Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Deliberate Christmas

I think we can all agree that simple is often more meaningful. It takes a lot of effort to make Christmas simple initially, especially if your family is used to something else.  Thankfully, over time the simpleness becomes what your family expects and longs for.  And it feels oh so very nice.

Many of us genuinely want Christ to be at the center of Christmas.  If we threw out all the traditions that don't point us to Christ...what would we have left?  Which traditions help us focus on Him and which ones draw our attention away?  For each person, it's different.  If when you buy gifts for others, you're thinking about God's gift of Christ to us and the desire to show love to others does it feel different than if we're just focused on checking things off our shopping list?  Would we shop differently? Would buy for different people?  And spend less? Or more?

It can be so complicated when it really should be the simplest thing.  In my opinion, Christmas should be about thanking God for sending His Son, Jesus, and honoring Him by letting His love for us flow out in sacrificial and powerful ways to others.  In some ways I hope that each of us feels the tension of what our culture/tradition says Christmas should look like and what we know it should be. May we strive each year to bring it closer to that which our hearts are longing for- a turning toward Him.

Over the last few years, we've been changing and simplifying the way we prepare for and celebrate the season. Here are some of the changes we've made.

Decorating:  We set up the Nativity, decorate a tree, hang stockings, put a wreath on our door and hang some white lights.  That is all.  Less rearranging, less storing, less money spent.  And we decorate right after Thanksgiving so we can enjoy the decorations all month.  Sometimes, we indulge in a handicraft or two but we try to keep from having to buy supplies.  Here's one using discarded magazines/catalogs and we always cut snowflakes for our windows.

Shopping:  Both of our extended families do gift exchanges so there are gifts to buy or make.  I try the best I can to have the purchased ones in hand before December (and the beginning of Advent) so I'm not focusing on buying gifts when I want to be centering my mind and heart on Christ in a way that isn't connected to things.

Family Devotions: Each night before heading to bed, our family reads Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. It's an Advent devotional that suits our children well right now- it challenges those of us who are older and draws the younger ones in with beautiful illustrations and simple messages.  It's worth the effort to end each day with this kind of focus- bringing our minds back to Advent and Christ before closing our day.

Each year, we're adding a new piece.  They look fragile but are made of hard plastic so even littles can enjoy them. Sam built the manger.

Christmas Dinner: We often travel for Christmas but before we leave, we set aside an evening to have our own special Christmas meal.  This gives us something to look forward to those years we are at home without extended family.  We do fondue (take a peek) for our meal- the prep is mostly chopping which makes for a much more do-able and less stressful meal prep for me than a traditional meal.  And the kids think it's so much fun because it's different.

Stockings/Gifts:  Each child gets a few (usually three) gifts to unwrap and a stocking to open. Their stockings hold mostly practical items (chapstick, a smencil or two, a new toothbrush) and a few fun things (gum, a couple chocolates, etc.).  Because our kids are showered with gifts from extended family, we try to keep our gift opening simple and brief.  We don't want it to be the main focus of the season.

Events:  There are so many this time of year!  Parties!  Caroling!  Cookie making!  Concerts! Nativity walk- throughs!  Ballets! Work parties! Church Christmas plays!  Hymn sings!  The list goes on and on.  There's nothing wrong with each event by itself but if you get sucked in to thinking you need to participate in everything to provide your kids with the proper Christmas experience, you might end up with a bunch of tired, cranky, hyped-up-on-sugar family members who do NOT feel the true Christmas Spirit.  We choose a couple to attend each year and that. is. it.  We would much rather find ourselves at home most evenings- warm, properly nourished and in bed on time.

Giving:  Each year as a family we decide how to give an extra monetary gift to a charity that we find meaningful.  Our kids use their allowance (they determine the amount) toward this type of giving instead of buying gifts for each other.  We also keep our ears and eyes open to other ways we can give- gifts for local families, taking plates of food to neighbor shut-ins, etc.

As much as we can, we try to focus our family outward and upward instead of inward.  We don't want to find ourselves on the other side of the Christmas season wondering, "What was the point of all that?"  We want to feel joyful, hopeful and ready to find ways to share God's love in the new year.

In what ways is your family deliberate about Christmas? Pin It


  1. I love love love your evening advent devotional idea. It makes me wish my kiddos were little again so we could do that too (in the setting of youth etc.)

  2. The stockings are beautiful. Do I detect one for Mr. Turk? :)
    Speaking of...our family pets can teach us a lot about enjoying life's simple joys. They are all about the squirrel, the belly rub, the nap-the things that give their life meaning! Loved this post and how you are deliberate about what you want your family's life to be.

    1. Ah, no. That picture was taken last year and the extra stocking was our foster boys' :-).


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