*Mommy Diaries, star date December 2010
Christmas as Usual
Christmas scares me.
What I mean is, Christmas in America scares me.
Or to further clarify, commercialized Christmas in America scares me.
It scares me because there are people living without food and clean water or the other basic necessities of life and we as Americans are spending billions of dollars on junk. I recently read that solving the global clean water crisis would take $10 billion dollars total. Wow, that is a lot of money. Sure, people need water, but who has $10 billion dollars laying around to just give away?
Hey, so it turns out we do. In 2010 Americans spent $450 BILLION dollars on Christmas. You know, gift cards (essentially the swapping of similar amounts of cash-how very meaningful that is) and jewelry (that you probably didn't like) and clothes (that probably didn't fit right) crap none of us needs and most of us don't even want. $450 billion dollars. On one holiday. That is grotesque. And it's scary.
I also read recently from one of the local news stations on my Twitter feed that though shoppers were dropping record amounts of money on Black Friday this year, the Salvation Army angel trees in the malls were going untouched. That is sickening. And it terrifies me.
All of this is so bothersome because our priorities are so out of whack. But it mostly bothers me because this mindset is where my family is headed unless God in His grace gives us some specific measures to prevent it.
Santa is not a big deal here at the Casa de Wilson. We aren't anti-Santa, but we aren't super duper pro-Santa, either. We are Santa neutral. We are Santa Switzerland. We have lots of reasons for that which you probably don't care about, but it's what we've chosen for our children. But even though we don't talk about Santa, like, EVER, Sassafras still chatters about him. She talks about how he's going to bring her toys because it's Christmas, and about how Christmas is when she gets things she wants. Hmmm. We have never said that to her, but it proves just how quickly the world seeps into their sponge-like brains.
We want more than that for our girls. We want Christmas to mean more than getting stuff. We want life to mean more than being happy because you get stuff you really want. But those are the things this world is trying to teach our children, and boy is the world ever after them.
We have some deep prayers for our girls, for their lives and how the Lord will use them. Deep prayers. We want them to be generous, compassionate, selfless, considerate women of faith. And more than ever before, it is such a burden on my heart that the time to cultivate those characteristics in them is not in 10 years, or "when they're old enough to understand." The time is now. If we want them to be generous, we must show them. Now. Daily. If we want them to be selfless, we must show them. If we want them to be compassionate, we must show them what that looks like. If we want them to be considerate, we must show them how to be. If they are to become women of faith, it would help if they had a mother who could show them what that looked like.
These are heavy, heavy thoughts. We are not experts in these characteristics that we want to see in our children. We would not describe ourselves as compassionate, generous, considerate, or selfless. I would not describe myself to you as a woman of faith. You and I both know that would be laughable. But my point is not where we are, it's where we are trying to go in order to lead our children. We are trying. The Lord is pressing the importance of celebrating the coming of His Son in Christmas (going against the cultural grain) on our hearts with the same urgency that He is burdening us to implant those Christlike characteristics in Sassafras and Pearl. And the two easily go hand in hand.
Last year, He was beginning to change our perspective. Last year at this time, we were looking at Google and Flickr pictures of Africa and people living there, and casually observing the poverty. This year, we know and remember them. We saw their faces, their homes, their scraps of clothing, their malnourished bellies, and their skinny cows. We remember the eyes of the orphans. Those people are very real to us, and with them in mind, it is so incredibly difficult to succumb to "Christmas as usual" here in America.
Since Sassafras was old enough to have any thoughts at all about Christmas, we tried to intentionally ask her "What do you want to GIVE ____ for Christmas?" Trying to get her to focus on the giving rather than the getting. (By the way, we don't believe that the GETTING is wrong, we just don't want Sassafras-or Pearl, when it's her time to understand- to be distracted from the real joy of Christmas.) But this year, for the first time, when we ask her what she wants to give So-and-So, she replies by asking if we can just talk about her and what she wants. Yikes.
We have been reading the Christmas story together every Christmas morning since Sassafras was six months old. But all of that alone, however well intended, is simply not enough. This world is after our kids. This world seeks to teach our children to want, want, want, and what we want for our girls is to see them give, give, give. Of their talents, their gifts, their resources, their time, their prayers, and their hearts. That's the fruit we pray to see evident in their lives, not just reflected in their attitudes at Christmas.
We are trying to be a Romans 12:1-2 family. We are trying not to be "conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind." This year, renewing our minds means seeking some new, more meaningful, Christ-focused traditions for our family.
I do believe that traditions are important, and that the joy of Christmas is also important. Which is why we believe that it is possible to have both the traditions AND the joy AND retain focus on the purpose and source of both. We have done a lot of research recently about Advent. We are new to Advent. It is not something that we have experience with. But what excites us is that Advent is helping us guide our children to a fuller understanding of Scripture, it's helping us teach them (not just tell them) about the reason for and events surrounding Christ's coming to our world, and it's helping us show them what it means to be generous by seeking opportunities to give together. As a family. Thanks to a sharing friend with the same heart for her children we were given a list of 25 Scriptures and thoughts to guide a daily discussion about what the Word says about Christmas. I tailored that list to our girls and our family's experiences, and together we made a simple calendar booklet out of scrapbook paper, a hole punch, and ribbon. Very simple...that's the point. Every day we flip up another page (sometimes 2, depending on what we have going on), and we spend a few minutes talking, reading, sometimes making a craft together or doing some other family activity.
It's not enough, but it is a start. We are learning together, and growing together, and Lord willing we are becoming more faithful together. As a family.
No more Christmas as usual for us.
*Three years later, I can tell you we still strive to do Advent. With three small, wiggly children, it isn't always easy but is an essential Christmas tradition at our home. Last year I found this Advent wreath that can also be used for Lent and Ascension, for families choosing to celebrate those as well.