Friday, December 24, 2010

Hands make Christmas

It's the eve of Christmas Eve and I cannot sleep. I'm evaluating & reflecting--have we done it right? Have we brought Advent to the heart of our children enough this year? Do they clearly understand who Jesus is, and why there is a celebration in December?

Should there be a celebration in December? The presents . . . given as a representation of love . . . of Jesus? I think it's a smidge confusing, as I try to package it. The magi brought gifts to the Savior baby, so we give gifts in memory of that? How does a Nerf gun, for example, or a Rubik's cube have anything to do with Emmanuel!? God with us!?

One Christmas the last package that arrived at our home was from Tom's grandparents--in it were four antique ornaments. Grandma and Grandpa had gone through their collection from 60 years of marriage and chosen to share the ornaments with all their children and grandchildren. Colorful & fragile, they touched my husband deeply. From those same grandparents, small, handmade crosses on stands for each great grandchild. Tom held the ones for our children and turned them over & over in his hands, saying this was what he was looking for at Christmastime.

So, we always handmake a part of our Christmas, with child-crafted gifts, hand stamped wrapping paper, or some other personalized touch to add humanity to the chaos of ribbons and boxes. As beautiful as it all is lain festively beneath the tree, I ask myself, what is this all about!?

And yet, we cannot seem to help ourselves as we try to share things we love with our children--things that we know will excite them. We anticipate that giddy enjoyment of uncovering the surprises personally chosen for them. They crawl on their hands & knees to read every tag, and make wild guesses at boxes' contents by shaking them, sizing them up, or thinking of the originating giver. What is this about, this massive swapping of gifts!?

It's a tidal wave, and no matter how much we try to erect a barricade, forward it tumbles onto the shores of our living rooms. Every year we sit back and stare at the presents after they are unwrapped and share a sigh of overindulgence not unlike the one released after an overfilling of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. But, we are Americans, and this is what an American Christmas is.

It's too late for any of us to change Saturday morning's plans or slow the rushing water from every source, and I'm not trying to sound the Bah-Humbug bell, but I want to take a moment to applaud my dear friends who have seriously and intentionally taken on the Advent Conspiracy. I pledge to explore that more again next year . . . in September or October!

Trying to raise grateful children is not an easy task--Christmas morning can prove to work against those efforts if we are not careful. This year I am most excited to give my children their subscriptions to magazines that matter to them. My son wants to launch an Endangered Species Club of his peers, so I subscribed him to the Sierra Club. Teagan loves animals and wants to either be a farmer, a zookeeper or a veterinarian, so I subscribed her to the National Audubon Society.

Yes, I know, those mags are aimed at adults. We will read them together and they will be stored, not allowed to roam each room where they'll end up under throw rugs or on the back of the toilet for "necessary" reading. What I'm talking about is feeding their passions and helping them find their ways in this life. It's elemental to their education, and to their growth, I think. Hopefully, this feeds the meaning of Christmas a bit--the Jeremiah 29:11 part.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The other thing I do consistently is purchase ornaments, symbolic of the nativity in some way, from fair trade organizations like Ten Thousand Villages. As they unwrap images of Jesus, Mary, or the nativity, I expect that these things, delicate in their hands, will reinforce the biblical lessons we try to lead all year.

But, I'll always ask myself on the days immediately preceding and following The Big Day: have we laid this out right? Are we bringing them the lessons they need to be honorable citizens of the world, community and family? Are they learning to love & serve our Savior this way?

I will keep questioning, keep reshaping, and keep hoping that all our best efforts with our children will not spoil them like a bad fish that's been left too long on the counter. Please, Lord, may my children only ever live with a pleasing fragrance--may their lives serve as an incense of praise! May Christmas teach them about you!!

Heavenly Father, most of all we are grateful for this season when we can pause and contemplate what you did for us! Having this period on the calendar forces the issue and we are blessed with the reminder that not only did you die on the cross and rise again, but that you started as a flailing and naked baby, born from a woman, wrapped in swaddling clothes. How this is possible is beyond me, but I'll forever thank you!! Merry Christmas, Jesus!

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