How Do Christians Fit Christ In Christmas?

Re-posting this blog post from last year and adding the sentiments of Rachel and Joseph, now ages 25 and 29 respectively.  Both are thankful we did not do “Santa Claus” and our Christmas gift giving was and is minimal.  Christmas is not about giving or getting gifts, but about giving of ourselves to each other.

The only difference between the majority of American Christians and the rest of the population–in their Christmas traditions–is their addition of celebrating the birthday of Jesus, for a few moments on Christmas Day and attending their churches’ special Christmas concerts or dramas. 

After Charles and I were married, before children came along, we decided we would NOT include Santa Claus as one of our Lloyd Family Christmas traditions.  My well-to-do family had lavished my sister and I with extravagant Christmases lauding Santa as the most incredible gift-giver of all.  Santa easily took the place of God, in our lives, growing up.  My parents were avid church-goers and God was a part of our lives, albeit a very small part, as relating to Christmas and throughout the year.  Charles’ family, on the other hand, were nominal in their focus on Santa and kept Christ the center of their Christmas traditions.  
When Rachel and Joseph grew older our decision did bring with it some challenges as we had to train our children not to reveal the “precious secret” to their classmates at school or to their cousins. We simply told them each family made decisions for how they would celebrate Christmas and explained why we had decided not to ‘follow the crowd’ on this one.  This was not the only decision we made where we had to explain why we did something this way while other families, yes Christian, did it that way.
I never will forget the time Joseph asked me why our family was different from other Christian families.  It was the last day of school, just before Christmas break, when he was 13.  His question caught me off guard.  I did ask him for clarification, but his was a simple answer and I no longer remember it.  I proceeded to explain to he and Rachel–she was in the car with us–that their daddy and I tried to make decisions based on the love Jesus Christ has shown us.  “We are so very thankful for His sacrificing His life for us, that we want to show Him our appreciation by living lives that we believe are pleasing to Him.  While that is our goal, we still make mistakes…but, ultimately that is our motive for the decisions we make.”  I have no idea if this was a sufficient answer for him or not, but I have never had him ask that question again. 
After becoming a follower of Christ, at the age of 14, my perspective on my family’s money and their lifestyle began to change and my innate desire to get more and more began to wane, as Christ became my central focus.  I wish I could say that I always made wise financial decisions, over the years, but that just is not true.  However, things, for me, have lost their priority and the quest for deeper relationships has taken over.  Yes, on occasion, I do regress to allowing my “want-er” to kick-in, but it isn’t long until the Holy Spirit reminds me of my much needed refocusing and a clear realization that,  “I really don’t need ____ and it would probably do nothing more than collect dust or get stained”.
Please do not misunderstand me and think we did not give gifts at Christmas, because we did and we do.  But, to keep from succumbing to the added pressures of shopping only during the Christmas season, I bought our children’s “Christmas” all throughout the year.  Typically, I would be finished with my Christmas shopping by October every year, taking advantage of sales all year long instead of having to fight the temptation to impulse-buy amidst the BLING of Christmas from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Now the Christmas BLING starts just after Halloween (this year, 2013, it started with back to school sales).  I would often buy Rachel and Joseph things they needed, like socks, underwear, shoes, and place those under the tree, in addition to a few toys and books.  Since Charles and I never felt the need (oh, we felt it, but resisted) to have the newest and best, when it became available, our children never expected to receive the newest and best at Christmas or any other time of the year. 
I wish I could tell you that our family has done some incredible self-less acts of kindness during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, through the years, but we really have not.  I hear incredible stories of how families give-up their Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to serve those less fortunate, but we have never done that…not yet, anyway.   
As I listened to Christian radio this week, during their prayer time, I was struck by a prayer request that was shared.  “Please pray for our family as my husband has been laid-off and we do not want our children to suffer without Christmas presents this year.”  Why is it Christian parents feel so much pressure and place so much value on the presents?  I have copied part of an article and a chart below **** forecasting what the average family will spend on Christmas gifts this year. Keep in mind this does not include money spent on decorations or for food. 

I know these are cliche’, but when has there ever been a more appropriate time in our lives to be more concerned about His presence and not the presents?  Are we just “fitting” Christ in our Christmas traditions or is He, truly, our reason for the season?

It is not too late to change your focus…mom and dad, grandmom and granddad.  One friend has already informed me, this year, their family is making a change–to break the American tradition from getting to giving.  Their children are older, high-school-age and under, but they all agree it is time for a change. 
Let me encourage you to not make drastic changes, but instead deliberate changes.  Change is best received when it is wrapped in a process.  And remember God is always focused on the process.  The process of getting us from here, right now, to that ultimate goal of becoming more like Christ to the world around us.  He is in our every moment, every day and He wants us to take notice of that fact.
Christ is our ultimate example for how we should give.   His everyday life was given for others and through His death He has given us life, abundant life!  Not just salvation and eternal life, life abundant…for today!  We do not give to earn His love or approval, but we give out of a heart full of gratitude for all that He has done for us and all that He is doing and all He will do.  Our acts of service–our giving–and our obedience let Jesus know that sacrificing His life for us was not in vain.   His gifts—keep on giving!  Will yours and mine? 
Here is a link with multiple scriptures related to Our Giving.
***According to the American Research Group, Inc. website: 
2012 Christmas Gift Spending Plans Return to Pre-Recession Levels

Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $854 for gifts this holiday season, up from $646 last year according to the twenty-seventh annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc.
In telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,100 adults nationwide conducted November 11 through 14, 2012, the average planned spending of $854 for 2012 is up over 32% from average planned spending in the 2011 survey and the planned spending matches planned spending of $859 in 2007. 

Year Average Spending Percent Change
2012 $854   + 32%
2011 $646 – 2%
2010 $658   + 58%
2009 $417 – 3%
2008 $431   – 50%
2007 $859  – 5%
2006 $907  – 4%
2005 $942  – 6%
2004 $1,004  + 3%
2003 $976  – 6%
2002 $1,037  -1%

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