By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer
I love this time of year for so many reasons. It’s festive and fun with plenty of excitement and merriment. But it’s also tricky. Cultural values stand at a contrast with godly goals.
As a parent, I wonder, “How do I guide my children towards joy, truth and gratitude for what Christ did at a time when the temptation to turn to idolatry, selfishness and materialism is so great?”
As a woman I wonder, “How do I remove myself from the chaos of events and obligations to truly rediscover awe in God’s magnificent gift at the time when they are most profuse?”
For us, this has meant a lot of intentionality.
There have been several changes we’ve made as a family over the years to foster a Christ-centered not stuff-centered Christmas. Here are a few to get you thinking.
How We Set Our Hearts on Christ at Christmastime
Do an advent activity
I am SO excited this year to be doing Truth in Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands for the first time! It looks absolutely wonderful.
For each day in December, my children and I will look up a Bible verse, make a simple ornament and discuss the coming of Jesus. It’s all laid out so simply in this amazing ebook, available for instant download here. If you’re not doing something else to celebrate the advent of Christmas with your children, I would encourage you to check out this one.
Don’t break the bank on Christmas gifts
All the mindless consumerism just doesn’t measure up to a meaningful Christmas experience. So, we’ve chosen to pare our gift-giving way back over the past years.
Instead of spending x amount of dollars on every aunt, cousin, sister, and son at Christmas, we make gifts unless we have something very specific to buy that we KNOW the other person will love.
Last year I made felt flower wreaths. This year I’m making and canning apple butter. Not only do these things cost less, but ultimately they probably show love better than something off the shelf. They represent our time, effort and care.
Overall, we simply don’t want gifts to be our focus or that of our children. Matthew 6:24 Jesus says we cannot love and serve both God and money. It’s one or the other. Yet many of us have decided that we can, in fact love both, especially round about Christmastime. Don’t do it!
For our family, we want gifts to be appreciated, not expected. We want to show love to those who receive our gifts, and we know this does not have to equate with dollars spent (despite what our culture may tell us).
So we go light on presents and keep them as personal and relational as possible.
Love the Poor
Are we not celebrating Jesus? Did He not champion and love the poor? Was He not born into lowly conditions on the very night we are acknowledging?
We are. He did. He was.
Over the past several years, my church has participated in a movement called Advent Conspiracy. One component of this movement is to reclaim Christmas by giving sacrificially to the poor around the world, specifically through organizations like Living Water International (drilling clean water wells) and the International Justice Mission (freeing slaves). My family has enveloped giving to organizations such as these into our Christmas tradition, and it has deeply impacted each of us.
What a profound eye-opener it has been for us to compare our first-world selfishness to the third-world plight of others at a time of year when our wish-lists are long.
If you’d like to learn more about Advent Conspiracy, check out my blog series on the topic here or their website at www.adventconspiracy.org.