Getting from there to here
Growing up, Christmas was an EVENT. It meant killing ourselves making cookies. It meant 18′ trees, decorated to the nth degree. It meant gifts stacked higher and taller than some of the children that were opening them. It meant too much, too often and WAY too expensive. In the midst of all this excess, what was birthed in my heart was greed and discontentment.
I remember one year, opening gifts for over 6 hours straight (we took turns – all 5 members of my family) and getting done and looking at the pile of gifts that I had received and being covetous that my brother got a stereo and I did not. I wish I had voiced that to my parents so that they could have addressed my sin. Instead, I gathered the many, many, (TOO) many gifts I received and took them to my bedroom where I spent the afternoon pouting. I remember that with shame.
When we started having children, we wanted something more than just gifts. We began before Minijavabean #1 was born, praying for good ideas of what to do with her for the holidays. We did get a few good ideas, but mostly I continued on giving too many gifts, with too much busyness and too little depth to our holidays.
One day in prayer, it occured to me that if 3 gifts were good enough for Jesus, then that would surely be good enough for my children, too. So, we began buying only 3 gifts. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to adjust the amount we were spending, it just meant we could buy 3 bigger gifts, rather than upteen jillion cheaper ones. Every year resulted in too much debt incurred on our credit card.
Within just a few years of that, the Lord graciously pointed out that Christmas resulted in ONE gift to us. That the father provided ONE gift and that is what we should be doing for our children, as well. So, one gift it was. This too lasted a few years when the Lord began to work on the amount of the money we were spending. Suddenly, we were faced with conviction about remaining within the confines of the budget and buying only one gift. ~Whew, I thought it was going to kill me. 😉
We have a lot of summer birthdays. Up until this time we would clump at least 3 of them (they’re all within the same week) together. The Lord convicted me that I needed to honor each child in a special way. So, we announced to the children that they would no longer need to choose just one birthday “cake” (we rarely have cake for August birthdays) but that we were going to make a big fuss over each of their birthdays – that this was an opportunity for us to honor the birthday person. And as I shared that, it hit me. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday – it’s all about Him.
So, we began talking to the children, seeking creative ways to honor Him for His birthday. The first year we thought that we shouldn’t give any gifts at all, (except for extended family – it didn’t seem that it would honor Jesus to argue with our family members about gift giving) so instead we gave gifts to friends and those who serve us, at Thanksgiving. We included a note telling them that we were surely thankful for the way they served us as well as a Scripture. We did that for 2 yrs, while at the same time, the Lord was working on Jeff and I regarding changing the way we did Thanksgiving. Giving gifts during that time didn’t “fit” any longer.
Several years ago, we stumbled across the gift catalogs from World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse. That was EXACTLY what we were looking for. Now, we can put the money we would have spent on gifts for our own family and instead we spend the holiday season looking over the catalogs to see what we want to spend our “birthday money” for Jesus on. (We are SO grateful to Ann V for directing us to Partners International. They allow you to buy smaller “shares” in larger gifts, allowing us to participate in even more gift giving.)
Christmas morning, we will spend putting our “gift” to these catalogs together. We have the catalogs and have been dreaming and thinking of what we’d like to give this year. By getting them “early” that allows the children to hear from the Lord – to see what He would place on their hearts to give this year – and they can start earning more money if they don’t have enough for the things that the Lord has placed on their hearts. We have a container that we put all the money in – which we count on Christmas morning as part of our “gift giving” time.
Because we have always had an Advent calendar – one I made, consisting of things to do each day – so our gift giving to friends and those who serve us, just sort of melted together with our Advent calendar.
Our children DO exchange gifts with one another – we have been doing it on Epiphany. This year, we’re going to take Ann V’s suggestion and do it on New Year’s Day. I like that better. AND we only do stocking size gifts. Nothing big. Generally the girls make things for one another’s dolls. Uh, this doesn’t apply to Minijavabean #1 any longer. She’s tougher for them to bless these days. 😉
Fair warning, the year you stop giving gifts to your children on Christmas is the year every kind hearted woman in Meijer is going to stop your sweet daughter and say, “What did Santa bring YOU for Christmas?” Train them to do something other than give her a blank stare and say, “I didn’t get anything from Santa. We don’t get gifts for Christmas.” Then be prepared for the shock and horror on the dear grandmas’ faces. Do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to explain this to them. It really doesn’t work. Honest. I tried.
I will tell you, doing it this way has been much more fun than the old way. We are able to truly enjoy the gifts we do get -generally on our birthdays, except this year, our kiddos will be getting a Thanksgiving gift (we found a series of books we’ve been wanting SUPER DUPER cheap, thank You Lord!) but don’t tell them. Sssshhhh. AND we’re able to truly focus our energies on other things….and people…that mean more than the gifts do. Things like the Holy Walk and our Shepherds supper and the drama the kids put together….but those are fodder for another blog.
I don’t know if I answered your question, really, whimsy. If I didn’t please feel free to be very specific. I will answer you the best way I know how. (Keep in mind, the answer may just be, “I don’t know – God just worked that in us.”)
(Edit: I’ve finished this just before midnight and my computer won’t post it. No clue what is going on. If something dorky ends up changing when it shows up, please excuse it and know that it looked ok tonight.)