Monday, October 3, 2016

Christmas is Basically Here...

(Riley Grace's 1st Christmas!)

How many of you saw the popular Grinch meme that depicts this following frightening declaration: “There are 12 Saturdays until Christmas?” Or the Elf meme that says, “There’s only 11 more Monday mornings until Christmas?” Christmas is still three months away, but when you put it that way, it seems like Christmas is basically here! Does that bring up feelings of anxiety or excitement in anyone?? Has anyone started shopping yet?? Christmastime usually sneaks up on me. I don’t like to rush the pleasant crisp weather of fall (now that I’m out of Louisianasorry, friends), with its pumpkin spice and pumpkin carvings, along with cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce, but I do LOVE Christmas! However, once November is behind us, I usually feel completely unprepared for all I wanted to do for Christmas. I scroll through Pintrest days late, finding a million new recipes and crafts I want to try, only to find myself too late to successfully accomplish any of them! This year, I’m going to be prepared! J Here are a few tips I’m trying to follow for myself and my family in order to prepare for the season, and I thought I would share them with you! Happy Fall, y’all, and enjoy preparing for the most wonderful time of the year the birth of Christ!

1.      Keep first things first! It can be extremely easy and tempting to make the commercial side of Christmas primary. But it’s NOT primary, and it’s not even necessary. We went to give good gifts to our family. We want to “wow” our friends with the best dessert, décor, and DIY projects. We want our kids to have more than we had, and so Christmastime is an opportunity to spoil them. We want Santa and Elf on the shelf to spur on our kids’ imaginations and make them believe that magic exists. We generally have party after party after party to plan for, attend, and clean up after. We probably indulge in way too many pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint bark mochas. If we aren’t careful, Christmas can either pleasantly or stressfully become about the secondary things with Christ nowhere to be seen! This mindset is dangerous, but all too common, even in the Christian setting. As women (and especially as moms), we need to be cautious of this tendency because our mindset at Christmas is visible to others, especially little ones who are so excited about all the season encompasses.
2.    Be intentional about serving others! Christmas is a time for giving, and not just to the people that you know and love. I found this amazing online resource about getting your family and friends involved in intentionally serving others during the Christmas season. This resource has ideas for the “25 Days of Christmas,” choosing a new small project each day. Some of these projects are really simple, and a few are a little more involved, which is why it’s a great idea to plan now for which service projects you want to do when the Christmas season rolls around!  If you have your own kids or are a leader of a kids/youth group, then allow them to play a role in deciding how to give and serve and even raise money for that cause. World Vision and Compassion International have a really easy giving proces that shows what different needs are around the world. Samaritan’s Purse provides the opportunity to kids and families to fill shoeboxes with gifts for other kids through “Operation Christmas Child”. Kids can donate a toy to “Toys for Tots” or sponsor a child through the Angel Tree Prison Ministries. Many of these projects can even become yearlong! Find a project (or many projects) and be intentional about making Christmas about serving others!
3.    Cultivate traditions, old and new! Traditions with family and friends are so much fun to start and continue. I have fond and vivid memories of shopping for the tree with my family each year, decorating it together while we drank hot chocolate, opening one gift on Christmas Eve, waking my sisters up at 2am to peek at Santa’s goodies, and reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning before digging into presents. I still love that my mom chooses a special Christmas ornament for us each year. Traditions help us to remember our blessings and the ones with whom those blessings are shared. All that to say, here are some Christ-centered traditions and interesting Christmas ideas that would be wonderful to begin with family and friends during the Christmas season! Whether you are single, married, have no physical children, have young children, have grown children, have spiritual children, have a close circle of best friends, are young, are old, or are somewhere in between J, you can participate in different ways to celebrate the birth of Christ by forming traditions of your own!
4.    Create/buy/participate in an advent calendar. This can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. Pintrest has some great advent resources, although many are a little too elaborate for my skill level. J (Who else actually attempts to make/cook/create only .1% of what you pin on Pintrest?? I have hundreds of things on my boards that I haven’t tried and haven’t even looked at since the first time it was pinned! I usually end up stressing myself out with too many options and no idea where to start. So, side note, don’t overwhelm yourself on sites that offer options of how to celebrate! Choose what works for you and keep it simple!) For advent options, there are calendars, reading plans, Christmas trees, banners, etc. Choose what works for you in the season that God has placed you in!
5.    Find a new book or devotional focusing on Christmas. Find a book about Christmas that is new to you. Open it with fresh eyes. Read it with anticipation of learning something new about the familiar Christmas story. Or read an old, cherished book that has traditionally stirred your heart toward the Gospel at Christmas time. As a personal suggestion, I LOVE The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. The author provides a fresh and deep perspective on the miraculous story of the events surrounding Christ’s birth. My mom and sisters also read this book each Christmas, which makes it even more special to me! (So, side note, find a book and some girl friends who will commit to read and study it with you!)
6.    Cook timeless family recipes, and find some new specialties to call your own.
7.    Create meaningful and godly gift-giving traditions within your own home. Kids love to receive gifts. Adults love to receive gifts. People in general like gifts, and as people living in America, we can easily grow accustomed to “stuff” and expecting “stuff” as primary at Christmastime. As a child, I can remember feeling depressed when December 26 rolled around, wishing that I could relive Christmas morning again, where I’d receive new gifts! While gift giving/receiving isn’t sinful in itself, we can place unhealthy priorities and expectations on it. Of course, as parents, we love to see our children delighted by the thoughtful gifts we sought out, but we don’t want them to see Christmas as merely a time to gain more stuff. One gift idea is to use the “three gift rule,” following the tradition of the wise men’s gifts to Jesus. The mom in the “three gift rule” blog talks about the correlation between the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and the gifts she chooses for her kids. Others prefer to simplify the giving with the “four gift rule.” Whichever system you find, whether its one of these or something else, remember that getting millions of gifts can promote materialism. Also, if kids (or adults!) live with the expectation of receiving as being primary, then the other elements of the Christmas season (Christian traditions that focus on celebrating Christ’s birth, serving those in need, worshipping with other believers, giving gifts to orphanages, etc.) will not be exciting, special, or important to them. I definitely don’t want to be a scrooge about gift giving and I don’t think it’s sinful! BUT I want to be intentional about what our family Christmas traditions teach my daughter, and giving/receiving is a big part of that!

So, all that to say, have fun planning how to intentionally keep Christ in every aspect of your Christmas traditions and celebrations. Don’t stress amidst the busiest season of the year and the other elements that culture throws at us during the season. Yes, there are parties and gifts and casseroles and teacher gifts and Christmas programs and tree lightings and tree buying, etc. (ok, you get the point), but with a little intentionality in planning, you don’t have to live completely overwhelmed and stressed during the Christmas season. Don’t overspend (that causes stress!). Pause to rest and remember the true meaning of Christmas amidst all the hustle and bustle. Be aware of the legacy you’re leaving for your kiddos. Allow the story of Christ permeate every single thing you do during Christmas - the decorating, shopping, cooking, singing, celebrating, etc. What do you want your children to remember and learn from the years that they celebrate Christmas in your home?? 

(And in the Christmas planning process .don’t gloss over Thanksgiving, either! J)

Merry Christmas in 12ish Sundays! J

Always, Jacquelyn

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