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December 3, 2013

Tension at the Holidays

I'm feeling a lot of tension right now...tension within myself...a good kind of tension that has consistently been whispering Approach the holidays differently this year.


This tension reared its head when I stopped to consider what "Black Friday" might look like to our brothers and sisters in third-world countries. I felt the tension again when I spotted a baby onesie that said "Gimme More Presents!" and another one that said "What Santa Doesn't Bring Me, Grandma Will!". I can't ignore how I feel when I consider the over-the-top emphasis that some families place on Christmas Lists, Santa, and their "Elf on the Shelf". Most would say, "We're just having fun!" Sure, so many components of the commercial side of Christmas are fun, but this tension within me comes complete with blaring lights this year. Supernatural lighting that is opening my eyes to see that these fun pieces of the holiday season can also serve as an incredible distraction from the Baby in the manger - the Savior of the World.

I want my children to know and understand the reason why He came, and I want them to live each day with that truth driving everything they do. I want them to understand that the holidays can be a very painful time for some families. I want them to be compassionate toward those who face Christmas without good health, without their loved one(s), without two freezers full of food, without mounds of presents under the tree, without, without, without.

We are only a few days in to the month of December, and I have already felt like I was fighting an uphill battle - a battle that I face in Target, in the grocery store, on my phone/computer while on-line, at my mailbox while sifting through catalogs, etc.

In our house, we do not place an emphasis on Santa (Don't worry, I promise I will do my best to keep my children from ruining Christmas for yours.). We treat Santa the same as Mickey Mouse - simply make-believe. 

Is our holiday focus in the right place because we do not emphasize Santa bringing us presents? Not always. It is still easy to focus on the buying, the wrapping, the giving of gifts. Are any of these things necessarily bad? Not in and of themselves, but they have become incredibly distracting - especially for someone like me who loves to give AND receive.

So this year, we are working hard to place - at the very center of our focus - the reason why we celebrate. HE alone is worthy. HE alone is why we sing. We are using the Jesus Storybook Bible as our guide through the Advent Season


We are completely immersing ourselves (yes, this includes our two-year old) in opportunities for worship and giving outside of ourselves. We have contacted several community organizations, local ministries, etc. We are baking. We are cooking. We are buying. We are giving. We are wrapping. We are delivering. But we are doing these things for other people. We are serving. What a blessing it has been already to focus so much of our time and energy on others.

A wise friend once told me that People are always more important than things. Sounds simple, huh? Simple to say. Simple to repeat. Not so simple to live out...especially in a season that tends to focus on me-me-me and not Him-Him-Him.

Just a few days ago, I finished "7" by Jen Hatmaker. While I wouldn't necessarily find myself wholeheartedly recommending that you embrace all of her thoughts and practices (and attitudes), I love the overall theme of the book. Scale down. Live simply. Consume less. Give more.
"It is no accident that despite the fact that bazillions of dollars are spent telling us we are just consumers, and that's all the story we could ever need, people by the thousands and sometimes even millions are frustrated and looking for a better story...We're going to have to write a good and compelling story with our lives. The good news is that it is a lot more fun to be a citizen than a consumer, and rituals of non-consumption are just as satisfying as retail therapy. The good news is that there are better stories out there for the claiming and living." -Jen Hatmaker
The ideas reinforced in her book only served to increase the healthy tension that I have already been feeling.

I am the opposite of a hoarder. Everything I own has a purpose. I hate clutter. I love organizing. I love empty drawers. I love my closets to have left-over space. I love throwing away/donating/selling anything that does not have a purpose. So what did I do after reading Jen Hatmaker's book? I started sorting, organizing, emptying, and dispersing even more. It has felt great - I am addicted to the rush.


I challenge you to join me. I challenge you to simplify - even here at the holidays. This may mean having tough conversations with your relatives about how much you are going to be able to travel. This may mean having tough conversations with your relatives about what gift-exchanges are going to look like. What this means will look different for each family, but as Christmas draws close, I urge you to make this season less about things. Make it less about you. Make it less about your kids (gasp!). Make it more about Him. Make it more about others. Whether at church or around your tree, be intentional about setting aside time for your family to worship together. Immerse yourself (and your children) in numerous opportunities to give of their time, energy, and things. I believe that approaching the holidays this way is the key to a truly Merry Christmas.

Thank you for listening to my heart.
I pray that you and your family will find the true joy that comes from giving of yourselves.

With Love,
Elizabeth

"Give This Christmas Away" by Matthew West


Looking for some creative gift ideas that take the focus off stuff?

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