Christmas: it's a single word that means so many things to so many different people. For some it's all about the gifts, spending hours of time and large amounts of money to find just the right ones, while others prefer a more simple holiday celebration. For some, it's about all the get-togethers and time with family and friends, cooking elaborate meals or doing marathon baking sessions. Some volunteer their time or donate money this time of year. Some have extensive outdoor lights displays. Others make it a point to attend Christmas Eve church service. Life is full of choices that we make everyday, and those choices are made based on our values and beliefs.
As for me, I want my December to be a time of focusing on God's gift to us, and sharing that with our children, extended families, and friends. CHRIST is the true reason we celebrate CHRISTmas! Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to come to this earth, leaving heaven behind, to live a simple, humble existence. He know the day of his birth that he would eventually have to die for our sins, and yet he still did it. He loved each and every one of us that much! All year long, not just during the moth of December, I try to share the love of Jesus with those around me. There are many ways that my family and I choose to do that. Sometimes we donate money to a need at church or to purchase groceries or other needed items for a struggling family. We try to take meals to new parents. We offer our time when something needs to be done in the community or at our church. The young adults from church know that our home is always open to them (and a few have shown us what always means), and we take the time to mentor a young married couple. I send notes of encouragement and Jeremy chats with friends who are struggling on a regular basis.
For us, December may have a few more events, but our day-to-day lives aren't that different. We prefer to celebrate Christmas in a simple way, while still enjoying the festivities of this time of year. Here are a few of the ways that we celebrate:
- We take an annual trip to Bronner's (The World's Largest Christmas Store) and each person in our family selects a new ornament for our tree. It's quickly filling up though, so we may have to thing about getting a bigger tree. I know sorting out the ornaments would be an option (I truly love to declutter!), but at this point in our lives while the kids are still little, I don't want to part with any of them just yet.
- We take gift tags off of the angel tree at church to help make someone else's Christmas better. Each person in our family chooses a tag of someone close to their own age and gender to make it seem a bit more personal, and then we shop as a family for those items.
- We have the young adults group over for a fun night of white elephant (recycled/used) gift exchange, Christmas movies, and snacks.
- We make handmade gifts for all of our children's grandparents. This year we had pictures of all of them with at least one of our children easily available, so we made photo frames with those inside. In previous years, we have passed out candle holders painted like peppermints with a note that said "You're worth more than a 'mint' to us!", a copy of the book The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever and a note about why it was one of our family favorites, and whisks filled with Hershey's hugs and kisses candies with a note that said "We 'whisk' you a Merry Christmas full of hugs and kisses".
- We fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes filled with small toys, candy, school supplies, basic clothing and hygiene products
- We attend Christmas Eve service at our church each year and invite our extended friends and families.
- We set a gift budget and stick to it for the most part. For us, Christmas isn't about the amount of money spent on the gift, but the thought that the giver puts into it. This year, we are trying something new with our children's gifts. Each child is getting something to wear, something to read, something they want, and something they need. They will also be getting 1 small gift from Santa each. We don't make a big deal about Santa in our house, but we do let them celebrate the fun of it. They also each get one special gift from my husband each year, since even our 7-year-old knows that I do the majority of our shopping. For our parents and our siblings along with their significant others, we try to get them couples gifts that our something they can go enjoy together such as tickets to a sporting event or a movie night basket.
- We attend the local Christmas lights parade.
- When we are out and about, we are always on the lookout for nativity scenes to point out to each other.
- We spend Christmas Day at home as a family, instead of running all over the place and everyone becoming stressed and overwhelmed.
- We try to have all of our Christmas shopping done by December 1st so that we don't have to fight our way through the stores with all of the other stressed out people.
- We have family movie night at least once a week. We turn off all of the lights in our house, except the Christmas tree, eat popcorn and other treats, all cuddle up on the couch, and watch movies we all enjoy together.
- We read the Christmas story to our children. While our daughter isn't quite old enough to understand just yet, we still want her to be a part of it so that as she gets older, she will come to realize the importance.
What about all of you? What are some of your family's favorite ways to keep your Christmas celebration focused on Jesus? I'm always looking for new ideas for my own family.