I've always loved this time of the year. There was a season in my adult life where I dreaded portions of this season, however we're figuring those things out. As a little girl my mother made sure that Christmas was "Perfect." We always had a "Perfect tree," with "Perfect decorations," hung in the "Perfect places." There was Christmas music, freshly baked cookies, and the anticipation of Santa. Each year on Christmas Eve, or near there, we'd drive around with my aunt and cousins to look at lights on the houses. My dad and uncle always stayed home. It didn't take us long to figure out they were taking the hidden gifts out and putting them together for us.
Most of all I loved the warm and cozy feeling I received each December.
Martie and I wrestled for years how to celebrate, what to tell our children, gifts or no gifts... I still believe this has to be a family conviction and decision. *No judgement zone* We don't do Santa. We're too selfish and love getting all the credit for what we buy. Just kidding, kind of. We don't do Santa because we don't want to lie to our children. We're afraid that if we make this person up and play along, then they might question our honesty about Jesus. Don't worry, our kids will not tell your kids the truth. They think they're cool and privileged because they have information that others don't have. We also have that one child who still refuses to believe us and swears to us that Santa's real. Again, we do NOT judge those who eagerly anticipate the coming of the weird, fictional, round guy that likes little children to sit on his lap. I also really love the pictures of the elves in your house causing all sorts of mischief. I'm just too boring for that. It would also ruin my reputation as the "Fun killer."
There are some things that we've incorporated into our family and I hope our children will have fond memories of. We decorate a Christmas tree. I have several favorite ornaments, that no one is allowed to touch. That dead thing that sits in my living room for a few weeks still has the potential for being an idol.
We also have a Jesse tree. This is a small Christmas tree that sits in our foyer. Each night we read Ann Voscamp's Jesse Tree Journey and place an ornament on the tree. Each scripture points to the coming of our Lord and at the end there is a portion called, "Unwrapping more of His love in the world." There are great ideas that give you easy and practical ways to show love to others, serve others, ask for forgiveness...
We also light advent candles and read Jotham's Journey, A storybook for Advent. There are three books in this series, but it begins with Jotham. You only read one book a year. The other two are Tabitha's Travels and Bartholomew's Passage. After reading, reflecting, and praying we put the children to bed by candlelight. They LOVE this part of the night. We always tuck them in and pray with them, but something about bringing a candle just adds a new level of excitement.
Lights! We love to look at Christmas lights. The crazier, tackier, the better! I so appreciate the people that put hours and hours into making your house look festive. I'm so boring that I haven't given into the pressure of colored lights. So, my children love all your bright, colorful, and flashy lights. We usually travel to Meadow lights. They also have a wonderful Old Country Store with all kinds of candy favorites.
We drive by the Parkwood home multiple times a week. My children have lovingly named this the "Gingerbread house."
We bake, and bake, and bake. The kids love to take treats to the neighbors and the "Gingerbread house." I still use my mom's old recipes and haven't really found any new favorites. Although, I'm always looking.
This year we created a bucket list. I was surprised that most of the things on that list involved people. My family loves being with people. One of the things I've been focusing on this year was being more intentional with relationships. This list has only helped me with my struggles. Martie and I want to go out more with other couples, our kids want to have play dates, and we want to serve those around us. So we've already enjoyed a couple date nights, the kids have had sleepovers, and play dates, and we even went on a field trip! (Watch out now, my kids are getting socialized) We made Christmas ornaments, had cookies, and enjoyed cider and hot chocolate. There's still plans to decorate gingerbread houses, have a family movie night, and bake a cake for Jesus.
I'd love to hear what your family does, but whatever that is, I pray you make time to reflect on the coming of our Lord. Without this season we would still be waiting. He is our hope this year, He is our salvation, He is our joy!
Psalm 61:1-4 "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.