In 2007 Daniel and I decided to start doing Christmas different as a family. We were so tired of the “stuff” that consumed Christmas instead of the reason for Christmas, (CHRIST) consuming us! We sat the kids down, then 7 & 12 and told them we were mixing Christmas up and were no longer doing Christmas presents. They would not be getting any gifts from us anymore and we were talking to Grandparents and friends and encouraging their gift giving to our children to look different too. We told them Christmas needed to be about Jesus and not about the stuff we get. — They did not freak out 🙂 They actually liked the idea of giving gifts to Jesus and to those in need…they were game! Now does this mean inside they didn’t twinge or have some feelings of sadness? Not sure ,but they jumped on board and from that year on things have looked different around the Herzog House. The first two presents they wanted to give to Jesus were to memorize a verse and to get along with each other and obey more. We sure loved those gifts!I am sure their answers this year will be lots different. It is amazing what kids will come up with if you give them the love, space and guidance needed to do it on their own.
The first year we gave to different organizations like the Gideons, we bagged up clothes for orphans in Uganda. We made homemade goodies for family members instead of store bought things. Each year looks a little different. One year we played Santa and helped a family in need meet their needs for the Holidays. Last year we bought chickens and feed for a village in Africa. It changes every year. And it is fun! The saying is true; It is so much more fun to give than to receive!
This year we are buying athletic shoes for kids in Ethiopia. Each family member gets to pick a pair out for a specific child! This is such a great and tangible way to make a difference. The movement is called Operation Sole Connection and started within our church this year. We get to send the shoes off with a letter to each child and a picture of our family. Here is a link to learn more about it: http://journeyweb.net/osc/
Again I don’t share all of this with you to tell you we have it all figured out and we just are so holy for doing so….not the case. I do share though to encourage families that are thinking of doing it differently. The facts are, my kids survived! 🙂 As far as we can see we have not scared them for life by taking away the presents under the tree. We hope we have helped them build treasures in their heart instead. Eternal presents!!! We also have never indulged our kids with Santa or the Easter bunny etc. We just never wanted to mislead our kiddos. Now I don’t think that if you do these things with your kids that your a bad parent or anything, there is no judgement on our part. That is just the way we have handled it in our family. It was quite humorous as our kids grew up having them keep some of that quiet. I remember when Chase was little he always wanted to share with his friends the truth…one year he asked if he could tell his friends at school that Santa was just a fat guy in a funny red suit. We told him no you can’t tell them that and spoil the fun for them 🙂 Again I don’t think we have seen any everlasting scars in our kids because they never got to believe in Santa or the Easter bunny, although some members of our family still give us a hard time.
I do have to say it can be hard at first to share this with those closest to you who are used to lavishing your family with things at Christmas. The first year or so it was a bit awkward with Grandparents and such when we asked them not to give to the kids like in years past. The first year they received engraved Bibles from one set of Grandparents. We loved that! Now I can’t say that everyone in our extended family has stuck with it every year….sometimes that is the way people love….gifts can be others love language and we understand that. I can only encourage them to love on my children in different ways….but I can’t be angry if they end up buying the kids something. I just know for our family of four and growing that we do it differently and will continue to do so every year.
Again our resolution was to make and keep CHRIST the center of Christmas for our family. Every year it is fun to find new ways to do that and incorporate this spirit all year long.
This year Chase and I are doing a Jesse tree. The Jesse Tree is a unique Advent tree that is useful for teaching children about the Bible at Christmas. The Jesse Tree represents the family tree or genealogy of Jesus Christ. It tells the story of God’s salvation plan, starting with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah. Each day of Advent a homemade ornament (ours are paper) is added to the tree. The ornaments represent the story and prophecy foretelling of Christ. So cool to explain to the kids that lots of stuff was written about Jesus in the Old Testament and that the Old Testament was written 400 years before the New Testament. Jesus was Gods plan right from the beginning!
You just need a outline of a tree to hang your ornaments on or a felt tree etc. The picture in this post is my attempt of a tree. You can’t tell from the picture but it is about three and a half feet tall on the wall.
We hope and pray that this year we can be incorporating more of who Christ is and why he came on Christmas. We hope we can be fully grasping the gift that Jesus is to all who believe!!! We hope your doing the same and hope our family can encourage you or spark your creativity to making Christmas more meaningful. We have loved learning and sharing from many families who are trying to do Christmas and the Holidays different every year.
Our special Christmas wish is for our children far away, that they stay happy and healthy until the day comes when we come to pick them up! Did you know that Christmas is celebrated on Januray 7th is Ethiopia. I can’t wait until next year when Lord willing we are all together and we can start incorporating some Ethiopian traditions into our Holidays as well 🙂
I want to close with one of my all time favorite Christmas Poems~
NOT ONLY CHRISTMAS DAY
By Mary Fairchild
Lord, this is my prayer
Not only on Christmas Day
But until I see You face to face
May I live my life this way:
Just like the baby Jesus
I ever hope to be,
Resting in Your loving arms
Trusting in Your sovereignty.
And like the growing Christ child
In wisdom daily learning,
May I ever seek to know You
With my mind and spirit yearning.
Like the Son so faithful
Let me follow in Your light,
Meek and bold, humble and strong
Not afraid to face the night.
Nor cowardly to suffer
And stand for truth alone,
Knowing that Your kingdom
Awaits my going home.
Not afraid to sacrifice
Though great may be the cost,
Mindful how You rescued me
From broken-hearted loss.
Like my risen Savior
The babe, the child, the Son,
May my life forever speak
Of who You are and all You’ve done.
So while this world rejoices
And celebrates Your birth,
I treasure You, the greatest gift
Unequalled in Your worth.
I long to hear the same words
That welcomed home Your Son,
“Come, good and faithful servant,”
Your Master says, “Well done.”
And may heaven welcome others
Who will join with me in praise
Because I lived for Jesus Christ
Not only Christmas Day