I remember as a child the days after Halloween were spent planning and preparing for the big family feast. You didn’t see any Christmas decorations or ads until the week or day of Thanksgiving. But in recent years, it seems like we almost skip Thanksgiving—Christmas decorations or ads are everywhere.
This year, before Halloween I saw stores already putting out Christmas decorations. Don’t get me wrong; Christmas is one of the greatest of days. Yet, instead of finding joy, we are finding ourselves feeling Spent.
I shared with you the tensions I feel as a parent and as a Christian. I want make sure the giving of material gifts doesn’t overshadow the greatest gift of all: love made human, the gift of Jesus. How can I, we, keep Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’ Birthday?
Jen Hatmaker wrote a post on her blog that has challenged my family as we struggle to figure out how best to do this.
Borrowing from the Advent Conspiracy movement, I like these four principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. How is it possible to spend less and give more? I wonder also… It is by giving of our time, our attention, and ourselves. The most powerful, memorable gift we can give to someone else is ourselves. No one modeled this more than Jesus.
I shared these four principles in my sermon last week of how we might have a more meaningful Christmas and find the true joy. Here are some ways you might apply them:
- Do a family Advent study as a whole family (Worshiping fully), and try to be in worship all 4 weeks of Advent.
- Spend Less on material gifts or on things which they probably won’t even remember in a year. Jen Hatmaker shared in her blog their “gift-giving policy for each kid: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, something to give."
- Give More – Give gifts that are relational: give the gift of a dad-and-kids campout, family day trip, or other adventures, which help create memories.
- Love All – Using the freed up resources, find ways to love as Jesus loves. By giving gifts to those who need God’s love to break the cycles of poverty and despair. You can do this through our Christmas Miracle offering which goes to support our ZOE orphans and United Methodist Cooperative Mission (help start new churches, provide life change and life saving emergency services both locally and globally, and support our local mission partners).
Christmas all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love for your neighbor. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. Allison and I are still struggling with it. We haven’t figured it all out, but we hope you will join us in striving to find the best way to live out our faith and to pass that faith on to our children. I hope you will join our family and others in Worshiping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More and Loving All so that Jesus' birthday might be a day in which the young, the hungry, the broken, the hopeless, and the hurting might receive the true miracle of God’s love and compassion made real. Let’s celebrate Jesus' birthday by honoring him with our gifts and compassion for his honor and glory.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday as we start our Advent Series, "Not a Silent Night." In this new series, we will look at the story of Jesus from Mary’s point of view—proud of her son, in awe of his gifts and mission, guided by love for him as a person and so much more.