Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Evaluating Christmas

This weekend I acquired a virus that has had me down for a couple of days. Since I'm still feeling puny, I thought it would be a good time to repost a series on Advent. Now is the time to start thinking about how you want to spend Christmas 2010.

Photo Credit: Scott Schram

I really don't need to say it. We all know that Christmas has gotten WAY out of hand. The marketing campaign is launched long before November even arrives with store displays, flyers, and pre-holiday sales. And if you can wait until the day after Thanksgiving, you can even shop one of the busiest days of the year! Oh, joy.

Doesn't all the hoopla just make you think of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross all season long? No? Of course not. It makes me think of bills, busted budgets, unnecessary purchases, busy schedules, on and on and on....

So if we all know it, why do we keep doing it? Why do we stay on the band wagon of consumerism when it is suppose to be a season of worshiping, remembering, and celebrating? What is it that we are afraid of?

I believe that merchants and retailers would have us believe that the celebrating aspect is the most important part of Christmas. As if they are saying "It's okay to celebrate. Celebrate more! It will create more memories! Just buy more for little Suzie or Johnny. You don't want to be a grinch or scrooge and do less! Make it a party! Indulge!" And so on and so on....

Truthfully, in ten years our kids will remember making cookies all afternoon and getting to use all the sprinkles they wanted more than what they unwrapped on Christmas Day in 2009. Sure there is the exception. That one, long desired and sought after item such as a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle. It isn't the number of gifts or the cost of the gift that tugs at a child's heart. It's the imagination! What one can be or become if he has that special toy that has been elusive for so long. But overall, they won't remember most of the stuff. They'll remember the love. The togetherness. The laughter. The goofy. The serious. The magic of lights.

It's up to us to break the cycle of consumerism and establish new territory. Scary, I know. But somebody's got to do it. Why not be a pioneer? A Christmas pioneer! Forge new territory. Take a risk. Set out on a new path. Face the challenge. Make the decision today that in at least one way, you will make this Christmas different than the last by stopping the consumerism. (And let me make it clear, that while I'm a capitalist, Christmas is about worship).

How To Re-evaluate Christmas

1. Get your spouse on board. Share your heart and be willing to compromise. It might not come as passionately to all the members of your family, especially if you have a spouse who is like a grown up kid at Christmas! Don't get frustrated, just ask that the family consider making one change this Christmas and see how everyone likes it.

2. Evaluate your Christmas values together as a family. Do not skip this step! If you do, you'll likely miss what is really important to your family. Be sure to ask questions such as:
• What is the most important thing that you want your family to do to in order to truly  celebrate Christ's birth?  What is hindering you from celebrating?
What puts a damper on the season?
What truly gives you satisfaction at Christmas time?
When do you feel you've worshiped the most during past Christmases?
What traditions meant the most to you as a child?
What current activities do you have that your children will call traditions?
Are these the traditions you want for your family?
What is missing that you feel needs to be included?
What do you wish you could eliminate this year if you knew it wouldn't hurt anyone's  feelings?
If there is a family obligation that cannot be eliminated, how can you interject something  into the situation that would make it better for everyone?

3. Pray. Based on your evaluation, you will start to camp out on something that you know in your heart needs to be changed. It might be the most difficult thing on your list, but it's bugging you the most. Ask God if this is the thing that you need to change this year. And if it's not this, then ask Him to show you what He would have you do.

4. Form a plan. After you've spent some time in prayer, start planning how you will implement your new priority. This, too, will require prayer! Most likely, something will need to be eliminated in order to add something in. How will you handle that? How will you notify family? How can you make it sound as positive as it really is? Think this through carefully.

5. Schedule it if necessary. Put it on the calendar. If it's baking cookies, set aside a day to gather supplies and another day to do the activity. If it's building an outdoor nativity together, block off a weekend.

6. Contact those it affects. Family pow-wow. A phone call. Email. Whatever it is, don't wait until too late or you might have hard feelings. People need time to adjust to new things. This doesn't mean they are rejecting your idea, they just need time to get use to it. If it involves less gifts, it is courteous to notify family in advance, before purchases are made. And if it requires a change in family plans, this is a must!

7. Re-evaluate after Christmas. This is highly important!
Did it meet your expectations?
Did if flop?
Was it awkward?
Was it a hit?
Who loved it and who didn't? Why?
Was it just 'new' and needs to be tried again next year?
What changes would make it better?
Would you do it again?
What would you like to add next year?

8.  Write it down. I keep a Christmas notebook so that I will remember things from year to year. While you may remember the wonderful time you had, you may forget the details that made it so successful. Be sure to include notes for changes next year.

9. Follow up and thank family. Be sure to express your gratitude for those who had to be flexible. Let them know how your family was blessed by the changes and find out if they were pleased as well.

10. Begin thinking of next year. Be in prayer and open to the Holy Spirit for how you can continue to make changes each year. Your family will grow and change and your activities each year will need to adjust as well. As children grow and get married, their spouses will come with traditions of their own. Working in a spirit of love and developing communication now will lay a foundation for working with new members in years to come.

If you haven't figured out by now, a worshipful and meaningful Christmas is one of my passions. I'm hoping to release my first eBook entitled A Simple Christmas sometime in the next month. I'd appreciate your prayers as I tackle this project. And be sure to share some of your stories of changes you've made in the comments section. We all need encouragement to do this thing!


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