Once again, I've debated sharing a personal journey. Mike has reminded me that this is a family journal. That those things that are important to our family journey should be recorded. Please understand we offer you a personal glimpse into our family life, but we write not to brag nor to convince you that you should do what we do. We would NEVER expect God to move your family to the exact same path on which He has moved our family. This is significant to our family history.
It was destined to happen this year. The older four kids live on a different continent. This led to a season of reflection as Christmas approached. I was asked to speak about, "Keeping Christ in Christmas," for December's MOPS. Melinda asked a question that kept us evaluating HOW we invited the birthday Boy to His party. The second week in Advent we watched Veggie Tales' "St Nicholas." The message of Matthew West and Amy Grant in the song, "Give this Christmas Away," rang in our hearts and minds. This has been our transition year.
In past years I've shared why we Celebrate Christmas and our thoughts on Giving. Years ago we wrestled our budget into agreement with our theology. Christmas is about Christ and about celebrating HIS coming into our lives. We only budget $50 per child for Christmas. Their birthdays are when we celebrate THEM coming into our lives and we spend significantly more on their birthdays. We haven't been overly materialistic in our celebrations. We've given far more away each year than we've spent on family gifts. We DO, however, want to encourage the children to give to those nearest to them, as well as to needs outside our family.
Yet, this year, the three older members in our home felt increasingly uneasy with the focus of Christmas around us. We WANT to celebrate Christ on Christmas, as we do all year. Our giving wasn't out of control. BUT the focus of the world around us is certainly on giving.
We may have noticed this more as Christmas has been imported to Japan without the meaning of Christmas. We wanted Christmas to be only about Jesus and celebrating Him. We prayed. We talked. We prayed some more. We realized God had graciously given us a transition year for our younger set. It was a NATURAL year to go with our heart. It was o.k. to save gifts for when the older ones got here. We'd still have a family gift exchange, but Christmas would be for celebrating Jesus' birthday. We'll separate the two events. I'm not sure when we'll settle on a family gift exchange next year....maybe St. Nick's Day, maybe we'll go Japanese and exchange family gifts on New Years....but we'll keep Christmas set aside for a celebration of Christ. Unless, of course, He moves us on to something new in the future.
I shared earlier about preparing God Gestates, my MOPS talk. After I finished my notes, I went to read Ann's entry on her blog. She shared how her family gives gifts to Jesus. We've had a Jesus Stocking for a couple of years, but it seemed a bit abstract for the younger ones to fully grasp. This new idea helped everything to click. We'd given spiritual gifts to Jesus for years: forgiveness, spiritual disciplines and commitments, acts of kindness....We've done Operation Christmas Child, groceries for families, Operation Immanuel....but here was a way to get the kids involved in giving though we were far away from shoebox collection centers and nativities we could give away.
You may have noted our Christmas day looked a lot like a birthday celebration. It was. You may have noted there were no photos of children with piles of wrapping paper, and that I was strangely silent about how the gift giving session went. We did have gifts at our party, but they were gifts for Jesus and not for us.
In addition to whatever personal, internal, gifts each gave to Jesus, we printed catalogs from Samaritan's Purse, Gospel for Asia, Harvest of Hope and Compassion International. We each had a daily budget. We could save up for a bigger item, or go together on items. We had fun thumbing through our notebook and talking about where each of us personally wanted to give. This certainly gave the kids a better idea of the needs around the world.
We had hoped to be able to give a Water Buffalo away. We'll need to plan better to pull that off. This year we gave milk for an orphanage, formula for a refugee camp, fruit trees, milk for a child for a week, lambs, goats, eggs, chickens, a cow, a pig, a set of bunnies, mosquito nets, vegetable seeds, a bio sand water filter for a family, part of a fishing boat, sports gear, education and gospel literature.
Christmas Day itself felt a bit clunky, as we haven't established "traditions". There were things I loved about the change. There were things I'm sure we'll tweak. For our family we feel like it is simply the next step in our Christmas Journey....we're always open each year to new ways of celebrating Christ.
The best thing about this year....at the end of the year their hasn't been a let down after the gifts are opened. The talk has been about what we can continue to give year round as we celebrate our Savior and Messiah.
Living all of life before the face of God...