Monday, December 3, 2012

We're Doing Christmas Different This Year

You can count us among the parents who struggle with this season and what the holidays create in our children's hearts. Greed. Entitlement. Self-indulgence. Despair. The constant barrage of what we're told we need in the stores and commercials and billboards is overwhelming even as adults.  

How do we teach our kids what Christmas is all about with the world telling them the exact opposite? How do we tell them that Christmas is about a King who came from Heaven with a divine rescue plan? How do we tell them it's not at all about the lights and packages and busyness? Jamy and I have decided we won't just tell them, we'll show them. Because I need this reminder just as much as my kids do.  

Our kids have always received three gifts. We chose three since Jesus received three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) and three seemed a much more reasonable and manageable amount. This way, Jamy and I are incredibly thoughtful about the gifts that we give Isabelle and Jackson. We don't buy everything we think is fun or cute or on sale. Jamy and I follow the same "rules" and thoughtfulness in our gift giving with each other. We purchase each gift purposely and intentionally. I'm so thankful we began when they were babies and they don't know any different.

My husband (who is the math police) will tell you they actually get five. They also get new jammies or slippers on Christmas Eve. And Jamy began a sweet tradition with them since their first Christmas of giving them a special book and writing them a note about the past year in the cover.

But even with our three gift limit, our kids are still bombarded with gifts during this season from doting grandparents, aunts and uncles, and dear friends. For the first time this year, I let them look through toy catalogs and complete their wish lists (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read).

In years past, in an effort to focus their attention on Jesus, we had a makeshift manger under our tree. When we noticed Isabelle or Jackson offering a gift of service or kindness to someone else, they got a piece of straw to place in the manger to make a soft bed for baby Jesus. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, the manger was full of soft straw in preparation for Jesus. Isabelle's African American doll was the closest Middle Eastern baby Jesus we had around and would arrive on Christmas morning, wrapped in swaddling clothes of course.

But our kids are getting older and Isabelle is on to us. ("Mommy - that's not baby Jesus, that's my doll!") Each year we're intentional about making Christmas day a celebration of Jesus' birthday.  We bake a birthday cake and sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. But the only gifts that are shared are between us. This year we wanted to do something different to ensure Jesus got gifts. Something tangible for our kids to see, just as tangible as their wish lists and gift catalogs.

So this year each of the kids got a little empty bucket by a sweet little baby Jesus from a nativity. As they serve each other, as we spy little acts of kindness, they'll receive a quarter for their bucket. The idea is to create servant's hearts and cultivate fruits of the Spirit: obeying with happy hearts, steering clear of arguing and complaining, loving others as Christ loves us. The plan is that they'll take the money they've earned over the season of advent and use it to purchase something from the World Vision Gift Catalog. The idea is straight from Matthew 25:40; that what they've done for the least of these they've done for their King.

I loved watching their eyes light up looking through this catalog. As I explained the need for medicine and mosquito nets and books, they asked hard questions and we responded with hard answers. We showed them this video and watched their faces as they tried to take in the needs that are so foreign to them.  They are already making grand plans. Jackson plans to buy soccer balls for a village and Bella wants to purchase some small animals for a family.

My prayer is that this little advent family activity will teach their little hearts.

I pray it teaches their hearts gratitude.

I pray it teaches their hearts compassion.

I pray it teaches their hearts service.

I pray their hearts get a glimpse of their Savior, who gave up so much long ago so they could have the only gift of eternal weight.

This month I'll be blogging more about how we celebrate our Savior (and other fun traditions) during the Christmas season. Stay tuned!


  1. I love this. I might just blatantly copy you. I'll be sure and give you the credit! For real. Amazing. :)


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