Friday, October 23, 2009

Celebrating the Incarnation, Part II

I love The Charlie Brown Christmas Special. It's about the only Christmas special we ever watch on TV (when we had a TV.) We have the video but again, there is no TV. Christmas will be different this year without a TV. Charlie Brown often reminds me myself. I always seem to have a poor me spirit, at least when I was growing up. I have outgrown that alot though. My favorite part of that special is when Linus gets up and quotes from Luke 2. I get the chills every time I see it.

Yesterday, I spoke especially to the Incarnation, the Reason for the Celebrating, Christ. Today I want to focus on how we keep our focus on the Incarnation and away from the worldly ideas of this holiday. Now I will preface this by saying that we can't completely escape it. My family loves this holiday and goes all out. We've all learned to compromise with them in many way and we enjoy the holiday. That said, I just wanted to make it clear that I do not necessarily frown upon the tradition ways that people celebrate Christmas. Underdog and I have just decided that we wanted something different for our family. And we've run after that.

I have always wanted to make sure that Christ was the center of my celebrations. I remember planning my own wedding with that thought in mind. So our holiday celebration are no different. Having grown up in one of the riches cities in the North Texas area, I saw alot extravagance. I did not want that for my children. I chaff at all the money in this area. What I wanted for my children was to know the meaning of the holiday, the Incarnation, and to learn to give more than receive. I wanted them to bring Him the glory, not to seek it for themselves. We don't withhold gifts from them but it's vastly scaled down. What we do do is spend the month of December getting ready for it. Our Christmas shopping is mostly done so we spend time in other pursuits.

First of all, we try to spend the month of December focused on the birth of Christ in school. Along with the typical subjects (math, writing, etc.) we turn our focus to studying the Christmas Story. I have always wanted to do a lapbook with them in this area but it's just never worked out. There was one I really wanted to do this year but I decided not to spend the money and put one together myself. Click on the picture below to get to the link for the lapbook I really wanted to do this year.

(You may have to click "Holiday Lapbooks" down
the left side to get to this lapbook)

I have also done the Amanda Bennett Christmas unit study. This is by far my favorite. Last year we didn't get to do it. It's a long story but because of the co-op we were in we had to focus on doing that work. We were done with our school for the time being but we still had history and science to work through. Having a new baby also put a damper on things.

This year we are focusing on Christmas in a completely different way. It's called a Jesse Tree. We are using "The Glorious Coming - A Jesse Tree Advent Celebration" You can learn a bit more about the Jesse Tree at this website. What I love most about the Jesse Tree is that we follow Christ through the Old Testament. That has become a true fascination for me. In that spirit, I am working to make our Jesse Tree ornaments for our tree this year. We are also going to make a mini lapbook that will contact these ornaments that the kids will make as we discuss the meaning behind each ornament. The Jesse Tree will become our devotionals every morning for school and every evening as well as part of advent countdown with Dad.

Our Christmas tree has changed through the years. I know some would argue that the Christmas Tree is pagan. Somehow I just can't seem to reconcile myself to that idea. Especially the way I use it. Perhaps that is just something that God hasn't choosen to deal with me on yet. I enjoy the lights on the tree and the break in the monotony of my boring house decorating. :)

In the past I used to call my tree a scrapbook tree. It would have just a plethera of memories dangling on it. Each ornament had a story. We started a tradition with JB to purchase an ornament each year for our children so they had ornament to start their Christmas tree off with. I didn't have that luxury as my mom wouldn't give me any of my ornaments. My mother in law did and we used some of those for a while. But one year I was reading a magnificent book by Noel Piper called "Treasuring God in Our Traditions." She challenge me with something that I also want to share with you.

"Do Others See Why We Celebrate -
How will our home look if our celebration is a picture of
anticipation and waiting for God's plan to be completed,
a picture of our joy in the salvation he has begun for us?
What visible things will fill our house as we
celebrate what God has done through Jesus?"
(pg. 80)

She goes one to talk about Santa and why they've chosen not to include Santa in the holiday. She discusses the Nativity Scenes and other decorations that reflect the reasons they celebrate. This got me to thinking about my own home. What did my Christmas decorations say about what was important to us? If anything, they stated that the typical holiday madness was important. I still kept a few Santas around (mstly made by my grandmother with plastic canvas. :) Gingerbreads. Cnady Canes. Charlie Brown Christmas was my theme. Nothing about the Incarnation or Christ. So I started on a mission to change our focus in our decorating. I began to only buy ornaments that reflected the Savior. I got rid of my homemade Christmas wreaths and made one with mixed and matched nativity pieces. This hangs on my door so that people know immediately what we're about this holiday. I got rid of my Charlie Brown Christmas decorations and began collecting Nativity creches. I have my eye on one but it's really expensive right now. I think I may just start collecting a few pieces at a time. This year, our tree will completely reflect the Light of the World. We're moving to white lights. I will only hang the ornaments that are reflective of Christ. And through the month we'll be adding our Jesse Tree Ornaments.

Last year, my kids got up and made a "Happy Birthday, jesus" sign for our wall. I do this for every birthday we have in our family. It's actually something my mom started with me. So they felt it was necessary to include Jesus in that tradition as well. I never thought to do that. Even this shift in our focus has trickled down to the kids. If they see an ornament or decoration they like, I will ask them if they think it reflects Jesus. If they can't tell me positively "yes" then we pass it by and discuss along the way WHY is doesn't. They are learning to make Him center in all this and recognize when the world doesn't.

Our gift giving is also something where we reflect Christ. We only give 3 gifts representing literally the gold, frankinscence and myrrh given to Jesus. Our gold gift is the one that is very special or that they might really want. This year it will be given to them by a sibling as they are going to help with Christmas this year. We put a price range on it as well. The next gift is the frankinscence gift and that is usually a book that will help bring them closer to Jesus in that year. For the new reader, that is the year they get their Bible and cover. Even our little ones are given books that teach about Jesus. The myrrh gift reflect ways to take care of their temple. To help our budget and stay with family tradition, their myrrh gift this year will be their traditional Christmas PJs. Everyone gets new PJs on Christmas eve. We also do stockings but I am trying to move away from stockings into something else that Noel Piper talked about. . .Shepherd's Bags. I haven't figured out how to make them work for our family and make them tie into the Incarnation. She has ideas in her book but again, I am not sure how to make them work for our family. So the stocking still stay around. They stay around as a place for me to give them items that they can focus on while they wait for breakfast in the morning. It usually includes a toothbrush, hair supplies for the girls, cars for the boys, and coloring what-nots. Nothing big. I have been tempted to put oranges in there but I think they might find me to be crazy.

We always read the Christmas story first thing in the morning. Our focus for the day is Jesus. We don't want the presents to get in the way. Then we move to breakfast and stockings. I planned a big breakfast last Christmas and I don't think they liked it. This year we're going with a egg casserole of some kind. Then we move to opening gifts. After that we kind of sit and just enjoy coffee together while the kids play. Finally it's time to move to getting our feast ready. The Christmas feast is similar to the Thanksgiving feast with maybe a few side variations. I have a whole plan just not before me right now. And we afterward we do our traditional nap, walk, and then a small meal to fill empty tummies (although it's hard to imagine them truly empty.)

Ultimately, this holiday is about the Savior and we keep our eyes there. We don't bring anything into this holiday that might cloud the message. And we're constantly reevaluating whether there is anything that might take the message away from Christ. He is the Savior of the world. He has come. HOPE has come. That is a reason to celebrate. But does the world really know why we celebrate? Can they tell in our own celebration why there is joy in our hearts? Or does our holiday reflect the same materialism and comsumerism that the worlds reflects? I challenge you to consider you own holiday celebration. Is it about the Incarnation more than anything else? None of what I have talked about has taken the celebraton out of it. I just replaced something good with something better, as I discussed in my Halloween post. My challenge to you would be evaluate what you do and discuss with your spouse what your holiday reflects.

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