with those Christmas hymns playing and that candle burning and the Nativity Set a few feet away. Keeps you in a much better place than the feeling you'll get if you venture out!
Start and keep traditions with your family. And, start them early in the season. Enjoy the entire season, not just the day.
Choose quality ~ quality books, quality music, quality decorations. You don't have to be a Santa nazi, but make sure the balance is leaning in the right direction.
Really think about your gift philosophy and talk to your kids about what they have and what they do or don't need. Talk to them about how others live around the world so that they learn to appreciate what they have. Some good gift philosophies for your children might be giving only three gifts (hey, if it was good enough for the birthday boy, it should be good enough for us, right? The Princess still doesn't understand why WE get gifts on HIS birthday anyway). Another possibility that I've used in the past (and I got it from Kara at RockinGranola) is the want * wear * need * read mantra.
Remember, as irritating as it is to watch the world reduce something so special and sacred to nothing but spending and stress and tackiness, it is up to you to keep it special and sacred in your family and home.
As an anonymous speaker once said, "The best thing to spend on a child is your time."
Okay, I know I could just keep going
like the Energizer bunny, but I must tend to my own family's enjoyment
of the season. And, I'm sure you have things to do as well. Go forth and
I think that is the key: Keep God in EVERYTHING. Make it a season about JOY. That is how we keep Christ in Christmas!
In the end, all we can really do is to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] God. (part of Micah 6:8).