This is officially my first Christmas as a pastor's wife. Yikes, sounds scary doesn't it?
The reality is, it's not that scary after all. Over the years we've done our part to make sure our children focus on the Christ-side of Christmas. It's not easy. We talk about Jesus' birth a lot. Daily really. Sometimes several times a day. We have an advent magnet nativity scene on our fridge and each day we put up another part of the scene. We do a nightly devotional. This year we're reading Nancy Guthrie's "Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room." It's good, a little above some of our kiddos, but gets the discussion started. We're at church. A lot. My kids think it's their second home. No joke. They more than make themselves comfortable! Candy dish out of mints? No problem, they all know where the refill stash is. Hungry? No problem, they can scrounge up something in the kitchen. Want to play in the sanctuary? Just get out the riding toys and drive around. You get the picture. They spend a lot of time at church.
I found an awesome little book this year called "Christmas is Not Your Birthday." I really recommend it. It talks about how in America, at Christmas time, we spend most of our time making lists of want we want - like it's our birthday. And if your house is anything like mine...there are too many presents under the tree and the kids make a mad dash to open them and see what all they got. We have several family Christmas gatherings and end up celebrating with gifts for days. (It's hard to minimize the gift receiving end of Christmas when it just keeps coming and coming!) The book talks about how Christmas is not in fact our birthday, but Jesus'. And we should think of ways focus on giving gifts to Him. What would he like? Obviously our hearts. But he calls us to take care of those who need help - the poor, broken hearted, orphans and widows. The book says that if we minimized our spending and gave a financial contribution to help others equal to what we spent on our own gifts, then that would be an amazing way to honor Jesus on His birthday! What if we all did this?
After talking about that one night with the kids they suggested we buy presents for kids who don't have enough. Great idea! And in the awesome way that God works, my Mom stopped by the next day and said she wanted to adopt some angels from the angel tree and take my kids shopping with her. Perfect timing!
Now to the ever present Santa issue. We don't deny he exists. Yet. We also don't promote him either. It's just not the side of Christmas we focus on. Rarely do you hear me talk about Santa. His picture is not plastered all over my house at Christmas time. But that means I don't get to use him as a crutch for good behavior either..."Santa's watching to see if you're naughty or nice..." We don't make lists for Santa or spend a lot of time talking about him. If the kids bring it up, we talk for as long as they want. That's it. On Christmas Eve they talk a lot about him. And that's okay too for now. We also make sure to read the story out of the Bible and bring them back to the true meaning of Christmas. In our house, Santa brings simple stocking gifts, but anything nice comes from us. I know we'll eventually talk to the kids about the history of how Santa Clause came to be known. There's a lot of good in that story. Before commercialism and greed took over. But with my youngest only 3, I have no problem waiting a little longer. I'm leaning towards telling them all before next Christmas though. I read a great blog about this. You can read it here. One thing that stood out for me is the idea that for children, how can we expect Jesus to compete with the idea of Santa who flies in the sky to bring them presents. So true. Another great thing the blog suggested was about gift giving. They give their children something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. That's it. What a great idea! That's going to be my goal next year.
We have traditions. We won't miss a Christmas Eve service. That's ruffled some feathers over the years with planning big family gatherings. But we won't miss it. And when Christmas falls on a Sunday we won't miss church either. This year, Chris is preaching our candlelight Christmas Eve service. I'll be the one in the front with 4 kids, 5 burning candles, and a 3 year-old boy who doesn't like to be quiet or hold still. Oh, and did I mention he's fully comfortable commenting on what's going on? And I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a "quiet voice." Wish me luck! Maybe not the perfect picture of a pastor's wife?!
It seems like we've had a gradual transition through the years of slowly having a more Christ-like Christmas. We've got a long ways to go, but we're trying. Our heart is in the right place and that's a start. I'm excited about Christmas this year - more so than in years past - and I think it's because we're finally focusing more on Jesus and less on the stresses and drama that inherently come along with the holidays. So, maybe becoming a pastor's wife isn't so scary after all. Maybe God has been preparing me for this for a long time. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have well behaved children at the front of church on Christmas Eve. But don't count on it!