Misty Garrison » Gathered Fragments

{celebrating Christ ~ gifts}

In the midst of the years waiting for little ones to arrive to our home, Steven and I did a lot of watching. Waiting and watching. Watching how all our friends & family members chose to celebrate Christmas with their children. Especially when it came to exchanging gifts. I must confess that a little part of my soul has always felt uncomfortable with the extravagance of it all. Always wondering if there was another way. I would like to share with you a few options we have found or had shared with us over the years.

The following is an excerpt from The Advent Conspiracy website:

The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promise, hope, and revolutionary love. How did it turn into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists?

The Advent Conspiracy is a movement. It’s tens of thousands of Christians around the world throwing the kind of birthday party Jesus loves. It started in 2006 with just four churches. Today there are Advent Conspirators in over 20 countries, celebrating Christmas more deeply and blessing others with safe drinking water, offered in Jesus’ name.

The conspiracy is based on four simple ideas:

Worship Fully

Spend Less

Give More

Love All

People give just a little of that money they saved to clean water projects, and the impact is enormous. Hundreds of thousands have received clean drinking water. This is the place where you come to follow the movement and see the change.”

[AC] Promo 2012 – Living Water International from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

If you are interested in finding out how you might participate in this movement, click here. You can also click on the links below the video for more training & promotional videos to share with your church or small group.

And then there is Ann’s version of “When Christmas Gets Radical” brought on by her son’s simple, yet challenging question, “Why don’t we give up things so we can give to Jesus for His birthday?” You can read all about it here. While you are over there stick around & read up on some of her other Christmas related posts. You won’t be sorry.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share a favorite post of mine from Ashley Ann. Oh how I desire my children to grow up with giving, selfless hearts like her little people. And I can’t help but think that it will be difficult for them to get there if they are constantly barraged with every physical treasure their hearts desire {for now}, especially at Christmas. It just seems counter productive to me. But it must start with my own selfish, materialistic heart. As Ashley shares, “I wish I never hesitated at giving. I wish my first reaction was not to count the personal cost of giving. I want to grow up to be more like my children.”

Now for some practical ways that your family might spend less & give more while still exchanging a few gifts with each other.

In her book Treasuring God in our Traditions, Noel Piper describes her family’s tradition of the Shepherd’s Pouch. Each December the family decides on a cause to support that season in honor of Jesus’ birthday. Throughout the month each family member collects their gifts to Jesus (money or items to donate) in a shepherd’s pouch. On Christmas morning the donations have been removed, added to Mommy & Daddy’s contributions and replaced by several small gifts.

A pastor friend of ours approaches Christmas morning this way: each of his children receive four gifts. Each gift represents the growth & maturity of Jesus found in Luke 2:52. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

1. Wisdom ~ book or educational toy
2. Stature ~ clothing item
3. Favor with God ~ an item contributing to their own spiritual development
4. Favor with man ~ a relational game, toy or puzzle basically something that can be shared & enjoyed with siblings & friends

At their house any expensive, significant gift the children receive always comes from Mommy & Daddy, and the small stocking trinkets are Santa’s territory. This way their kids grow up understanding the hard work & sacrifice made by their parents throughout the year in order to purchase such gifts for them. And God gets the glory for providing the blessings to make those purchases possible. Instead of giving all credit to the man in red with completely unlimited resources.

Another variation of this method of giving is The Four Gift Rule:

1. One thing they want
2. One thing they need
3. One thing they wear
4. One thing they read

Another family I admire simply does not purchase Christmas gifts for their children. When she first told me this, I must admit that I was appalled. I could not believe that she chose not to give presents to her kids. A bit too radical for me. Then she explained, and I got it completely. The grandparents lavish her kids with presents at Christmas (as most do). And if they bought presents as well, it was all just too much. Makes perfect sense. Genius, really genius.

Anybody else feel a little sick to their stomach when they take the garbage can overflowing with large boxes, wrapping paper, already broken toys, etc. out to the curb after Christmas (or make a trip to the recycling bin)? Anybody else want to head straight to Good Will after packing your car with the huge haul from grandma’s house, because you know that you will have to add it to whatever you & other family member’s just bought. Not to mention the struggle to find a place to store everything. Anybody else feel your soul crack just a little while you watch your children tearing open package after package after package ~ each time losing interest almost immediately and moving on to the adrenaline rush of tearing into the next present?

Then you might consider implementing one or more of these ideas with your family this Christmas. On a side note, Steven and I do not exchange gifts with each other at Christmas (we do, however, spoil each other rotten on birthdays). Instead we choose to make a significant contribution to a cause or people that is close to our hearts. Sometimes we do it as a couple/family and other times we choose to exchange white envelopes. To learn more about The White Envelope Project click here.

What creative ways does your family use to “spend less & give more?” How do you model for your children to be cheerful givers & thankful receivers? What types of gifts do you give Jesus each year?

Of course, one gift we can give Him is serving others in His name. More ideas about that next time. But for now, here are so more helpful resources:

Compassion Catalog

Samaritan’s Purse Catalog

Partners International Catalog

World Vision Catalog

Water for Christmas

And, as always, please feel free to share any other resources that might help us in our journey to celebrate Christ with our “gifts.”

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