Compelling reasons to make Christmas less commercial.
- We can give more to those in need--more Operation Christmas Child boxes, more money to the third world, more money to our local church (pastoral gift, other ministry gifts), more money to a single mom and her kids, more money/food to food pantries/shelters.
- With less shopping, we have more time to visit depressed people--in nursing homes, in hospitals, those suffering the loss of loved ones, those with no family around.
- We have more time to offer hospitality.
- We have more time to minister to our own family, without the rushing around, feeling stressed, and getting behind on daily tasks.
- Without the distraction of things, we have more of each other. We can dwell together intimately.
- Without the distraction of the buying, wrapping, etc., we can be still more, dwelling on the miracle of Christ's coming.
But if for your whole life, Christmas morning has meant the unwrapping of delightful surprises, all of these ideas sound too far off. Too hard, austere. Too kill-joy.
Instead of doing away with gifts entirely, how about a standard, reasonable number, so that preparing for Christmas morning doesn't overwhelm the schedule or the pocketbook?
Christ got three presents. How about starting there with your kids? Then, if you feel led, give less the next year, or stay with three. If you experience an economic slump, your kids won't feel as though one Christmas was better than another.
I know a pastor who gave his three children three gifts only every year--something for their music pursuits, something literary, and something for their sports pursuits.
With fewer or no gifts under the tree, you can perhaps plan a memory-making outing, such as a visit to a fancy theater to see the Nutcracker, followed by a leisurely dinner.
Or, you can target your buying to benefit the whole family, and create new traditions in the process. Why do gifts have to be individual? Would the family delight in a new board game to play every Christmas? Or a family gym membership for the snow months? Or a zoo or museum pass? Or a New Year's weekend away?
There is the personal, heart meaning of Christmas--Christ's coming and the hope that entails for a believer--and the collective, practical meaning of Christmas--expressing love toward others and experiencing togetherness.
For your individual family, the love and togetherness part requires simply having extra, leisurely time together--whether it be baking together, making a lovely holiday meal together, playing board games or charades together, or looking at family photo albums or slides together.
If we arrive at Christmas day exhausted and spent, the togetherness part--the memory-making part--doesn't go smoothly.
Instead of expending all your energy on searching for the right gifts for everyone on your list, how about planning for memory-making instead? Create traditions with your family that bind and bless and infuse laughter into your holiday.
Toys get broken, forgotten, or added to a huge toy box. And some, like electronic devices, even take our family members away from us.
Togetherness and tradition strengthen families by binding hearts. They're an investment in the future.