Continuing in our Advent theme, I really want to address simplifying Christmas. Did I just hear everyone exhale a deep, wishful sigh? It's doesn't have to be an elusive dream. You can make the holidays simpler. They may not be the storybook vision of yesteryear, but it can be an improvement of the current rat race that we all find ourselves on at some point.
1. Some improvement is better than no improvement. If I make some changes each year, then in a few years I may actually succeed in my ultimate vision of what it means to celebrate a simple, worshipful Christmas.
2. Traditions take time to establish. I can't rush changes. I must work with others in my family to carefully select new practices at Christmas that will fit our entire family and give everyone time to adjust to new ideas regarding simplifying.
3. Prioritize my desires. Since I won't be trying to achieve everything the first Christmas that I make changes, I need to concentrate on that which is most important to me and my family. I'll have everyone make a list of what they want to do in order to celebrate each holiday season and go back and put them in order by priority. From this, I'll make a family list to work toward making some kind of change each year.
4. Rethink gift giving. When giving gifts becomes a burden and not a joy, something is out of whack. God loves a cheerful giver (II Cor. 9:7), not one giving out of compulsion. And all that stuff! I'd rather see my kids receive one special gift than means a lot to them; something that will grow them as a person. Not necessarily something expensive either. If we are trying to emulate Christ, then we will give to others out of love based on their need. Isn't that what He did for us? The greatest gift I can give my kids this year is the gift of teaching them to give to those less fortunate and in real need.
5. Give the gift of time. I want our activities during the season to actually bring us together as a family. That means less parties where we exchange a gift and more caroling, playing games, reading a Christmas story together, playing in the snow, etc.
6. Worship Fully. I want to be sure that our season includes plenty of opportunities to really worship God and adore Christ. This might mean selecting a live nativity over the latest Christmas movie at the theater. And we always attend Sunday advent services, making it a big exciting party for our family. Devotions for the month will center on Christ's birth in some way and music in the car will mainly be 'Christian' as opposed to 'pop' or just traditional Christmas songs (we will sing some of these as well, just not as much).
7. Give More to Others. Once again, we will work toward a goal of giving to others in physical need of life's most basic necessities; those who are in need of "needs" not "wants". Each year one of our biggest activities prior to the holidays is shopping for Operation Christmas Child Shoes Boxes. This is an opportunity for my little ones to actively practice giving on a level they understand. My goal is to add one form of giving each year, whether it be in the form of service or giving financially (in which case I will encourage the children to work to earn the money to give). In doing so, we will talk often of how we are giving to "the least of these" and thereby giving to Christ himself.