Friday, December 11, 2009

Redeeming Christmas

For a couple of weeks now we have been thinking about getting the Christmas decorations out and officially starting the Christmas holiday season. We weren’t really excited about it this year and actually dreading it a little for a couple of reasons. First, celebrating the holiday without our Eli (who was born still 3 ½ months ago and was expected on December 4th) is tough especially when we imagined spending Christmas together with our new baby. Second, because we knew that Christmas should be more than getting gifts, putting up a tree, and watching movies about Santa Clause. We’ve wanted to redeem Christmas but the problem has been knowing what to do to make it Christ-centered. This year we finally did something about it. The main reason that we finally decided to change things was because we want to raise our daughter to be a Christ follower. What is the best way to do that – model it by living it. That means changing a lot of things that we do, one of those being how we celebrate Christmas.

We researched on the internet for ideas of ways to redeem Christmas to make it Christ-centered again (which it never was for us). After a couple of hours we finally found a few ideas that we really liked and wanted to make as our own traditions. As a Christian I was surprised by how little information there was out there about this. That’s why we want to share some of these ideas with you. We hope that it encourages you to reclaim this holiday and throw off any hindrances that get in the way of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

1. Santa had to go – This in our minds was the easiest decision to make. The idea of Santa was a major diversion to bringing Jesus back into Christmas. We packed up all of our Santa ornaments and decorations (which barely fit into a huge box) and gave it to goodwill. Although it may be possible to still focus on Jesus and still have Santa, he does not add anything to Jesus, he is only a potential distraction, so he had to go. It made it much easier to get rid of Santa while our daughter is 2 years old instead of after establishing this tradition with her for 10 or so years. Here’s an article that goes into more depth of why these people had to cut Santa loose .

2. Christmas Tree – We decided that instead of setting up a traditional Christmas tree, we would setup a Jesse tree (called this because the first person in Jesus’ family tree – King David’s father). Think of a Jesse Tree as a sort of advent calendar, except that in addition to a countdown to Christmas, you go through a family devotion in the Bible, starting with creation and ending with Jesus’ birthday. Each day a new ornament that represents that devotion is put on the tree. For example, the first day you may put up an ornament of the earth and then read the story of creation. The next day an ornament of an apple and then read the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man, and so on. Many of the resources online that we saw used a tiny branch or fabric cutout, but we kept our same tree with all the lights on it. Here is a link to some printable Jesse tree ornaments and one with daily devotions . We love this concept but we will probably call it a Jesus tree instead (more meaningful for our 2 year old).

This year we discovered this Jesse tree concept too late to make any ornaments ourselves but we plan on making them in following years and we’ll try to remember to post them next year. Not only is this a great way to remember the birth of our savior it’s also a great time to spend time with your kids making ornaments and doing daily devotions.

3. Gifts – We still don’t know what to do about this one. How do you focus on Jesus and at the same time get bombarded with presents. In this consumeristic culture it seems impossible. Here are a couple of ideas:

#1. I read a great article about one idea from John Piper’s website: “A new tradition in our celebration is the Shepherd’s Pouch. On Christmas Eve the children put their gifts to Jesus in little bags beside the manger, as the shepherds brought gifts of worship and joy to the baby. On Christmas morning Jesus’ gifts have been replaced with little fun gifts to the boys—symbolizing the gifts God showers on us.” Here’s the link .

#2. On Christmas morning go through your stuff (parents & kids) and find things that you can give to people less fortunate like clothes or toys.

#3. Instead of saying that the presents are from Santa you can say that they are from God - which is true since all things are from God.

#4. If people want to give you gifts then have them make a donate to your favorite cause (Compassion International, Against Malaria, Heifer International, etc). If they want to get gifts for your kids then ask people to get clothes or other things that your kids actually need instead of more toys. Also try to set a limit so people don't go crazy.

4. Family – Obviously our families will be doing Christmas their own ways, which is fine, but our family will be doing it differently. I’m sure we are going to get people saying how we are “ruining our kids by not letting them believe in Santa”, or that “there’s nothing wrong with Santa Clause – it’s harmless”, and “children need the myth to exercise their imaginations”, but for us it is critical to redeem this holiday* and focus our celebration on our Savior’s birth.

5. Other Ideas – Below are a couple of ideas that we have come up with this year. Please share your ideas with us (maybe we will add it to the list).

#1. Skip the movies about Santa and watch a movie about Jesus together as a family. We watched The Nativity Story this year which was great. It's another opportunity to talk with your family about Jesus' birth.

#2. Find a soup kitchen or another place to serve together as a family on Christmas morning.

* This holiday that we now celebrate as Christmas was originally Sol Invictus where people collectively worshiped their solar deities . Around the 3rd or 4th centuries the celebration of Christ’s birth was superimposed on the pagan holiday. Jesus was most likely not born on December 25th but probably in the spring sometime.

Aaron & Carrie Hutchings

Friday, December 4, 2009

Eli's due date

Today was Eli's due date. But, instead of holding my new baby boy, I'm thinking about how I had to say goodbye to him 3 months ago. We miss you Eli, and we look forward to holding you again someday.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009