Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me Matt. 25:40
It’s that time of the year when America seems to do an odd thing. We develop a split personality. We fuss and stress and go way overboard spending money on truly unnecessary gifts that often go unappreciated. We give more to charities than at other times of the year, we smile, we are willing to be patient and kind to perfect strangers.
Which way do you want to be?
December has become my favorite time of year because we have worked very hard to make Christmas meaningful. We deliberately cut out everything that was stressful and didn’t bring our family together. We try each year to do as many of the things we find wonderful as we have energy for- and then let the rest slide right on by without any feelings of guilt.
This is what we do to Christmas meaningful. I can imagine that the list would be different for every family.
MUSIC – Several of us play together in a Messiah Orchestra – that’s one of my favorites. There are Christmas Parades where we cheer our children as they march with their school bands. There are school concerts and recitals. I pull down my Mountain Dulcimers (these were custom made by Ron Ewing) and play Christmas music in the evenings. Sometimes we host a neighborhood caroling party – firepit blazing in the cul-du-sac, hot chocolate, and of course singing. It can be pretty rag-tag but we enjoy it.
NATIVITIES – We wait to set up our own collection of nativity sets so that they can first be displayed at the Apex Nativity Celebration. As a gift to the community our church spends a week setting up hundreds of nativity sets from around the world. For three days Thu/Fri/Sat the 10th/11th/12th there is live music (that’s where we get to play the Messiah for a sing-along) and a beautiful reminder of the precious gift we are celebrating. Once our own nativity sets (we have lots) are up in the house, three of our wise men go on a journey day by day. The kids have to find where they are each morning.
GIFTS – Each of the children pull a name from the “Angel Tree” at their school and the kids help me do the shopping for a child in need. I make sure they know we are spending more money on others than we are spending on them. They learn that we are very blessed materially and there are others who have much, much less. Our children receive one gift each, after all it’s not their birthday. We are celebrating Christ’s birthday. What is the best gift we can give him? To love and serve others.
Some years they buy or make gifts for each other but we don’t stress about it. Among extended family members sometimes we trade names, sometimes we don’t exchange gifts at all. We are all very far away from each other so we make sure to call and spend time talking together. Some years (my favorite!) we choose a common childhood memory and each write out version of it.
MAKING THINGS – We love gingerbread houses made out of graham crackers (because baking gingerbread is one step too many for me these days.) We cut out lots of paper snowflakes (come back on the 6th for a Christmas tutorial – a fun variation on this theme.) Sometimes we bake. Sometimes we decorate. Often our decorating looks like this. No matter. There are more important things to fuss about and with young children about there isn’t time for perfection.
Tell me how you choose to spend this season?