If you know me at all, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. Some would (and do!!!) call me a Scrooge. I love Christmas, I really do! I love getting cards and pictures, I love the lights, I love the time with family and friends, I love the memories. But if I’m going to be honest, Christmas stresses me out. About the middle of November, the apprehension builds. I get bogged down in the expectations and obligations; so much so that some years, I allow it to steal my joy.
Before you think that I had some awful childhood Christmas experience or that I judge you for following certain Christmas traditions, back up! I loved Christmas as a child and I love that in America, we can have the freedom to celebrate as we wish, so if you follow traditions that work for you and your family, charge on! Fully embrace them! It’s just that for me, and for my family, we find things differently.
Part of me longs for a simpler time. My husband teases me that I’ve been born in the wrong century, but I assure you, I love running water, electricity and appliances as much as the next person! I’m so, SO very thankful for them!
But when it comes to Christmas in 21st century America, it’s a bit over-the-top and overwhelming.
We wanted it to be different. Deeper. More meaningful.
But we really didn’t know what that meant, what that looked like practically. Sure, we are celebrating Jesus’ birth, but what does that mean in a tangible sense?
In 2006, my husband and I found our own family Christmas missing something. We put a lot of time and thought that year into how we wanted to move forward. We decided to bring more meaning to our Christmas morning.
We each receive 3 gifts, just like Jesus did; Gold (something valuable), Frankincense (was used in the temple – something to grow our relationship with God), and Myrrh (was used for anointing bodies – something for our body).
The children buy one gift for each family member. My man was highly skeptical (i.e. he thought it would be cheesy), but we were both surprised how well it worked! It was overwhelming to see the joy my children had in presenting the gifts they had chosen for each other and for us (and to hear the stories the came alongside the choosing!). My heart was overflowing in seeing how meaningful and thoughtful each gift was! Since then, it is fun to see how creative we can get with just 3 gifts. Each year we add more traditions to our Christmas morning. We revel in the atmosphere of love. It truly is my favorite time. Free of outside judgment or expectations. It has been amazing to see how my children grow in understanding each year.
Then, a few years later, our church participated in the Advent Conspiracy. The tagline is “Worship Fully. Spend Less. Give More. Love All.” We talked about giving presence instead of presents. My heart screamed out that this is what I wanted! However, my fear took over; I was afraid of what my friends and family (gulp) would think if I did things differently. I stayed safe; I targeted low-hanging fruit. I emailed a relative and we exchanged clean water in a third world country for our kids’ gifts. We gave my Grandma an evening of dinner and Wii fun with our family. But that was as far as it went. I was too afraid to voice what I was feeling and processing because I feared condemnation for “ruining” Christmas.
In the more than decade since this journey began, we’ve taken baby steps each year. I’m increasingly joyful about the traditions we’ve started and those we’ve left behind. Changing how we celebrate frees me up to worship more fully. After all, we are welcoming the Savior of the world! Is that message not reason enough to celebrate?!?
And so, I’ve made a profound realization: It isn’t that all these years I wanted Christmas to be less. Simpler doesn’t mean less.
All these years, I’ve wanted it to be enough.
I’ve wanted it to be more.
The birth of Jesus Christ is only the beginning. We know how the story ends; that he willingly sacrificed himself for us. For you. For me. When we didn’t deserve it, because of his great love for us so that we can be with him for all eternity!!!
Now that is cause for celebration!
If we truly, truly believe that…
…it is enough.
It is more!