Advent of Simplicity

Tis the season for mass consumerism and it makes me ill. Really, this aspect of the Christmas season didn’t use to bother me so much…until I had kids…and then my kids reached an age of expectation for what they might be getting for Christmas. The time for REALLY leading by example and making an active effort to teach them the true meaning of giving has arrived. It has proven to be quite a challenge when everywhere we go we are surrounded by Mammon-palooza.

Here are some things that have really kept my perspective:

Normally we only do three gifts per child as a way to tie back into the Christmas story. Jesus received three gifts so that is all we do. The gifts we do give are not completely indulgent, either. I always pick games, puzzles or other things that we all can enjoy together as a family. Except this year we also took ornaments off of the Angel Tree (for children whose parents are incarcerated) in lieu of one of our gifts. This prompted a great discussion in our household because the “gifts” that were asked for on our ornaments were hats, gloves and coats. Let me repeat: Hats, gloves and coats. When was the last time that your children’s needs for basic warmth superseded their wants on a Christmas list? It, for sure, has never happened in my home. Which makes teaching them to be cheerful givers so much more important to me. We have so much, we live in overabundance and yet we still think we need things and seeing those who are truly in need should make most Christmas lists hide in shame!

Honestly, I don’t want to buy my children any Christmas gifts. There it is. I don’t want to because it is expected of me. I will, however, because I love them and for me gift giving is an act of love. Turns out, though, that even if I got them nothing for Christmas they still have a warm, loving home, food in their bellies, clothes to wear and a stable (mostly!) family to call their own which is much more than an iPod touch could ever do for them. What I love to show them is how amazing NO gifts can be, when we are just grateful for what we have and who we love. My favorite Christmas scene, hands down, is from the animated “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. It puts a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye to see the Grinch’s heart grow three times its normal size until it is bursting out of his chest while the Who’s sing “Welcome Christmas”. This is what the true spirit of Christmas is to me, treasuring the ones we love.

So here is my controversial thought for the day: Putting Christ  back into Christmas isn’t going to work because he wasn’t ever there to begin with. The history of Christmas is pretty clear on the facts that a certain, very large church created the holiday to coincide with a pagan one in order to “Christianize” the pagans. Seems like putting Christ into Christmas is actually the problem because He doesn’t fit into our manmade parameters, the holiday stems from packaging Jesus so he would fit into man’s theology. Even those who claim to celebrate the birth of our savior still have a nice little package for Jesus which is right next to an extravaganza of all things worldly. What we should be doing is putting Christmas, as well as every other aspect of our lives, into Christ. Because everyday we should give thanks for the birth and death of our savior, everyday we should reach out to those who are downtrodden and lost, everyday we should love as Jesus first loved us.

The freedom in the simplicity of the Gospel is all we need and that is what makes the season of Advent so beautiful.

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