Honoring Christ and Celebrating Christmas

There have been a few posts that hint at the coming Christmas season, but I received an email from Melinda recently that made me think perhaps we should talk a bit about the non-tangible aspects of celebrating Christmas.

Melinda wrote:

I would like to suggest a post regarding the holidays. These are my favorite three months of the year, yet my joy and peace somehow are always compromised! Perhaps there are things that have worked for your family you would like to share that help keep the focus on the Father. Jonelle [mutual friend] has mentioned that you send out a 4th of July card instead - things like that maybe.

Personally- can you give some insight as to how you budget Christmas? Or again, suggestions? Monetary or gift limits, etc. Yes, I want them to open something Christmas morning, but I feel so strongly that we should serve others first and concentrate on accepting the ultimate gift instead. I am unnerved by the expectation to purchase gifts for so many people! But maybe I did it to myself!

~Melinda

Melinda-

Your questions are all very good ones, and I don't think we should ever stop asking ourselves such things.  We grow and change and respond to God's leading differently in different periods of our lives and it is right that we are always assessing our motives, what works for our family, etc.

A little background: I was raised in a solid Christian home where we celebrated Christmas in all of the traditional ways- tree, stockings, presents, dinner, Christmas music, decor, cookies, sappy Hallmark movies, and really, really wonderful memories.  My parents never did the Santa thing, instead choosing to tell us that he isn't real, but Jesus is.  We had a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake on Christmas Eve and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  Still do.

My family was service-focused, too.  I have memories of shopping with my mom for an underprivileged family each year and the incredible privilege of meeting them when we took everything to their homes.  We loved on the women at the Women and Children's shelter.  We took in families with nowhere else to go, and the best holiday meals were ones with random families we collected over the years.  Single guys.  Missionaries on furlough.  Young couples far from family.  Even now, my mom takes my two oldest daughters every Thanksgiving to serve dinner at a local kitchen for the homeless.  No one in our family bats an eyelash when there is another family or person joining us for a holiday meal; it's how we were raised and we all really love it.

Fast forward to my own marriage and my own children.  There wasn't really anything my husband and I wanted to change about the way we'd celebrated Christmas as kids.  We have had moments of pondering when we saw greediness in our kids, but it dawned on us somewhere along the line that they are children.  No matter how much we focus on the real meaning of Christmas, no matter how many times we read the story of Christ's miraculous arrival on earth, no matter how much we do for others, they are kids, and Christmas morning is all about the presents.

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child..."

It was all about the presents when I was a child, too.  Slowly, though, God was doing a work in my heart and I distinctly remember the year I discovered the joy of giving.  I was positively giddy about the gifts I'd painstakingly saved to buy for my parents and brothers and I couldn't wait to give them on Christmas morning.  In my growing maturity, Christmas suddenly became richer.  I got it!  This was what it meant to give and love others.

"...but when I became a man, I put away childish things."  ~1 Corinthians 13:11

We're looking for these turning points in our own kids.  Several are there already, and we praised God for the gift of their maturity.  When we ask them what they love about Christmas, the receiving of presents isn't on the top of their list anymore, but it shares an equal standing with many other aspects of the holiday.  Our girls squealed with delight when Grammy called to schedule their trip to the mission to serve that Thanksgiving meal.

No snow in our part of California, but lovely cyclamen that grace the front porch.