I've been reflecting a lot on the Christmas season. Not all of my new friends are Christian, and I've been sensitive already about thinking that this season is just for those of us who worship Christ. The holy-days are sacred to us in many ways...a time of rest, a time to focus on peace, a time for family. Our worship will take different forms, and that is a gift. I want to be more intentional in the forms that my worship takes. Am I worshipping the culture's ideal of consumerism? Am I turning Jesus' birthday into an event that alienates others? There have been many articles posted lately that I have agreed with:
But with two young kids at home, one of which took a preschool field trip to visit Santa Claus, I have a lot to struggle with. I understand the need to limit my own consumerism, the benefits of buying locally, and the necessity of buying well made imaginative toys instead of cheap (and often toxic) foreign made plastic (crap).
This was the result this year:
It's an EPIC FAIL to my standards, yet my kids will be delighted. I rationalize that it is not all from us; we have a $100 spending limit for both kids total, which is one gift for each, and some books and stocking stuffers. The rest is from the grandparents, who ask us to purchase on their behalf. This year, I was "too busy" to think, and it was much easier to shop. The kids will get their wish, and we can rest easy. I have to say that it was a joy seeing Brady unwrap his first gift at a family event this weekend and jump up and down, shouting, "Yes! This is just what I wanted!!" On the other hand, my proudest moments this season were when Brady asked, "If it's Jesus' birthday, why do we get presents?" and his joy and excitement of wrapping up his new gift he received at church to give to his daddy. They have been enjoying our new Jesse tree and devotional tradition and have been playing "Baby Jesus", both acting out the story in real life and with our nativity set. We chose not to visit Santa today (especially after Brady saw him at school on Friday and told him that he wanted a basketball, of all things...news to us) and instead spent a quiet family day at home. We will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrating at church services.
And yet, I feel I have a long way to go. I've grown weary of strangers (and family members) asking the kids if they've been good and wondering what Santa will bring them. Although I also use Santa as a tool, and we threaten to call him daily unless behavior improves. I'm frustrated by commercials geared to my young ones...and the ones that I buy into as well (how much joy would an iPad 2 bring me?) As a friend commented on Facebook, I too, struggle with the competing desires to live a simple, but meaningful life, yet also wanting all the fancy goods that are advertised.
It's not easy, but worthwhile ideals never are. I want my kids to be excited about the REAL Christmas story...which means I must be, too. I want to be prepared for Christmas, which is more about the state of my heart than the state of presents under the tree. I want to focus on giving, so I need to be better of giving of myself, my resources, my time...and to not do it grudgingly. My goal for next year is to focus on the gift of giving to others with the kids by having them shop for those in need (other than our usual shoebox gifts) and to buy presents for each other (because I know that they truly enjoy this when we give them the opportunity). I want to be a better example for my children, so I must start now. Advent is a time of waiting, of expecting, of light coming from darkness. What a wonderful gift, one that I can receive and learn to give.