White lights on the banister? Love.
Pine from the big tree in our side yard? Love.
Cut-out cookies? Love.
Cut-out cookie candles? Love.
Ugly Christmas sweaters? Love.
White elephant gifts? Love.
Currently my dining room table is a collision center for two great holidays and I'm always happy to kick Orange out and welcome Red and Green in. Christmas music is hogging the air and showing Thanksgiving that it's day in the sun is over.
I love the Christmas season. Love.
And I have struggled with the Christmas season. Struggled.
I think most of us have questioned the way we celebrate Christmas at one time or another. What should it look like? What do we want out of Christmas? How do we want our kids to celebrate it?
We know Christmas isn't about stuff. That it is NOT about what waits for us under the tree. We know that.
As a kid, my parents were gift givers but not excessively. The highlights of the holiday were playing with cousins and sprinkling cookies and chewing on my aunt's homemade caramels. Games and sledding and food and family. THAT was Christmas.
Then one year my BFF hubby and I packed up and headed to a far off country where there were no cousins and no caramels and not enough snow to sled. Christmas was about family and we had none with whom to celebrate.
It was just our little family and a small team and we knew about 12 people in our big city. We didn't have the ingredients to make our favorite holiday treats and we didn't have any parties to attend. Zero. Almost everything we always associated with Christmas had disappeared.
That was the year I learned that Christmas was actually all about Jesus.
When all the fluff settles, it is Jesus, just Jesus.
We can celebrate him with snow or without,
with caramels or with lychee candy,
with family or alone,
with new gifts or counting the ones we already possess.
It sounds simple. Almost easy.
Then our kids grew a little bit and developed a vocabulary and started asking for gifts wherever we went that magical month of December. Blushing, squeezing their little shoulders, whispering intensely in their darling ears, it became apparent:
A Jesus-Christmas might be simple but it's not easy.
Anyone ever feel like they might have unintentionally buried Jesus in the tinsel?
Last year we as a family (Who am I kidding? It was we as parents...) decided to treat Jesus like part of the family and cater to him for his birthday. You know, make a big deal of it, treat him extra special.
At anyone else's birthday, we let it be all about them: they choose their favorite food, play their favorite games, invite their favorite friends, get gifts that they love. If they are into football, we do a football cake, football napkins, football football football. Or princess princess princess. After four girls, I'm about pink tutu-ed out. But it's all about them.
So why not Jesus?
What does Jesus want for his birthday anyway? Isn't that the question? If we are celebrating the Birth of Jesus, maybe it could look like a Birthday celebration. Jesus, start your wish list. What do you really love?
A few things come to mind right away.
Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world.
Jesus loves the world.
After combing through the Gospels, we came up with lots of things Jesus loves. Great birthday gift ideas actually.
We took one word a day for the month of December and read Scripture verses that went with it.
The kids learned so many new things that Jesus loves. And we parents saw him in a little different light most mornings. It was a refreshing way to read the Gospels.
Then, towards the end of the month, we had a big birthday party for the Birthday Boy and gave him gifts we thought he would be stoked about.
The kids took an idea or two, written on a paper or two, and the whole family helped to give the gift.
Madi chose The Lost and so we got our cookies ready and asked Jesus to show us what lost person needed to know he loves them. That one was stretching. Leave it to that Madi girl.
Ben chose Serving and His Followers so we took some cookies to the nursing home and visited an old friend who loved Jesus too.
Because God loves The World, we dressed up in the most ethnic clothes we could find and prayed over the world.
One of our favorite Christmas gifts has been Generous Giving done online, through organizations raved about below. All the kids get to chose their favorite project and Eva was pretty pleased to give a chicken. I was pretty pleased with that chicken and the cute skirt it's strutting.
And here is a side note:
If there is a need somewhere in the world, chances are there is a great organization out there providing a way to give to that need.
Are you passionate about kids getting a good education? There is a place to give that!
Want to see more at-risk women starting a business to provide for their families? Love babies and have a tender heart for the most vulnerable ones? Do you show your tender side for those people with special needs? Does the medical needs of other countries stir you up? Love Scripture and want everyone in the world to have their own? BOOM! They have got you covered.
What better way to celebrate Jesus then to give these gifts?
Here are some great organizations we have been using for the past few years:
Heifer International- 70 years ago Heifer's founder took the "teach a man to fish" philosophy and started giving out cows instead of just milk. The beautiful thing about Heifer is that they teach the people receiving livestock to pass on the first female offspring to keep the gift going. The helped now becomes the helper.
World Vision- This Christian organization is serving kids and families in nearly 100 countries, doing emergency relief work and long term sustainability. Give animals, support children's education, provide clean water and feed little bellies through World Vision.
Samaritan's Purse- These guys do so much more then just shoe boxes. They teach Jesus wherever they go and have so many gifts for us to chose from. Give Bibles, prevent human trafficking, buy a bicycle for a pastor, give blankets, sports gear or animals.
End of side note.
We had such a fun party last year that we are doing it again this year. I hope we don't lose Jesus in the tinsel or the rush of stuff. It just takes a generous helping of intentionality. Feel free to use our gift list, make your own or be inspired to celebrate Jesus' birthday in a new meaningful way.
What are your ideas? What have you done to celebrate Jesus in this nearly magical month?