I am already feeling it. The bright toy ads are flooding my mailbox. Gathering recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Each December weekend is filling up with parties, get togethers, gift exchanges and the must-do’s of the season. At the same time, I long for quiet reflection, focus on the advent season with my children and focus on the babe in the manger, not the hottest toys of the season. But how? With 5 children, an adoption underway, after school activities and parties, how do we find the space to lovingly guide our children away from consumerism and to a season of worship, devotion and giving?
Time for devotion
Each evening, we will take a few minutes to read and answer questions from Ann Voskamp’s book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas (affiliate link)
This book is not a chore nor an obligation. If we miss a night, we may double up on Sunday. If one person is missing for an event, the rest of us go on. Some nights there may be popcorn or hot chocolate as we read. Other times it may happen at the dinner table. It is a small intent to shift focus on the true meaning of Christmas and get us away from the sensory overload.
Intentional Gift Giving
For the past 4 years, we have simplified our gift giving. We weeded out the unnecessary gift exchanges where no one really gets anything they want or can use. We changed those events into time with friends over a meal, no gifts needed. Our children know we value spending time together over things, so many times gifts will include tickets to a museum, show or sporting event. On Christmas morning, they know there will be 4 gifts waiting from Mom and Dad:
The four gifts are meaningful, useful and appreciated. The best gift we ever gave our children was the gift of simplicity. Having many gifts to open often lead to none of them being played with. Also, when giving gifts to teachers and family members, we try to be intentional about the types of gifts we give. Fair trade is always our goal and purchasing from small business owners locally results in gifts that give back. My children love knowing who made the gift and that it helps a person support their family.
There are so many ways to serve others and focus on those who have less in material things than we do. Whether it’s choosing gifts for a family or a child from a giving tree, filling out a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, serving a hot meal at a soup kitchen or doing random acts of kindness, our children are watching and modeling after us. In order to raise children who are compassionate and giving, they need to see their parents with the same attitude and focus. Choose an activity that is meaningful to you and let you children serve with you this Christmas.
The beauty of traditions
Most of us have fun holiday traditions: trimming the tree, driving around to see Christmas lights, sledding or hot cocoa by the fireplace. Over the years, our traditions have evolved and adjusted as our family has grown and children have gotten older. There is one tradition that has stayed the same though: Christmas Eve
After dinner, our children open up a box and even though they know what is inside, it’s still exciting. They will receive new pj’s, a new board game, snacks and a movie. After changing into their new soft jammies, it’s time for devotion, family game night and then we will settle down for a movie. There is usually hot chocolate with a candy cane stirrer and marshmallows. While it may seem it’s adding another present, more things to-do and more stress to the holiday season, this is actually a tradition I look forward to. That’s why it has stayed. From toddlers to teens, everyone is part of this night and everyone participates in it. Part of simplifying the holidays is ditching the obligatory stuff and keeping what brings us joy.
The Christmas season is full of beauty and wonder. How do you maintain the right focus and guide your children to service and giving?