Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What to do about Christmas?

Over the past few weeks, even months, Brendon and I have been thinking a lot about the subject of Christmas. Of course, we always knew Christmas should be about Jesus. And now that we have Lilleigh we really want to downplay the Americanization of Christmas and place Jesus center stage, where He belongs. After all, the holiday is His.

I don't really think our desire for this is different from that of other believing parents. (And by "believing," I'm not referring to Santa!) But I know that despite similar desires, what we do with the holiday may look different. In this post, I'm sharing with you some of our thoughts and the parts of Christmas we're wrestling with. This is in not a judgment on you, so please don't take it that way. This is our Christmas dilemma...

Gifts.

I'm not sure what to do here. America prioritizes gift giving. And while I looove gifts (They're my love language!), I want to be careful about what we teach our children. With so many (wonderful, I should add) grandparents, our children are bound to get lots of Christmas gifts already. So Brendon and I will have to watch to make sure this is not overdone - by us or them.

And in the category of gifting is giving. Our society sometimes spins it like this - Christmas should be about giving to those in need and loving others well. While I think these are both noble things, Christmas is about Christ. Caring for those in need is something a follower of Christ should do, but let's not forget that Christmas is not about volunteering and giving, in and of themselves. It's about Jesus. Without Him, those other things don't have a place. If we don't love Him, we can't really love others.

So on the gift front, one thought is to make birthdays a big deal (in the gift sense) and downplay gifts at Christmas. Still do gifts but just smaller things.

And as for giving, we should give and give generously. But we must keep Christ as the center, otherwise our giving is meaningless.

Santa.


I'm not sure where Santa fits in. I am hearing gasps on the other side of the screen. If Christmas is all about Jesus, why do we make it about Santa? And not just about a jolly fat man in a red suit... but a lie. I know many of you would probably say that it's a children's myth and is fun. And I'm there with you. You see I feel very torn on this subject because I did love believing in Santa, but I remember being taken back when I found out my parents had been lying to me for so many years. I don't want to lie to my child.

And not just that, but there's also the argument that Donald Miller makes in Blue Like Jazz - if you tell your kids there's a Santa and then they come to find out Santa isn't real, what are they going to do with God? This is Brendon's thought. Now I realize that both Brendon and I (and many of you) believed in Santa and now believe in God, so I'm going to ask you not to argue with this thought but just to consider it.

Now that I've said I'm not sure I'm comfortable with Santa, you're probably wondering what we'll do with him. Do we just tell our kids he's not real and have them ruin it for everyone else? This is the last thing I'd want to do. At the moment, I see two options:
  1. Allow Santa to be a part of Christmas, but don't ever play him up or make him something to be "believed" in. Even if society is playing it up, if the parents don't, then the kids won't. You can still stand in line to get photos with Santa, hang a stocking with his face on it, and even have Santa wrapping paper. He will have a place at Christmas, in the same way reindeer and Christmas trees do. He'll be fun. But he won't be someone to be believed in. And I wouldn't worry about our kids ruining it for your kids either. We recognize that other families may do things differently and can explain to our children that some kids think differently about Santa and it's up to their parents to tell them about him. (Plus if a kid doesn't have an "aha" moment of Santa not being real, I don't see where they are going to get the motivation to say something to your child anyway.)
  2. Or the other option I see at the moment is from the post Santa Strategically by Jen Wilkin. Jen and her husband let their kids bring up Santa on their own. They never actually brought him up. And when he was finally brought up, they allowed it. But never did they tell their kids he was real or make up stories about his sleigh. Instead from the very beginning they said, “There’s a secret to Santa. If you think you have figured out the secret of Santa, come ask Mom and Dad.” And from there when questions of Santa came up, they'd say, "That's part of the secret of Santa." This option allows for the fun of believing in Santa without ever lying to your kids. But it does allow them to believe which could take the focus off Christ, depending on how you played it. I have a feeling Brendon may not go for this one.
Basically we are still figuring out where we stand on this, but we probably won't be encouraging belief in Santa. This does mean that we will not be doing Elf on a Shelf! No matter how fun that may be. Haha.

Oh and no matter what - no gifts "from Santa." That just seems silly. As Brendon put it, "Why would I put Santa's name on a good present? I want credit for that. If anything, his name can go on a bad gift, like socks or something." No that's not prideful... it's Santa, people.


Traditions.

This is our first year to be at home for Christmas, which means it's also our first year to begin our own traditions. So we've been thinking long and hard about what traditions to implement. Our measuring stick for choosing traditions is Christ. Do our traditions glorify Him?

The Book of Remembrances. Brendon wants to start a book of remembrances. Each year on Christmas we'll sit down as a family and write down all of the ways God has been faithful throughout the year. We are commanded to proclaim God's faithfulness to future generations - how can we do this if don't keep a written record of His faithfulness? Plus, when we are in the midst of trials, it's easy to forget what all He has done for us. I love the idea of being able to look back at His faithfulness in our lives so clearly. 

Once kids can write, they can write as well - or draw. This is a way for the whole family to be involved. And a written testimony of God's faithfulness, as recorded in Malachi 3:16 with the book of remembrances and Joshua 4 with the rocks in the Jordan.


Shepherd's pouches. We can't really do this until Lilleigh is old enough to understand it. But the idea is that you hang a very simple looking "shepherd's pouch" where the stockings would be. Each child has their own pouch. And whenever mom or dad see the kids do something nice for someone else during the month, they put a little money in their pouch. Then on Christmas Eve, the kids get to count up their money and go through the Gospel for Asia (Or Compassion, etc) Christmas gift catalog to pick out a gift for another child or family. On Christmas morning, the pouches are replaced with stockings. But I think this tradition captures giving well. Learn more here.




Advent calendar. I started our own with Advent ornaments this year with the names of Jesus on them. I'm envisioning this being a fun activity each evening after dinner when we have kids old enough to get into it. This is a simple way to keep the season's focus on Christ. 

For a list of other Christ-centered traditions, check out the list from Keeper of the Home.


How do you keep Christmas all about Christ in your home?

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