It's been a busy, but a merry, little Christmas... and though its been marked by a constant flow of people, somehow it has felt like a break as well, The usual routines are gone... there are later mornings (sort of... our boys are early risers... so by later mornings I mean we aren't rushing out of the house at half-past-eight!), slower starts, less "must-do's" and somehow I always find this time of year good for the soul. On so many levels...
I love Christmas... but I love the whole build up of advent just as much. The waiting... the longing... the preparations and excitement... the advent candles and calendars, the ever-growing nativity scene. I love that Advent does exactly what its meant to - prepares us for the arrival of the Saviour - so many life lessons squeezed into 24 days. We have scaled back this year in pretty much every area - from the December traditions, to the actual giving of presents, but it has been SO good for us.
This year, David and I decided not to do presents for each other. It's not a permanent decision, nor one which we feel is a necessity for anyone other than us right now... but over the past few years we just felt like the focus has been so much on "stuff" that we just wanted to pull it right back and refocus. On Christmas morning, I took so much joy from seeing the children enjoying their gifts that I can honestly say I didn't miss my own stocking at all. It felt right to enjoy the act of giving without any sense of expectation... and totally removed that ugly sense of "entitlement" that can so easily (even at 34) rear its ugly head at Christmas.
For the children we have stripped right back to four gifts. We did it last year as well, and truly everybody loved it... each of the children received
Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read
The difference this has made to our Christmas mornings is phenomenal - number one, it means the opening of gifts is actually over pretty quick giving time for children to enjoy their presents, number two they actually appreciate, and I mean really appreciate, each one.... and number three, they aren't constantly asking when the next present is going to be because they know there are four. And then they immersed themselves in what they'd been given! Jonas disappeared into the kitchen with his Avengers colouring book and we didn't' see him for the rest of the morning. I love how the little, afterthought gifts often end up being the favourite presents!
I'm grateful for so much this Christmas - it has been a joy to spend time with dear friends and family near and far... to simplify and begin to teach our children that it is better to give than to receive. It's not been without its challenges, of course, a large family with lots of small people means I am learning as much as they are... training tiny people to sit still during church can be wearing, early mornings with boys who like to rise before the sun can lead to a Mama who is neither gentle nor kind at times, the usual frustrations and bickering of family life between all six of us... the messiness of sin in the context of one-anothering. It's a reminder to me of the reason WHY Christmas is so very precious. For all the loveliness of good food, family fun and gift-giving, the true joy of Christmas is that God sent his Son down INTO the mess of everyday life, to fix the mess OF everyday life.
The beauty of Christmas - Jesus is born - to die on a cross - to give me life in all its fulness - both now and forever. In the chaos and cosyness, in the love and the loss of Christmas - that is the truth which stands firm. How wonderful and beautiful and joy-giving that is!
Merry Christmas from all of us!