For those of you who desire to celebrate Christmas, rather than just a 'happy holiday season' but who honestly have to admit that they struggle in creating a truly Christ-centered family experience, I can relate. This year, my mother in law was flat on her back, truly sick with what turned out to be pneumonia. She wasn't able to do any of her normal shopping and preparations. I, on the other hand, was, like most people, working everyday, then out shopping till I was dropping into my bed late at night, packing boxes to mail out here and there, wrapping gifts, and overwhelmed with all I had hoped to accomplish for those I love here at home. Though our experiences were so different, when our family all finally got together at my home on Christmas Eve to celebrate and exchange our gifts, we found that she and I had amazingly been 'receiving' pretty much the same message from the Lord concerning this 'time of year' that Christians have chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Bible doesn't dictate that we celebrate it, but since it is truly a world changing event - according to Christian Doctrine: God sending his only son, coming in the flesh! The one 33 years later sent to offer himself up as the ransom necessary for all, from the punishment of sins - suffering and dying in their place! Literally born - to die! Sounds worthy of celebration to me! Anyway, too often we allow the high pressured commercialism of our culture to busy us so, and distract us from that which we truly want to have as our central focus. Not to say that our hearts are not ALWAYS in adoration of our God and Savior...but even though we had attended a special church service and having a pretty substantial Nativity Scene on my hutch, I'm just sayin'...it didn't seem like quite enough when we gathered on that night!
The basic message of comfort that my mother in law received as she lay in her bed, sick, frustrated and distraught, was, "Simplify, it's okay." This registered positively with her and with us, as a 'back to basics' Christmas is what she has longed for, for quite some time. I too, kept hearing, "Simplify, simplify." She bought a honey baked ham for both of her son's families, and left it at that, which we all appreciated very much. We all shared ideas about how 'simplifying' could 'happen' next year. Some thought we should give up gift giving (except for the children) entirely. My husband thought that picking one name out of a hat, and giving one $25.00 gift card could simplify things for everyone, we all agreed. (No one knows who chose their name until gift exchange time when they opened their cards that night.) For those in our family who were gathered that night, we could do this. Even if we drew names in June or July, and then put aside around $4.00 a month, all would be able to purchase one gift card to exchange, with ease. After all, Christmas shows us that God so loved the world that he GAVE. In exchanging some type of gift, we are following his love-language example to one another, and gift cards could ease up the pressures of shopping for that special gift for each. Most importantly though, we decided that our gift giving time will only be part of our event next year, not the central focus. Each year, someone will be responsible for helping us all, in some creative way, whether through song(s), a reading, possibly a skit, or a movie...any creative avenue that will help us to focus our hearts and attention on Christ, as a family. We are looking forward to this new 'central focus' for our Christmas gathering, next year.
My sister's family and ours gathered the Sunday before Christmas. The adults were not to buy gifts for one another, but we did agree to enjoy a 'white elephant' gift exchange this year. We all chose something, either from our house that we didn't need anymore, something useful, old, or even whacky! If new, it was to be very inexpensive. Each wrapped their gift and brought it with them, and placed it on a central table in the room we gathered in. Names were put in a bowl, and drawn by the two oldest guests. All watched as one was opened, drawing either, oohs, aahs, or laughs! The next one could take it from them, or choose one from the table. The gag gift recipient has vowed that, "it will return - next year!" (Google white elephant gift exchange for different ways that it can be played.) We had a great time! I couldn't help myself, however, I did have a small 'participation gift' for each who played, (Christmas dish towels for ladies, and two (very)small bottles of Crew body wash for guys.) My sister was ready for my usual breaking of the No Gift Giving Rule, and whipped out a $20.00 Kohl's gift card for me! It was all a lot of fun! Next year, since some are musically inclined in that group, I will be suggesting that we prepare ahead, some worshipful Christmas songs to play and sing to wrap up our time together, next year.
Would love to hear how you 'simplify' and give Christ his rightful place in your family's 'Christmas' event, and any other ideas that can be of help.