Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Conspiracy

Listen to me: I know how to keep Christmas sacred! I have three nativity sets displayed in my house, a gold-plated "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" pin, and Christmas praise music by Maranatha playing in my minivan. Oh, yeah, I even show up to church service each Sunday in December AND on Christmas Eve. What more could Jesus want from me?

Well, he wants my heart. I may think I have that one covered since I gave my life to Him and became his follower long ago, but does the way I "do Christmas" reflect spiritual transformation, or are my celebrations awash in materialism and consumerism with a little "Jesus stuff" thrown in here and there for good measure?

I am teaching my daughters that Jesus is worthy of all their love and devotion and of supreme importance in their lives. But when Mika and Macy see me running like a little hamster in an elf hat on a red and green wheel, spinning furiously, trying to keep up with everyone else and then dragging myself off about midnight on Christmas Eve, frazzled, frantic, frustrated, and fried, what am I really teaching them?

After much thought and some soul searching, I found Advent Conspiracy (http://www.adventconspiracy.com/) and, in the words of Oprah, had an "ah-ha moment." They are about getting back to basics at Christmas, and their goals are simple:

Worship Fully
Spend Less
Give More
Love All

Obviously, implementation of these goals is going to look quite different in each person's/family's life. Let me give you just a few ideas that my family has:

We will be putting fewer gifts under the tree for the girls this year. They will each receive three gifts from us, plus a few things in their stockings. (This is in addition to gifts they will receive from other family members). We will focus on giving Mika and Macy our "presence" instead. "Relational giving" means we will spend time playing in the park, going to the movies, reading their favorite Christmas books, helping them bake and decorate sugar cookies, building forts in the front room, and watching them act out the story of the first Christmas. Money we save will be given to those who are less fortunate than we are.

After estimating that we spend approximately $150 on high-gloss photo cards, our Christmas letter, and postage, we decided to forgo paper greetings in favor of an e-card. Now, I am aware that everyone we know waits breathlessly at their mailbox to receive our Christmas card filled with a cherry-picked collage of pictures of our adorable kids and seemingly perfect family (not), and our witty, rhyming letter recapping the Jarrell's year. Yes, for our family and friends, receipt of our Christmas card/letter is the highlight of the season, and many will be crestfallen that we won't be sending them out. (yeah, right).

In any case, when we realized we could donate the $150 to Water is Basic (http://www.waterisbasic.org/) and help to provide clean drinking water for people in Sudan, we decided this was a better return on investment in the long run.

Jesus was a servant: he came to serve. So, what better way to honor him than to serve others with a heart full of gratitude for the his extravagant gift to us, over 2000 years ago? We are planning several volunteer projects that we can do as a family.

Amazingly, and I really can't explain it, but when our family takes the time to love and care for others who are less fortunate, it seems like this time is multiplied back to us! Also, the love we share greatly increases the joy and peace we feel in our hearts. It is a win-win proposition!

We don't have this all figured out; we are just trying to find some ways to tweak our Christmas celebrations and traditions to reflect the heart of our Savior. There are moments I think we go too far, moments I think we don't go far enough, and moments I feel that we're in the right spot for us.

Next year, we will probably re-evaluate again. We may decide to send out Christmas cards in 2011. We may decide three gifts for the children is too many. We may change the types of volunteering we are involved in, or what causes we donate money to.
Whatever we do, I hope that, in the words of Advent Conspiracy, we can remember that "Christmas can (still) change the world!"

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