Your Family, Your Simple & Intentional Life

The Gift of Presence

Candy blogs: Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful. We say it every year. I certainly have. We long for Christmases past. I have very strong memories of Christmases at my grandparents’ house in northern Idaho, with all the aunts & uncles and cousins. After eight hours of driving … down the last stretch of dirt road … past the general store … past the grove of pine trees … we all leaned forward as far as we could … there! We could finally see the lights of the house! And once inside we were lost in a wave of hugs and kisses and smiles. Christmas had begun!

The first order of the day would be for us kids to go to all the familiar places where Grandpa put his home-made hard candy and caramel popcorn. There was always a hammer in the pan so you could crack off a piece small enough to get in your mouth. It took forever to suck on it long enough to get it soft and chewy. And then there was Grandma’s fudge and candy to find … and the boxes of oranges and apples.

snow angelThe days were spent sledding and making snowmen and snow angels and playing snow games. The evenings were spent singing and praying together, playing games and feasting on Grandma’s incredible meals. It was very noisy.

I hardly noticed that we had a gift exchange. That part was almost meaningless to me. I don’t remember a single gift I received there (well, I do remember one). It was always about honoring the birth of Jesus and time spent with family that we couldn’t wait for, and that’s what I remember and long for now.

We all WANT Christmas to be more meaningful but our Christmas celebrations don’t change or become more meaningful just because we want them to.

Did you know that Christmas hasn’t always been a happy, joyous holiday? It’s come to us as a result of many transitions and decrees and combinations of other celebrations … not all of them positive. Christmas used to be a loud, rather raucous, celebration. Some Christians wouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Christmas is not Biblical. Sounds pretty radical, doesn’t it? It’s really just a tradition; a wonderful one, but still a tradition. But anything that encourages us to pause and remember and celebrate our life with Jesus is wonderful. And over hundreds of years, that’s the meaning that American Christians have given to Christmas … to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

With that said, did you know that, according to the Advent Conspiracy movement, Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas … EVERY YEAR? That is astounding to me.

I used to get that “sick” feeling in my stomach when the middle of November came around. You know the feeling I’m talking about. The “only four paychecks until Christmas” feeling? We bought the lie. We dragged ourselves to all the stores on every available day off, buying cartloads of toys and games that were eventually broken or lost or discarded. Never to be remembered again.

frantic womanAs soon as the political ads stopped, the Christmas commercials began, showing frenzied parents driven by the indulgent “I want” lists of their children, and wide-eyed shop-a-holics literally in a shopping coma and feeling fully justified in their decadent spending aqnd making us think that should be normal.

We shake our heads in distaste for these commercials, and yet our Christmas celebrations remain unchanged and undistinguishable from those who don’t honor the birth of Jesus as we do.

We all WANT Christmas to be meaningful … but what would that actually look like?

The Gift of Presence

Last year I was introduced to the Advent Conspiracy. It started several years ago in a church where the leadership felt compelled to DO something about having a meaningful Christmas. It’s a movement “restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.”

Here is their bottom line:

Worship fully … spend less … give more … love all

To re-state that …
• We are encouraged to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ to the fullest extent
• and out of that worship spend less on ourselves
• so we can give more to others
• which is showing love to all in very practical ways.

The organization shares lists of ways to do this. I’m not here to advocate their list. What absolutely grabbed hold of my heart was the thought that it was time to stop shaking my head at the commercials and overstocked store shelves, stop wishing and hoping and wanting Christmas to be more meaningful … and actually MAKE it so.

So last year instead of meaningless gift certificates and shopping from Amazon Wish Lists, I gave much thought to what would be the most meaningful tomy family. And everyone was pleased and even moved by their gifts. I’ve been scheming again this year to search my relationships and give gifts that showcase their value as a person rather than on materialistic things that will likely never be remembered. I am concentrating on gifts of presence.

After all, the gifts the Magi brought to the Christ child were very carefully chosen … chosen more for their meaning than their value.

The presents we give our loved ones give a very temporary sense of happiness. It flares up quickly and dies down quickly, rather like that holiday meal you slaved over all day and was consumed in minutes. In the scheme of things, very few of these presents will ever be remembered.

large family christmas dinner imagesCAUKONHCBut when we give the gift of presence, when we spend time eye to eye and heart to heart, having conversations, continuing traditions, teaching skills, building relationships … we build memories. We build a foundation beneath our families, a sense of knowing where they came from and giving them a reference point when they set the direction for their lives.

When we talk about King Jesus and His gift of eternal life, we help others stop … and worship … and celebrate this gift. And in the busyness of this season … even if just for a few moments … we can all touch eternity by connecting with our Eternal God.

What do you want your Christmas to look like? Have you thought about intentionally making it more like you wish it was? It’s not too late.

Worship fully … spend less … give more … love all

2 thoughts on “The Gift of Presence”

  1. Candy, I loved hearing you present this at the Women’s Tea. I’ve thought about several points over the past couple of weeks. Thank you for helping me keep my focus on what is really important: worshiping the one we celebrate during this season – JESUS, and the giving of my time, which is much more valuable than any gift I could possibly buy. Blessings to you and your family during this wonderful season. And may we remember to keep these priorities in place every day of the year! Hugs!

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