(Sigh.) Christmas.

(Sigh).  Christmas.  The season of list-making, cookie-baking, card-writing (not that I do that one), present-bearing, and money-sucking. If I sound a bit cynical, it’s because I can very easily get all wrapped up in the craziness of the Americanized-Christmas.  The commercials that remind me that my shopping days are dwindling make me want to crawl into the corner.  The advertisements that tell me that all my loved ones are expecting the perfect gift from me produce enough anxiety and pressure to perform that I could explode like Mentos in Diet-Coke.  It’s madness.  Generosity should be a joy.  Christmas should reflect the generosity of the Father.  And even if I can’t afford to give anything to anybody, Christmas has got to reflect the pricelessness of Jesus.  He is undeniably the best gift anyone could receive this holiday.

The month of December we are taking a break from “normal” school and having “Christmas” school.  This involves quite a few things, some of which we have included in past years in a desire to create our own family traditions.  Without having to be at school, we are able to expand these traditions and also add some new things.  

In the past, we have had a paper Christmas chain.  On the inside of each strip of paper, I usually write some activity to do for that day.  Sometimes, its as simple as watch “Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Sometimes it’s a little more extravagant like ice skating or going to look at Christmas Lights.  This year, because we have more time, I am trying to incorporate more service opportunities.  We will deliver cookies to the elementary school and read some books for the kindergartners and first-graders.  We also are going to volunteer with Brown Santa.  Along with our tradition of these paper chain activities that help countdown the days to Christmas, we are adding a Christmas devotional too.  On the inside of each strip of paper is a “clue” word.  The clue word guides our bible study for the day, which is following the story of Christmas.  I am using an e-book entitled, Truth in the Tinsel.  We make an ornament that reminds us of what part of the story we read.  It’s been fun to watch the ornaments being made and know that year after year we will pull them out and be reminded of the Truth of Christmas.  The devotions and the ornaments are pretty simple and don’t take much time.

We are also studying Christmas around the World.  I am using a unit found on Confessions of a Homeschooler.  We will study nine countries and discuss their celebrations and traditional foods, trying to make a craft or cook a recipe that corresponds.  So far this week, we have talked about Christmas in Japan and China.  Since only 1% of Japanese are Christians, Christmas is a commercial event, and there really are no traditional Christmas foods.  One resource said that it’s a busy time of year with lots of gift giving and parties and that in Japan, Christmas is the busiest time of year for KFC.  (Enter my excuse to eat out.)  We got chicken from KFC and also made some traditional Soba noodles that are eaten to celebrate the New Year.  In our study of China, we talked about how populated China is, and how most of the country also doesn’t know about Jesus.  We discussed how in China, the people are not free to worship Jesus.  So most of their celebration is in regards to the New Year as well, although they still put up trees and give gifts in certain areas.  Tomorrow we will make some Chinese Knot Ornaments.  

The desire is that all these little projects and lessons will keep our hearts away from the commercialization of Christmas here at home.  I’d like to be able to tell my children that because we live in a “Christian” culture here in the US, that commercialization is not an issue.  But, I think out of all the different religions represented in the United States, Christians probably buy the most, spend the most, and want the most.  It’s not okay.  We live in a country that allows us to worship our God with no limitations.  We live in a country where we can freely worship. We live in a country that has not silenced our beliefs or the printing of our Bibles.  I can’t believe sometimes how we miss the boat completely.  As Christians, we sometimes do more of the neglecting of our Savior and our faith than the countries that prevent their people from hearing and saying His name.  How dare we.  We have been given something special, and we don’t even use it.  If Christmas was about Christmas trees and presents, then China is not missing a thing.  But they are!  They are missing Jesus.  If we miss Jesus also, then how can we claim to love Him and know Him any deeper?  I want to teach my children to not be selfish.  I want them to not just appreciate their freedoms, but to take advantage of them.  If they don’t worship Jesus this Christmas, then we’ve done something very wrong with our time in Family Rehab.  If they don’t tell others what the big deal is about a baby in a manger, then I’ve taught them nothing about the importance of that historical event, and the impact it has on people living today.  

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention also that our world right now is turned upside down.  God has been forcing us to ask some big questions about who we are and how we identify ourselves.  He’s pushing us to ask questions of “where” and “why”.  These are not comfortable.  I am sincerely confounded by the choices that lie in front of Paul and me, and our family.  For those of you who believe, for those of you who pray, for those of you who have a keen awareness and discernment of the Father’s will, please pray for us.  I have no doubt that whatever we “choose”, God will remain faithful to His people–ALL His people, no matter where they live.  I want to listen to His voice.  I want to obey.  

I also don’t want to be so distracted and overwhelmed by what lies in front of us that I, too, miss worshiping Jesus this Christmas–or at any time.  I don’t want to stop looking to Him because I am busy looking out trying to guess the future.  I want to remain faithful to family rehab.  I want to remain intentional with my kids and their hearts.  I want to seek a deeper relationship with my Savior, not just His plan for me.  There’s a difference.  I can easily get wrapped up in what the gift-bearer is bringing, instead of being enthralled with the One who has and continues to provide so much.  I have been given a priceless treasure in Jesus.  I have no reason to fear, no reason to crawl into a corner, no reason to perfectly perform.  In looking to Him, all the questions will be answered, all the Truth in the tinsel will be found, and all the joy of Christmas will bubble out of me like Mentos in Diet-Coke

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