Christmas Thoughts from Ann V (Part II of No Ordinary Home C. 8)

(As promised – my Christmas gift to you – a post on Christmas by Ann V – be blessed!)

Christmas. Visions of falling snowflakes, flickering flames in the fireplace, and sugar plums dance in my head. Well… not actually. Actually, I think of last Christmas….

It is nearly Christmas Eve. 1 hour and 57 minutes left. The house is quiet except for the sound of Hope’s heavy breathing of slumber—and the washing machine working on a load of towels and sheets. Kai sleeps soundlessly, only his shoulders rising and falling. Shalom is sprawled across my arm here, her long eyelashes delicate and still in dreams.

My eyes move from one child to the other, watching, waiting. I glance up at the clock. 36 minutes since the last child called for the bucket, stomach heaving.

I have made all the necessary phone calls to cancel our attendance for Christmas Day dinner and the ham and the turkey. Mama, phone tucked under her chin, elbow deep in stuffing, graciously—sadly— understood. Let my sister know we would not be sipping hot chocolate in the candlelight with her on Christmas Eve as she reads from the Gospel of Luke to all the clamoring cousins.

So I sit here in the dark before the fire, waiting to dash at the first sign of a child in need. And the tree, bedecked in its Jesse Tree Ornaments, stands watch with me, its lights dancing with flickering fire flames.

Looking at the line up of glasses of Gatorade, I smile. Christmas is not ruined, regardless of the fact we won’t be having Granny’s chutney. Such a ridiculous thought. Every symbol of His grand story hanging on the tree proclaims the truth. Christ did not come to candle-flickering affairs, with towers of wrapped and ribboned boxes precariously perched under evergreen trees swaddled swaths of velvet and gold finery. Christ came to a smelly feed trough in a dark cattle pen because this world was ridden with disease, wretchedly sick, and wracked with inescapable illness—soul, body and mind. And in dire, wild desperation of relief and healing.

Our flu-derailed Christmas is right on track. This is exactly why Christ came. His point of destination was to sick people like us who writhed for a healing touch, who burned for living waters, who moaned for new bodies.

I want Christmases of beauty, and wonder, and Norman Rockwell scenes. And I forget that the first Christmas was a messy, dirty, grimy affair. But that is just like God—go to the place of the greatest need, roll up His sleeves up and begin tending to very messy, very real, very needy aching people.

It is the perfect Christmas. For You come, Lord Jesus, You come.

Lord, Your concept of Christmas is not a sterile, antiseptic, disinfected occasion—but mine is. What a relief Christmas isn’t my vision but Yours— about You coming to nurse, and care for— and cure—-sick people…like us.

Such a notion: not my vision of Christmas…. but His. What is His vision of your Christmas?

Two of our children have their birthday on the same day of the year…so our toddler thinks he should just make it a threesome and have his birthday with them too. He’d go through the house, smiling, “It’s us three, us threes birday, all three of us.” Hope and Levi, the bona-fide birthday children, would frown, put hands on hip, and in unison inform little Malakai: “BUT IT IS NOT YOUR BIRTHDAY, KAI!!!”

Um… you ever think we sort of horn in on Jesus’ birthday? I mean–whose birthday is it anyways? How can we give gifts to Jesus? There are, gloriously, a multitude of ways. We reflect on his own words; Jesus says when we give to the “least of these” we give to Him. So, one option, is to give gifts to our blessed Saviour by giving to those who are needy through charity gift catalogues. Here are a sampling of charity gift catalogues:

Partner’s International Gift Catalogue: Harvest of Hope

World Vision Gift Catalogue

Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalogue

MCC Gift Catalogue

Mercy Ships Catalogue

(Note: Ann is not advocating Mercy Ships more than the others – I simply can’t get the html tag to change on it.)

Giving a gift through these catalogues is giving a gift to Him.

Thus, throughout Advent we daily select something from various charity catalogues to give, as when we give to the least of these, we give to Him. And then Christmas morning, the children each are given a money allowance and they carefully pour over the charity gift catalogues for their “perfect” selection. Their selection is written on a tag to hang on the Jesse Tree—-for example: “To Jesus, a gift of coats for street children, from The Boys“.This tradition has worked for us to keep the focus on Him.

Mrs. Brazo queries at the end of this thoughtful chapter on Christmas: “On November 15 sit down as a family and agree on a December calendar of events. Remember more is not better. Guard your time, lest you find yourself celebrating Christmas without worshiping Christ.” Excellent thoughts…. so onto our “calendar of events”….

~We are working towards composing The Letter to extended family. Encourage grandparents to buy gift certificates for each grandchild from the charity catalogues and then sit with the children as they each make their charitable selection. In lieu of large family gatherings with gift exchanges, offer the idea of a token gift exchange during the family gathering: every member bring an unusual, treat-type food (in a specified price range), and each member draws a number to determine order of who gets to pick their desired food item (a non-cluttery, practical, fun gift)…and upon each individual’s turn, they have the option of keeping their selection or switching with for an already selected food item.

~Invite someone to His Birthday Feast who has no family with whom to celebrate—-that is how He would want His birthday celebrated. Come to the Banquet! So who can I invite this year?

~I’d like to go caroling this year. I want to sing about Him and the wonder of it all out in our community, in the hospital and in the nursing homes. I want our children to have memories of singing at His Birthday Party! Make singing a priority for 2006.

~I think with email, it changes the need to send Christmas cards. This year, I am going to send personal notes with the family picture via email instead…..and only send cards to those without email.

~ I am working towards remembering that Christmas is about HIM–Missions–taking HIM to all the world. Traditionally we spend Advent focusing with the children on creating gift packages, such as our 2005 hit, with a gospel testimony attached, as gifts for neighbors, business associates, doctor, hairdresser, mailpersons etc, etc the week before Christmas making small gifts for ….simple things like a cookie mix or wholewheat raisin bread (wrapped in a new dishtowel tied with raffia—that was a new idea this year, and I will do it again, Lord willing.) And then the tags/cards read something that focuses on Him: (for the bread: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word from the mouth of God. Oh, we are so glad He came!! Most Blessed of Christmases! Love…”) and some years we include an appropriate Gospel tract, some years not. Is this time consuming? Yep. Do I get discouraged and claim every year I am NOT doing this again? Yep. (um….often.) BUT then He gently reminds me that the whole point of Christmas is CHRIST COMING–**missions**–taking His love to people. So I am working at whining less ~weak smile~ and undertaking making those love gifts with the joy He *asks* me to. So, this undertaking is a keeper for us. His Coming is to shower love and grace and hope on those who’ve yet to welcome Him. Advent is about taking Him into all the world!

~ I am looking forward to implementing Mrs. Brazo’s encouragement to take an element of the Christmas Story and use it as a theme for each year’s holyday season... Any thoughts or ideas that Abba has led you too for this Christmas?

In praying and reflecting on what He would have us meditate on over Advent this this year, I’m led to focus on preparing for His coming, as Mary did. The joy and anticipation she and Elizabeth shared…. To that end, this year I would like to give each child a flowerpot of dirt and a package of wheat seeds. During Advent, as they do acts of kindness in His name, preparing their hearts for Jesus, we’ll plant a wheat seed in our flowerpot … come Christmas, these little sprouts can furnish the Nativity scene’s manger, gracing “baby Jesus” with a warm, soft place. One tangible, visual way to prepare for His coming. I’ll pray for more insights…. and I’d love to hear where He’s leading you for this Advent season… Weren’t Mrs. Brazo’s thoughts encouraging and inspiring?

( A few closing links… This book, A Simple Christmas–How to Bring Christ and Joy back into Christmas really helped us refocus… Your library may have it? (Ours did ~warm smile~) (Note from Dawn – what a lovely gift to purchase and put in your church library!)

Need help getting a plan in place? An excellent resource: The 12 Week Holiday Planner for the Christian Family .

And there are some wonderful ideas here, and links… (things many wrote about last Christmas in the comments box at Choosing Home.)

And please, please, PLEASE! Will you open your present early this year? Something special? Here. Take it. Open it. It will be everything your heart desires…..

12 Responses to “Christmas Thoughts from Ann V (Part II of No Ordinary Home C. 8)”
  1. Dawn C says:

    Ann, thank you – this is LOVELY.
    I am so glad to know that I’m not the only one who says, every year, “We are SO done doing this. I am not making things for all the neighborhood again next year.” Yet, we do – every year. For a few years we did it at Thanksgiving, with a note that said, “As we focus on the things that the Lord has blessed us with, we’re thankful for YOU!” I don’t know if that was any better/easier or not. AND we’re praying as to which we should do this year. (Last year was easy – new baby at Christmas …DEFINITELY do Thanksgiving) 🙂
    I was not aware of a few of the catalogues you shared. We too give a gift from the catalogues – my children love it. We haven’t, though, considered doing it all through Advent, too. Wow!! (That’s quite a commitment – time and financial!)
    Again, my dear Ann, thank you for sharing this with us. I know this was truly a gift to us all, as you’re SO busy with ACG deadlines. That simply makes the gift more beautiful!

  2. tonia says:

    Ann…that was so challenging…I’m speechless. When I think of how scattered I am each year – well, you have certainly given me much to think about.

    Bless you.

  3. Patricia says:

    Wonderful ideas, Ann! Wish I had known all of you when I was still raising little ones. Our family bakes break for widows, elderly and neighbors every Christmas and it can get very time-consuming (and costly) to bake, wrap and deliver them…especially to the widows and elderly, who often are lonely and want us to linger as long as possible. This year our greatest challenge will be our neighbors. We live in a neighborhood of 5/acre lots and some of our neighbors have not been particularly neighborly in recent months. This past year, we applied for a zoning change so we could sell an acre to one of our sons and his wife. The county planning board approved it unanimously, but after two hearings, the county commissioners voted it down 3-2, pressured by some of our neighbors who rallied against us. We have now been given an opportunity to demonstrate what it means to love our “enemies”. =)

  4. javadawn says:

    Oh Patricia, MAN do I understand this, as our neighbors are less than neighborly this year, as well. (It’s not because of anything we have done per se’ – we have new neighbors and they are VERY other from us. We have removed our children from outdoors due to their language – content and profanity. This makes us “snooty” in their estimation.) 😦
    Thank you for reminding me that this is an opportunity to love our “enemies.” I know that the temptation to leave them out of our holiday giving will be great, so keeping our eyes properly aligned, will be MOST helpful.

  5. Meredith says:

    Beautiful ideas, beautiful words.
    Thanks, Ann, for the inspiration!

  6. Holly says:

    I remember parts of this from last year, Ann…I remember that I’ve never heard anyone share about the children being ill so…beautifully. 🙂

    Thanks, Dawn, for asking Ann and for preparing a place…:)

  7. Ann, I dont know if you’ll see these comments or not, since you dont have them on your website, but as usual, when I sit and read any of your posts I just feel my shoulders relax, it always feels so good to spend time here. xoxoox

  8. Loni says:

    This was great. I always love Ann’s writings and encouragements. I have written a little on my blog about this with a link back to it. The book, A Simple Christmas, IS in my library and I put a reserve on it!

    Thanks for having Ann share this.

  9. Stacy says:

    Wonderful, Ann!
    THIS is why I like blogging so much. I glean so many wonderful things from amazing women like yourself! 🙂
    I’ve already requested those gift catalogs, and I could talk of nothing else throughout dinner last night. My husband and I think this is such a GREAT idea!
    Thank you for sharing…

  10. Teena says:

    YOU so inspire me!!! I am so blessed.

    you make me think…. so many different ideas and ways to make Jesus come this season …..

    thank you~

  11. Ann V. says:

    Hey all! I know I am late to the party here, but I just wanted to pop in and express my *sincere* gratitude for the wisdom I have learned from EACH of you… thank you for letting me participate. This sisterhood of blogs, women hard after Christ, is such a ministry to me, encouraging me in mothering our children. **THANK-YOU**.


Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] One idea regarding gifts I particularly like, but don’t know how to implement in our current circumstances, came from Ann. Why not have gifts at New Year’s to celebrate the incoming year instead of at Christmas? Ann also wrote a guest article regarding Christmas at Java Dawn’s site and it is packed full of wonderful ideas to make Christmas a season of giving. […]

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