I should be making Christmas cookies right now. That was on *my* agenda today, at least. But I think the Lord had other things in mind for a little while.
You know how easy it is to look at one website, that's linked to another article, that links to a blog post and then a video and before you know it you've been sitting in front of the computer for over an hour? That happens to me often, but in this case for good reasons. I ran into a series of blogs and websites that was one confirmation after another about some changes in direction I feel God might be leading our family when it comes to traditions, Christmas, and the way we raise our kids.
To visit and be challenged by the blog posts also, click the links here:
Thinking about whose birthday it really is
Ten Things to Do at Christmas when all the Gifts are for Him
The Great Give-Away
and make sure you watch the video here:
(Not very "Christmasey", I know... but it really is the heart of WHY we celebrate Christmas.)
My heart has been changing every so subtly but profoundly over these past few months on our journey with little Judah. I am discovering more each day that God's heart for children is evident and ingrained in the hearts of mothers. My (and Jonathan's) desire is not just to make our kids happy, but to lead and train them gently and consistently "in the way he should go, so when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
Easier said then done, that's for sure.
However, it is SO easy, and as I so often do, to get wrapped up in our cultures expectations and traditions. Especially during Christmas.
The list is long:
- Buy the presents
- Send the cards
- Make the cookies
- Listen to the music
- Throw the parties
- Watch the movies
- Decorate the house...
And then come January:
- Recover from the colds
- Get back on the treadmill
- Be exhausted and worn out (and just glad its over)
- Tremble with fear to look at your bank account/credit card...
Now I know that's not always the case every time. I certainly enjoy the opportunities to give people gifts and see friends and family and all the pretty decorations. But I think it is so easy to go overboard and totally overlook the whole reason we celebrate. WHY do we do what we do at Christmas time? Guilt? Because everyone does it? Because it's fun? Is that all there is to it?
Yes, we have an occasional thought in our mind, "Jesus is the reason for the season", and we are reminded at Christmas Eve Service of the nativity and His birth...
But does it stop there or continue in your home and with your family traditions?
Is it engraved and entwined with every cookie you bake and story you read your children?
Are our children going to remember Christmas as a divine opportunity to share Christ, celebrate God's greatest gift and sacrifice, and share these precious moments with our closest family and friends... Are our Christmas traditions reflecting ETERNITY and HOPE? Things that will last through the ages, long after we are gone? Or is it destined to be just another "happy" memory twenty years from now?
(Not to say that creating happy and joyful memories for our kids are a bad thing... "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" - Matthew 7:9-11)
And what about the poor and needy, the orphans and widows, the homeless and broken-hearted, the lonely and forgotten...? How do we respond to them especially during this time?
Side Note: Has anyone ever had the thought "why do we give money/gift cards to each other? It's just exchanging money between hands... no one really 'gains' anything except the thought that it was a nice gesture."
What about giving something that others can not give themselves (our time, abilities/talents, our conversation and words, our helping hands and feet, our creativity)? What about giving to those who can not return the favor... who won't/can't even say thank you? Could our gifts become more meaningful than exchanging cash in a Christmas card... are we giving just because that's what is expected? What about those who expect nothing, who have nothing, who have no hope, or who have no voice to ask?
Can we take all that Christmas has become, and turn it into a grand opportunity to reach out to those who desperately need not only the basics in life: food, shelter, care, and love... but the greatest gift of all: the gift of eternal life through Jesus??
How, then, can we practically instill that into our children in creative and meaningful ways? How can we create traditions that are more meaningful than just an exchange of monetary gifts? This is what is changing in my heart. I love to give gifts- it is one of my primary ways of expressing my love for others... however, it is important to me that these gifts are seasoned with eternal things that bring glory to God and point to Christ.