Christmas in July
Christmas is just a mere 5 months away and we’ve already begun planning. Christmas is on our minds. Before you write us off as crazy, you might want to join in with us too. As our little ones grow older, we recognize the need, for their sake and ours, to begin planning for the #1 consumer holiday so that it doesn’t become that statistic in our family and home. Because we love and live for Jesus, Christmas is about HIM. So why not start planning now so that the season is not so rushed and out-of-focus? Some things that we like to do to prepare consist of making gift lists for family, shopping for gifts (hitting those clearance racks!) and surfing the internet for good deals. We also pull out our copy of Noel Piper’s “Treasuring God in our Traditions” to remember those things that are truly important to us and to begin preparing for the advent season ahead. Right now, since our girls are still young, we use this advent calendar from here.
We keep gifts at a minimum in our house and focus on quality rather than quantity so as to not make “receiving” the focus. We also start thinking through a way in which we can serve and give as a family during the Christmas season. Last year, we invited our homeless friend over for Christmas breakfast and we shopped for him and the girl’s gave him their gifts. As is usually the case, we ended up receiving the greater blessing of having a friend in our home and being able to pour out our love on him. And soon, we will begin to creatively dwell upon how we can give this coming season as a family. In her book, Noel Piper offers some great advice for having young kids at home and helping to foster a giving spirit:
“Some years I have offered “wages” for special jobs or even for regular chores during December, with the understanding that this money is being earned for Jesus’ gift. The children at our house have had a simple drawstring bag – a shepherd’s pouch, we call it – in which to collect Jesus’ gift throughout December. On Christmas Eve, during a special family worship time, the children lay their pouches beside the manger of our special nativity scene. We speak to them then of giving their gifts to Jesus, as the shepherds came, giving Jesus worship and wonder. On Christmas morning, the coins have been removed and added to our grown-up gifts, ready to be sent to our chosen recipient. And the children find in their pouches several small gifts.”
Of course, this is just one idea and you can create your own family traditions, but remember that these sort of ideas don’t just “happen.” And they almost never “happen” in the business of the Christmas season if you haven’t given much thought or preparation to them in advance.
And what about the topic of Santa? For those of you with young ones at home, it’s important to think through this topic and how you will deal with a very prominent figure in our culture. We have given much thought to this over the years and our view can be summarized something like this: We agree with the Piper’s again that “Fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the crumbs of reality.” If trying to coax our little one’s into believing that Santa is real, they can become confused at the attributes of Santa (omniscient- he’s sees everything we do, rewards us if we are good, omnipresent-he can be everywhere in one night, he gives us good gifts, and he’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure). Sounds all too-eerily like the God we serve as Christians right? It’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with Santa (we have coloring books about him and we read stories to our girls etc.) but our little un-critical pre-schoolers can get confused in their literal-thinking minds.
When you have little ones around the house and as they grow older, you will notice it is impossible to avoid Santa all together. With that reality, we as Christians are not called to dis-engage from our culture but to engage it with a Christian worldview. We need to be ready to address it and to actually not avoid it with our little ones. It’s a blessing to be able to teach our girls to have a biblical worldview amidst a very foggy and distracted world. It’s not Santa himself that is wrong – it’s who we decide to idolize when the time comes. In our home, we make every effort to make Christmas be centered around our God and our Savior. So, we don’t fret if our girls see Santa in the mall or on a television commercial because they are being taught the truth and they are learning that Christmas is not all about Santa. It’s rewarding to see God at work in the hearts of our children without there having to be a “Santa fear” in how we shepherd them. We point them to their Savior, and God does all the rest. As they get older and learn that this world is filled with wrong motives and idols, our prayer for them is that they would turn to what they have been taught and the truth of God’s redeeming love.
How about you? What are some ways that you prepare in advance for the Christmas season?