With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Christmas season in America has officially started. Shoppers are expected to spend an average of $983 each, up 3% from last year. But while the economy is strong and consumers are optimistic, the headlines of the stories below remind us that life is as fragile as it is precious.
What matters most are relationships.
- Shoppers were evacuated from a mall in New York yesterday after reports of a shooting.
- A man entered a Costco in Kansas waving a weapon Sunday morning; an off-duty police officer shot and killed him.
- More than 300 worshipers died when their Egyptian mosque was attacked by terrorists.
- Searchers are still looking for an Argentine submarine that went missing 11 days ago; it had only a seven-day supply of oxygen when it reported its last position.
For those who follow me on Facebook, you might have seen that I was in Savannah, Georgia, for Thanksgiving to celebrate Allison’s cousin’s wedding. Allison and her cousin are only six days apart in age and grew up together. Relationships are the greatest gifts — we would not have missed the wedding for anything.
I have shared with you over the last several years that I find Christmas difficult, for several reasons. The big one has to do with the tension between the consumerist / commercialization of Christmas and the true meaning of Christmas — Jesus’ birthday. I find myself torn between my desire to give gifts because I love seeing the excitement and surprise on my children’s faces as they open their gifts, and my desire to teach them what matters most at Christmas is Jesus’ birth and the relationship Jesus offers to us.
So I carry this tension of feeling that Christmas is about embracing the most important relationship of all — Jesus, and wondering if my spending and giving reflect Jesus as number 1. This has been gnawing at me for years now.
I share this struggle with you – and offer a few ways I am trying to address it with my family – not because we are perfect and have figured it out, but in the hopes that if you, too, are feeling this kind of tension, you might find it helpful.
As a family we have done a couple of things:
- Equal portion:
Whatever we spend on our family, we give the same amount to the church as a birthday gift to Jesus. For example: If I plan to spend $500 on Christmas this year, then I also plan to give an extra $500 to the church to honor Jesus’ birth.
- The example of the wiseman:
The wiseman brought Jesus’ three gifts. So in order to simplify and be more intentional, we give our children 3 gifts each (a book, a toy and an adventure).
- It is about relationships:
We now give an “adventure.” I have felt a deep pull in my soul to find ways to give relational gifts, adventures, time with my kids doing something new, different and intentional to build a memory. I want the gift to last.
These are just a few of the things we do. What are you doing? How are you overcoming the struggle? If you have figured it out, email me or send me a note. I would love to know how you honor Jesus’ birthday each year with your family.
Advent is here, the waiting is in full swing. I look forward to sharing the journey together, to being in the struggle together, and to celebrate together again this Christmas the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday as continue our new sermon series, Faithful!