Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pre-Christmas Mind Set

I am one of those people who loves Christmas. I love spending time with my kids, choosing special gifts for them, and seeing how surprised they are when they open them up. Before I became a gypsy (a woman with no home of her own), I lavishly decorated the inside of my house every year. The kids helped by making snowflakes to tape on the windows and paper chains to drape throughout the family room. We baked 100's of traditional cookies to share and to eat. But over the last, well, I'm losing track of how many years, God is testing my love and faithfulness to Him, "The Lord gave and Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21). My dreams, hopes, and plans have become very flexible. When I hear the song "Blessed be your name" by Matt Redman, I am reminded that regardless of how much I have lost, I am still blessed.

When my kids were tiny, I wanted Christmas to really focus on Christ's birth, and not just the traditions (some from pagan origins) and commercialism. One year, I simply set up a nativity set that my Mom made 40 years ago, and we didn't put up a tree. I can't remember the details, but some sources claim the introduction of the tree had nothing to do with Christ, some do. I collected, and still have, Christmas books that I put in a large basket and we would read them throughout the month, including Good King Wenceslas, and other non-traditional books. I also made it clear that there was no Santa Claus, but that we could pretend that there was, like a Disney Land character, to make it fun. I remember in the 3rd grade, waking up in the middle of the night hearing my parents taking boxes of toys downstairs to put under the tree - I was devastated upon realizing that there was no Santa, that they had lied. I didn't want my children to deduce, "Well, she lied about Santa, what else is she lying about?" Seems trivial, but mistrust usually starts with small lies.

During December we would attend several Christmas events. "The Walk Through Bethlehem," was a favorite. The Methodists would convert their entire courtyard into a replica of Bethlehem, including live animals. We would be given "Passports" (as we were there for the "census") which the Roman guards would demand to see, sample foods from the various booths, visit a Temple where the Rabbis were discussing the prophecy of Christ's birth, and finally, end up at a barn where a couple would be holding a tiny, live baby. Afterwards, the kids would munch on cookies and hot chocolate inside the church. The first year we attended without my boy was very difficult. We fondly remembered when the Hebrew match-maker (he totally stayed in character), asked my son and his friend if they were in town to find wives, and described potential prospects - I think they were about 12 at the time, a little embarrassed, but thought it hilarious.

I'd pile my kids and a few extra into the van and we would go through a drive-thru live nativity. We were so sad when the Baptists no longer presented it, but I'm sure it was  difficult to find the man-power and hours to put on such extravagant presentation. There's a section in one community called "Storybook Lane" and every house in the subdivision decorates - lavishly. That was so much fun, and chatting with the homeowners was always interesting. We attended a few professional performances of the Nutcracker, but that wasn't a big hit, nor was the County Fair ground's light display - that we did only once.

When we "lost our fortune," Christmas became very frugal. One dear family (still don't know who it was), sent us a box of food! I felt so blessed. Here's a cool story. I didn't have much money for gifts, so I purchased them from antique stores. I could buy jewelry, clothes, cookware, books, etc. for a fraction of the retail price. The kids were so thrilled to have "retro" and "vintage" stuff, that they have continued the tradition of antique gift-giving. God is so awesome. This year, having lots of unexpected bills, about 3/4's of the kids presents are from antique stores. It takes some hunting, but I think they'll be surprised (well, maybe not my son-in-law; he comes from a Macy's gift-giving family, but he is a kind and loving Christian man, so I'm sure he'll be gracious when he opens his set of eight original Star Wars drinking glasses).

As far as Christian significance, Easter has a much stronger hold on my heart. The sacrifices that Christ made during his life, and dying a horrendous death, so that I could be grafted into his family brings me to tears. But Christmas, an opportunity to celebrate the birth of God's son on earth, is such a joyous occasion. So, Fellow Folders, this is what I'd like to say to you in preparation for the holiday:

1. Anything that takes away from a time of great fellowship - cut it out. My girls were going to drive down last weekend to decorate my Mom's house, 'cause that's how our family rolls. She was almost angry about it, so I prayed. My family is number one, and since we have to celebrate Christmas early, due to out of town guests, we will do the big dinner and open presents up at my daughters' house, which is fully decorated (which means hauling up my presents and drive two hours). My Mom won't be there, but that was her choice, unlike us, she doesn't like Christmas. I'll make a another dinner on Christmas Day for my Mom. Be flexible.
2. Don't go into debt for gifts. It's not worth it. I know you've heard that before, but it's true. Stressing out about gifts, money, and getting everything done also makes for a terrible testimony to shopkeepers, family, and friends.
3. Treat your relatives like it will be the last time you'll see them - because it might be.
4. Jesus doesn't care only about Christmas, it's our thing. He wants us to worship and remember him, and why he came, 365 days a year. 
5. Enjoy your traditions or time together, even if it means doing nothing, or at most, watching, "It's a Wonderful Life." Expectations are the number one killer of holidays, get-togethers, and quality fellowship. Don't expect family/friends/church people to respond to a script you've put together in your head, 'cause they never will. Look for unexpected blessings, and you'll find great joy.
I'm sure after we celebrate our early Christmas, I'll have some awesome stories to tell. My family is so blessed, I never know what to expect :)

It seems a little early to wish you a Merry Christmas, especially since I'll probably post again before the 24th, so I'll say, "Merry Pre-Christmas Mind-Set." Love the Lord with all your heart and dwell on the blessings that He's given you - not what you don't have or can't afford.


  1. Merry Pre-Christmas Mind-set to you, too!

    Antique stores and flea markets are great when it comes to finding unique (and usually cheap) gifts. They have character, methinks. Thankfully, many in my family are okay with pre-owned/used items.

  2. If you call them vintage/retro, it gives them even more character :)

  3. Good advice, especially #3, I think...

    I've always wanted to be someone who could get into Christmas... I used to think the season was spoiled by having so many competing responsibilities that sapped my energy and created tension in the home, but I've been chewing on this since I read this post on the 8th, and I think it goes disturbingly deeper than that. Not sure I want to share it just yet - I'm gonna cook on it some more.

    Thanks for the post. Food for thought, as usual.


  4. Dave,

    It's crazy how things can change on a dime, isn't it?

    The fact that anything I write can be thought-provoking astounds me, thank you for the continued encouragement.

    You have such a heavy December load - I will pray for you and your family.


    PS: Just to let you know, I rarely offer to pray for someone (that will be explained in another post I'm chewing on), but God has very important work for you to do, so I know you need it - just remember us peons when you become famous (Gifts would be appropriate:).