Christmas Growing UpGrowing up, my family always spent Christmas with other families; aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins cousins, etc. Usually extended family of our extended family. On Christmas eve, the adults would indulge in their adult drinks, while the kids ran around and played. Dinner was not at a set time rather food was out for anyone to have at any time. Then, at about 11:30 PM, all the parents would gather the kids and force them to bed, or else Santa would not stop at midnight if he saw any children awake. We would all go to bed, and maybe some of the younger kids would fall asleep, but I remember plenty of times just pretending to be asleep until midnight. There always seemed to be so many kids, and sometimes we were forced to share a twin bed with three to four kids. Then the house would be silent, or as silent as our parents could be. We heard footsteps, and running around (very quietly) as things were shuffled around and whispering and giggling. Then, at midnight, the doors to our room would be swung open as our parents would yell out, "It's midnight! Santa made a stop!" Then all the kids would jump out of bed, pushing and shoving to get out the door and into the living room. Once in the living room, we would all admire the Christmas tree with all the gifts around. I remember being excited as we all took turns opening our gifts. After that, we were sent to bed again so that the adults could continue their partying. The next morning, Christmas day, was just as exciting for me because I got to play with my new gifts.
Christmas was one big party and a reason for the adults in my family to get together and drink, and to over-indulge in excessive and expensive gifts, aiming to please or impress the family member. Sadly, I grew up this way. And up to a couple of years ago, my husband and I were bringing up our kids the same way...well, almost. The drinking (though I do not drink anymore), the excessive gifts, the focus was all on us and catching up with the Jones'.
My Christmas LessonIn 2009, I met my Christian mentor, Lupe. She invited my family and I to her home for Christmas Eve dinner. That Christmas changed our traditions. After a delicious dinner, we spent time knowing our families, played games, exchanged gifts, and then, and then... we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus, with cake and all! How could I have missed this all my life? Never did I even say, "Thank You, dear God, for sending us the greatest gift of all! For sending Your Son to become man for our sake. Thank You Jesus, for allowing Yourself to be lowered and become man." 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESUS!" My gradual understanding of this powerful and inconceivable birth develops into something bigger each year. I humbly understand the magnitude of the birth of Christ, some 2013 years ago, how devine, how majestic, how important to our humanity. I don't know of anyone who would send their child to be born in a barn, on hay, surrounded by animals. The King of kings was born as the least of us. I am finally understanding, that He alone, the Great I AM was born for yours and my eternal life. Can you understand the urgency in my writing? The importance of this event?
Christmas NowWith sacrifice, we gift our children gifts, but no longer those unecessary, excessive, expensive, extraordinary gifts that everyone thinks we should give. Instead, I look at their needs and gift appropriately, and even if the gift is expensive, I know that it is something they need. For example, last year my daughter started high school and she hinted how an iPad would work great for note taking, assignments, communicating with teachers, etc. And so, we got her an iPad last Christmas, which helped her keep orginized more than what I expected. She uses it a great deal, and she even downloads some of her heavy textbooks from school. Although it was an expensive gift, it is all she received last year, and she really uses it to its full capacity. If it were any other year, she would have recieved that plus clothes, plus shoes, plus giftcards, plus, plus, plus...even if it put us back on our bills. It is not necessary. We buy our kids clothes throughout the year as they needs it, and their closets are not full of name brand or expensive clothes either. We almost always did the same for relatives and friends. I am not saying that gifting is bad, I am just saying that making a gift that is truly personal is what makes it special. For years, we had been giving our bosses expensive gifts...not necessary. I learned that if anything, they can afford most of the things we would get them, so we have opted to give them more personal gifts that suited them. A recent year, we gave my husbands boss, who loves fashion accessories, a beautiful silk scarf, and I think she loved it more than any other gift we had been giving her over the years (heavy-white robe, expensive wall art, silly, silly, stuff). You see, there should be purpose and sacrifice with every gift. Another example would be to give a gift because it is on sale, or cheap, but the person has no use for it. That would not be a very good gift either, not because it was inexpensive, but rather because it was thoughtless. The purpose should not be to show everyone what a great gift-giver you are, or to show people how much money you are willing to spend on them, or giving because you are obligated, but rather the person is in your heart and your desire to show them that they are loved and thought of. It should be personal, with the sacrifice of time in searching for it and the monitary sacrifice no matter the price tag.
Honoring GodAnd though Christmas is NOT about gift giving, HE is so worthy of a celebration that honors His birth on earth. He is so worthy of us honoring Him by the sacrifice we make in our gift giving, and only when we make sure it will bring honor to His name. What a wonderful gift we have recieved in Him, and if we choose to pass the gift giving tradition in His honor, I believe it is the right thought to Christmas. Because there is nothing in this world that we can do to show God how wonderful and holy He is, and there is nothing that He needs from us (Yup...He doesn't need our praises, prayers or anything we do for Him because He is self sufficient), but He sees the intentions of our hearts, and the reasons for gifting. Loving a person is not suffiecient reason to give, but loving Him, the Creator, the Wonderful Counselor, is reason enough for the season.
And so, I would love to wish you all a Merry Christmas, full of Jesus, and a Happy New Year full of His blessings.