Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Keep it Simple

Have you ever gotten consumed with the commercial side of Christmas?  I went to a store recently and was surprised as a lady in front of me pulled out a STACK of credit cards to pay for her purchase.  Her items might have totaled $50, most of which was food, but she scanned several cards to pay and even asked her husband to try some of his to complete the sale.  

The commercial side of Christmas draws our focus on pleasing others… the neighbors with our décor, the family with our selection of gifts, and our friends with our festive parties.  There is no price we won’t pay to celebrate the holiday season in style.

The hustle and the bustle bring with it LOTS of expectations… not to mention stress and pressure to deliver the holiday goods.  Those participating in this kind of Christmas must… decorate their houses inside and out extravagantly (preferably Thanksgiving weekend), stockings should be hung for each family member with names attached, Christmas cards and pictures should be sent (by a reasonable date), and presents should be wrapped in similar colors full of ribbons and bows, organized under the tree in a fashion pleasing to the eye.  Don’t forget visits with Santa, cookies of all varieties made and shared with others, and wardrobe colored red for the holidays.  Mark your calendars for kids Christmas programs, plays, and candlelight services.  Oh, and there are the holiday movies you can’t miss.  Are you stressed out yet?  I am just thinking about it.

Bits and pieces of this may describe some of your Christmases, but I hope the heart of it is very different.  I hope it’s not all about out doing yourself each year.   Our Christmas shouldn’t drip with excess.  We shouldn’t have to spend more than we have to please everyone.  I decided a long time ago to avoid the commercial side of Christmas and go the simple route.  My goal is to keep Christ in the center of our season while focusing on quality time with family.   We can still celebrate our family traditions without going over board, right?

We have several family traditions we have celebrated for years and some new ones we have added recently.  It’s never too late to start a new tradition.  Everyone has their own special traditions.  These are a few of ours…

~we decorate our tree together and watch a Christmas movie afterwards
~we come up with a creative Christmas card to send out to family & friends
~we make Christmas cookies to give out to our neighbors to share God’s love
~we drive around looking at Christmas lights
~we read a special book about the Christmas story Christmas Eve
~we open one gift Christmas Eve (or should I say the boys do)
~we read the Christmas story Christmas day
~we make a special family dish only served at Christmas time
 (a meat pie that only the men can make)
~we also go to the movies together Christmas afternoon each year
~we make a birthday cake for Jesus to celebrate Christmas night

New tradition this year…
~we started doing an advent type reading and lighting candles each Sunday before Christmas
~we made Gingerbread houses with grandma from a kit
(I’m not sure if this will carry on to next year. It proved to be more difficult than expected)

 The commercial side of Christmas seems more focused on RECEIVING than GIVING.  I find it interesting that we spend Thanksgiving being thankful and the very NEXT day (black Friday) being selfish.  People literally fight over bargains to get their loved ones for Christmas.  They are rude, violent, they push, shove, and all for another special gift to put under the tree for Christmas.  Not to say everyone is that way, but so many get caught up in the holiday hullabaloo. 

Our focus for Christmas is centered on giving not receiving.  We want to be purposeful with our boys teaching them to be generous not greedy.  Our holiday season is full of quality family time, special memory making moments, opportunities to serve others, and a consistent focus on the true meaning of Christmas… Jesus. 

We also try to keep the gifts simple.  Excess brings selfishness.  We want to focus more on giving and less on receiving.  We are still working on this one.  I have heard several great ideas on this that I need to check out later.  One I heard was about just giving THREE gifts to each child representing the gifts from the wise men given to Jesus.  Another one I like is only giving four gifts:  something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  I like this idea… sounds good and practical to me.

I have also been focusing this year on “random acts of kindness.”  I like the idea of blessing people randomly and teaching my boys to have generous hearts all year long.  I would love to some day start a “blessings account” to save up money to bless people randomly as God leads our family.  Hopefully this is coming soon.

Our goal during the holiday season is to keep things simple and the focus where it needs to be… on JESUS and spending quality time with our family.  Some times that includes a variety of our traditions and some times we just can’t fit it all in.  In those cases we re-prioritize and choose what we feel is MOST important for us at that time.  The key is to avoid allowing the busyness of the season to push Jesus out.  Keep Him in the center and your season is guaranteed to be amazing.

Luke 2:9-14 says...Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”  13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (NLT)

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Living to leave a legacy,


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