By Amy Wiebe
I love Christmas, and I love traditions. But I also love my sanity. You see, the thing about traditions is you have to keep doing them. That’s what makes them traditions, right?
Oh, the pressure.
My kids are in a fun season. They’re nine, seven, and four, and they’re starting to remember (and expect) the traditions I began before they were born. However, since I work full time and my husband and I are church planters, you can imagine that December is not the quietest month. It’s terrifying how fast it flies by. (It’s even more terrifying how the weight flies on in December, but that’s a separate subject.)
You’d probably think that, because of my other responsibilities, I’d start Christmas shopping really early and try to prepare for the holidays well in advance. But you would be very wrong. Planning ahead just isn’t my style. Instead, my family and I extend ourselves (and everyone else) loads and loads of grace in December.
Here’s what Christmas traditions look like for us:
The tradition most important to me is our Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. You can find a copy here. It’s essentially a calendar with various ideas for small acts of kindness we perform for others as a family. While I completely agree that we should be practicing such things year ‘round (and we try to), the focused effort during the Advent season is a blessing and a reminder to my kids for the rest of the year.
But here’s the thing: If we miss a day, or two days, or three days, we don’t sweat it. We simply do the best we can. Also, if I see what’s scheduled for a given day and I know it’s going to be too much effort for that particular day, we may choose a simpler act of kindness instead. Grace upon grace upon grace.
I know what you Type A control freaks are thinking: “I couldn’t possibly skip a day!” You can. From one Type A mom to another, let me tell you, it’s good for you. Even if my kids complete ten of the twenty-four designated acts of kindness, it’s good for them. And it’s better than letting them think Christmas is all about them with a sprinkling of Jesus on the side.
My second favorite tradition is our Meaningful Christmas Devotionals. Some friends of mine wrote a lovely Advent devotional (it reaches beyond the Christmas story to the more complete story of Christ), and they combined it with a precious ornament theme for each day. You get twenty-four women together who are willing to create twenty-four of one ornament, and then you have a fun exchange party where each person ends up with an ornament for each of the twenty-four days of Advent. At the time of this post, it will be too late to participate for 2015, but you can like their Facebook page here if you want to participate next year.
We try to do the devotionals each night before bed, and the kids take turns putting the ornaments on a small Christmas tree reserved especially for this purpose. But y’all—do you even know how many parties and evening activities there are in December that mess with bedtime? (Yes. Yes, of course you do.) We miss many a night and just double up the next night or catch up over the weekend. Grace upon grace upon grace.
I’ll leave you with one last tradition. We have our kids make Christmas lists, but we ask them to list only four items:
- Something you want
- Something you need
- Something you wear
- Something you read
This is just one other way to prevent them from getting carried away with ridiculous lists of material things. Limiting their demands has been a great way to keep them focused less on themselves and more on the true meaning of Christmas.
Once the Christmas season is over, and I look back on how it went, I am assessing whether our family was focused outward and not inward. Why? I want us to love Jesus by loving others. I want this all the time, but especially in December. I believe many are watching Christians during this season to see if we get sucked into the commercialism that drives Christmas in the U.S.
Amy Wiebe is a Jesus follower, wife, mom of three, church planter, finance director, and lover of sarcasm and deep conversation with friends. She also loves camping, rafting, skiing, sewing, and having people over. Amy blogs with her husband at fringechurch.com.
Photograph by Stefan Schweihofer.