I love kids in applique Christmas t-shirts and even love staying up half the night to finish them in time for the church kids' Christmas program:
|seriously... is it asking too much to get all three to look in the same direction AND smile sweetly at the same time???|
But most of all, I love what Christmas means. It's more than just the birth of baby. It's a time I can celebrate that my God, who loves me so, came to earth and lived here as a human and He could really truly empathize with the human experience. When He became one of us in order to die and sacrifice himself and reconcile us back to the Father. Amazing.
And it is SO hard to focus on that between all the red-nosed reindeer, Christmas cookies, shopping lists, and cooking/baking there is to do. And have I mentioned the Christmas COOKIES?? :)
But we were created to worship Him. And we worship all the time; except it's not always Him. Because we were created to worship, we find things to worship. Want to know what you worship? Look at where your money goes and where your time goes. That's what you worship.
That means I often worship my family, sewing/crafting, and the internet.
I should be worshiping the Creator of the Universe. I was created to worship the Creator of the Universe. Instead I'm worshiping my sewing machine, cute fabric, and facebook. Seriously? Ugh.
So every Christmas I strive to celebrate in a way that honors the One that all this hubbub is all about. Waaaaaayyyy back in high school my youth minister challenged us to donate the same amount of money that we spent on Christmas presents. I thought it was a great idea... and never really did it until a few years ago.
So now I pass the challenge along. How are you spending your time and money this Christmas? Who (or what) are you worshiping? Is it an item? A trip? A coveted toy for your child? Those darn-good Christmas cookies? What if we all cut our Christmas budgets in half and spent one half on the gifts we want to give, and gifted the rest in a way that would be used to glorify God: feeding children, restoring justice, clothing the naked, loving the downtrodden and oppressed?
Or what if the "things" we gift to one another reflected the way we want to honor Jesus? I got a present of a beanie baby chick one year with a card that said the giver had donated a flock of chicks in my honor to Heifer International. I've never forgotten that gift. What if the gifts you give your family and friends (who, most likely, need nothing) bettered the lives of others?
Soooo... in case you need any ideas, here are some of the things we will be spending half of our Christmas budget on this year or have in years past. These are places you can either donate directly to or buy items that support their programs:
Connected in Hope Beautiful scarves and woven bags made by Ethiopian women who used to carry heavy loads of firewood down Mount Entoto every day. Carrying firewood is six hours of backbreaking labor for a few dollars. Now they can weave beautiful scarves and bags and feed their children. What's more, they gain the respect of their community (the women who carry firewood are social outcasts; even the police mistreat them). I met these women and was honored to meet them. Read more about my experience with them here. Be a part of this amazing empowerment initiative.
Heart for Africa - GO! Go to Swaziland and ask family/friends to donate to your trip cost instead of asking for presents. Or sponsor someone who is going. Or check out what HfA is doing through Project Canaan. Another empowerment initiative bringing resources and jobs to the Swazi people so that they may bring about change in their own country. Help provide a baby home for babies who would otherwise be on their own.
Invisible Children (link to shop) - 100% of your purchase goes towards supporting Invisible Children's (link to agency) programs to try to end the use of child soldiers in central Africa.
World Vision: Donate to support their programs that provide clean water to communities, or purchase livestock to enable communities to thrive and feed their families.
Support a family that is adopting! If you know someone adopting, even if they aren't actively fundraising, consider giving them an anonymous (or known) gift towards their adoption. You can often do this in a way that is a tax-deductible contribution (check with the family about that). Not everyone is going to adopt an orphan, but everyone can be a part of caring for them and helping bring them home. So many people donated to our adoption and now have "stock" in our family - they are a part of why Amani is no longer an orphan and we will forever have a special place in our hearts for those folks!
The challenge is this: slow down and use this most wonderful time of the year to worship the One. I pray my life may always reflect the heart that God is molding within me. I pray my children grow up and remember that Christmas was about honoring Jesus, not about getting stuff under a tree. I would SO much rather spend our Christmas money and know that, as a result, hungry children are no longer hungry, suffering people are no longer suffering, downtrodden women are uplifted, the desolate no longer feel alone.
Those are the true gifts of Christmas.