Candy blogs: Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful. We say it every year. I certainly have. We long for Christmases past. I have very strong memories of Christmases at my grandparents’ house in northern Idaho, with all the aunts & uncles and cousins. After eight hours of driving … down the last stretch of dirt road … past the general store … past the grove of pine trees … we all leaned forward as far as we could … there! We could finally see the lights of the house! And once inside we were lost in a wave of hugs and kisses and smiles. Christmas had begun!
The first order of the day would be for us kids to go to all the familiar places where Grandpa put his home-made hard candy and caramel popcorn. There was always a hammer in the pan so you could crack off a piece small enough to get in your mouth. It took forever to suck on it long enough to get it soft and chewy. And then there was Grandma’s fudge and candy to find … and the boxes of oranges and apples.
The days were spent sledding and making snowmen and snow angels and playing snow games. The evenings were spent singing and praying together, playing games and feasting on Grandma’s incredible meals. It was very noisy.
I hardly noticed that we had a gift exchange. That part was almost meaningless to me. I don’t remember a single gift I received there (well, I do remember one). It was always about honoring the birth of Jesus and time spent with family that we couldn’t wait for, and that’s what I remember and long for now.
We all WANT Christmas to be more meaningful but our Christmas celebrations don’t change or become more meaningful just because we want them to.
Did you know that Christmas hasn’t always been a happy, joyous holiday? It’s come to us as a result of many transitions and decrees and combinations of other celebrations … not all of them positive. Christmas used to be a loud, rather raucous, celebration. Some Christians wouldn’t have anything to do with it.
Christmas is not Biblical. Sounds pretty radical, doesn’t it? It’s really just a tradition; a wonderful one, but still a tradition. But anything that encourages us to pause and remember and celebrate our life with Jesus is wonderful. And over hundreds of years, that’s the meaning that American Christians have given to Christmas … to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
With that said, did you know that, according to the Advent Conspiracy movement, Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas … EVERY YEAR? That is astounding to me.
I used to get that “sick” feeling in my stomach when the middle of November came around. You know the feeling I’m talking about. The “only four paychecks until Christmas” feeling? We bought the lie. We dragged ourselves to all the stores on every available day off, buying cartloads of toys and games that were eventually broken or lost or discarded. Never to be remembered again.
As soon as the political ads stopped, the Christmas commercials began, showing frenzied parents driven by the indulgent “I want” lists of their children, and wide-eyed shop-a-holics literally in a shopping coma and feeling fully justified in their decadent spending aqnd making us think that should be normal.
We shake our heads in distaste for these commercials, and yet our Christmas celebrations remain unchanged and undistinguishable from those who don’t honor the birth of Jesus as we do.
We all WANT Christmas to be meaningful … but what would that actually look like?
The Gift of Presence
Last year I was introduced to the Advent Conspiracy. It started several years ago in a church where the leadership felt compelled to DO something about having a meaningful Christmas. It’s a movement “restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.”
Here is their bottom line:
Worship fully … spend less … give more … love all
To re-state that …
• We are encouraged to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ to the fullest extent
• and out of that worship spend less on ourselves
• so we can give more to others
• which is showing love to all in very practical ways.
The organization shares lists of ways to do this. I’m not here to advocate their list. What absolutely grabbed hold of my heart was the thought that it was time to stop shaking my head at the commercials and overstocked store shelves, stop wishing and hoping and wanting Christmas to be more meaningful … and actually MAKE it so.
So last year instead of meaningless gift certificates and shopping from Amazon Wish Lists, I gave much thought to what would be the most meaningful tomy family. And everyone was pleased and even moved by their gifts. I’ve been scheming again this year to search my relationships and give gifts that showcase their value as a person rather than on materialistic things that will likely never be remembered. I am concentrating on gifts of presence.
After all, the gifts the Magi brought to the Christ child were very carefully chosen … chosen more for their meaning than their value.
The presents we give our loved ones give a very temporary sense of happiness. It flares up quickly and dies down quickly, rather like that holiday meal you slaved over all day and was consumed in minutes. In the scheme of things, very few of these presents will ever be remembered.
But when we give the gift of presence, when we spend time eye to eye and heart to heart, having conversations, continuing traditions, teaching skills, building relationships … we build memories. We build a foundation beneath our families, a sense of knowing where they came from and giving them a reference point when they set the direction for their lives.
When we talk about King Jesus and His gift of eternal life, we help others stop … and worship … and celebrate this gift. And in the busyness of this season … even if just for a few moments … we can all touch eternity by connecting with our Eternal God.
What do you want your Christmas to look like? Have you thought about intentionally making it more like you wish it was? It’s not too late.
Worship fully … spend less … give more … love all
Who should lead a relationship? An interesting His/Her perspective on relationships … we think you’ll like it!
An interesting His/Her perspective on relationships … we think you’ll like it!
Candy blogs: Our small group is reading and discussing our way through Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love”. I haven’t read a book that made me think so much since “The Shack”. And, yes, it’s also controversial. The chapter we just finished took us through the question of: Are you in love with Jesus?
I’m not all the way there with Chan’s description of what that looks like. He describes it like puppy love … like if I’m not literally panting to spend three hours in prayer at 3:00 a.m. then I’m not really in love with Jesus. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am really enjoying the book. I love the thought-provoking, tradition-assaulting questions he poses. This is good for us comfortable American Christians. We need to be roughed up and jolted out of our little Christian bubbles.
But my description of love is far different. My husband and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary this year. We’ve loved each other a long time. I can tell you that we left puppy love way back there on the journey toward mature love. We enjoyed our puppy love, our honeymoon stage. It was a giddy time of joyful discovery and longings. Yes, it was love.
But 35 years later, the giddiness has been replaced with a deep, rich love that came with battle scars. We fought for our love. We learned about the other. We cleaned up after the other. We deferred to the other. We sacrificed for the other. We defended the other. We overlooked faults of the other. We accepted the other. We endured pain from the other.
We huddled together behind our Shield of Faith against the firey darts of the enemy, and stretched out our Sword of the Spirit (God’s mighty word) to engage the enemy in battle for our marriage. The enemy meant to destroy our family. We continued to choose love because of the covenant we both agreed to in the giddy time.
The choosing took us through the giddy time and the hard-fought battles into what we have today. Let me describe it to you.
When I worked in the corporate world, I would often sit seething in my cubicle. I hated my job. I hated the feeling of being trapped in a world that I wasn’t truly suited for. The day, the world, often looked dark to me. But then, suddenly, I would hear my husband’s gentle voice in the lobby. I could hear him! He was here! I waited breathlessly for his face to appear in my cubicle opening. His embrace was so warm and familiar. THIS was my real world, not the angry seething of the days spent in that cubicle.
Did I love my husband less because I hadn’t been literally panting to be with him every minute of the day? No.
A couple of weeks ago, he surprised me with lunch in the park. One of my client’s offices is just at the front of a city park. He went to spread out our delightful picnic while I hurriedly finished my work to a stopping place. As I walked down the sidewalk toward our table, I saw him look for me. And when he saw me, a look of such happiness came over his face. He looked so glad to see me! Even though I’ve lost my giddy-time looks and often frustrate him, I was reminded by the look on his face that I was still his girl. I was overcome with giddy-time love for him in that momet.
Did I love my husband less because I hadn’t been counting down the minutes to when I might see him again? Of course not.
Underneath these moments of puppy love, lies a bedrock of true love. A love where contentment, companionship, security and intimacy live.
In the examples above, my real world invaded my temporary world … I have to function in my temporary world to make a living, to build the Kingdom. But it isn’t where my heart is. My heart is at home … with my husband.
I easily make the connection to being in love with Jesus Christ in the same way. We had our giddy time, our first love. I enjoyed it; I loved it. But as the years went by, and the more time I spent with Jesus, learning who He was and how different my life was for knowing Him, the giddiness gave way to a tested, deep, abiding, love.
There are these delightful moments when the fullness of God’s presence invades my ordinary, temporal life: in corporate worship and music; in experiencing God’s creation; when I am washed over by the reading of God’s word, the Bible; when I finally understand the next bit of God’s Truth; when I am used as God’s vessel to speak into the lives of others.
But do I love Jesus less because I don’t live in a constant state of emotional and mental awareness of God’s presence? No, but I AM in love with Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how I feel about my love relationship with Him. It matters what He told me.
Can we neglect our marriage? Can we neglect our faith walk? Of course we can. The key is in the choosing, isn’t it?
Candy blogs: There is a new spirit surrounding Christmas this year, don’t you think? We are finally admitting on a broad scale that we have made this holy holiday into an opportunity for enabling shopping addiction and over indulging our children and justifying a reason for living on more than we bring in. All true.
There has always been a spirit of generosity, too, with gifts and food and money given to those who need it. But this year that part of Christmas has been brought forward. There is a heightened sense of the need to relate to each other on a more meaningful level, a craving for the simple joys, a looking less at ourselves and more at where we can truly make a difference.
I have to admit that I have never pondered Christmas more than I have this year.
In my little family I have a reputation for being a sap. I have tried some different ways of doing these types of things but they have usually met with knowing glances and avoiding eye contact and barely-covered heavy sighs. Ahh, my quality time love language recoils at these responses but you can’t teach a pig to sing. So this year I won’t be overdoing the sappy stuff. I do plan to give meaningful gifts but I won’t be overdoing the commentary that could go along with them. I will let them speak for themselves.
But I don’t have to let the preferences of others change the meaning I find in Christmas. My own personal Christmas … my own personal meaning. As I’ve been decorating the house and listening to Christmas music and pondering the bigness and smallness of his birth, Jesus has whispered His sweet reminders that:
… He made me sappy on purpose and it finds its sweet spot every once in a while.
… In this season of my life I’m not responsible for making Christmas meaningful to anyone else. I am only responsible for living out the meaning I find in it.
There are some physical “things”, though, that are meaningful to me at Christmas. I have several boxes of Christmas stuff but, since our nest became empty several years ago, now I only pull out the REALLY meaningful things.
Here are some of them:
And candles. I love candlelight at Christmas.
If you are struggling this season, worried about not having enough money to give your family the Christmas they’re used to, take this as your opportunity to re-connect to a REAL Christmas. Who needs those toys that get broken or games that are beaten in a month or gadgets that are obsolete as soon as they’re opened? What our families truly need from us is less presents and more presence (Pastor Darrel Wiseman).
How might that look in your family? Popcorn garlands? Singing Christmas carols together or even caroling around the neighborhood? Sharing a favorite meal? Looking at family photo albums? Reading Christmas books and stories together? Attending free community events? Building a snowman? Baking goodies and sharing with neighbors? Going sledding? Hand-made cards? Letters of respect and love in a frame?
There are times you’re meant to receive instead of give.
If you’re not struggling this season, find someone who is and do something about it. Hear Jesus whisper His purposes to you.
Here are some ideas:
Capture and enjoy each Christmas moment. Celebrate His birth.
After all, Christmas changed the world.
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great JOY for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10<a