Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Practical Ideas for Making Christmas Matter

My son—then just 2—begged me to pull out the Advent Book—its beautifully illustrated pictures telling a life-giving stort hidden behind ornate paper doors.

This reading of this gorgeous book has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions that matter. My husband reads it with the kids, huddled in our air conditioned office each night of December.

But last year, Evan wanted to share it with the young friends who sometimes stop by for visits. Their religion centered in mosques, their prayers said in Arabic—these kids gathered around as my son showed them the story of the baby born in Bethlehem.

I love this integration of family tradition with outreach—both done inside the home and outside of it. Temporary moments interlaced with eternity. My own messy, crazy life with kids spent in a way that I hope points others to the One who gives my soul hope. Traditions that mean something to me and my family shared with others who mean so much to Him.
Here are some other ideas for making your Christmas matter.

1. Bring gifts to those in need.

Our team of MAF women—the westerners and the Indonesians—have gathered gifts that we’ve brought to the local hospital to distribute to sick children. Most of these kids probably don’t even celebrate Christmas. But it has given us a chance to share generosity and hope with those who hurt; and a chance for our own kids to be the givers.

What could you do where you live? Could you visit a nursing home? Bring presents to an orphanage? Help a single mother with her needs?

2. Turn your tasks into opportunities.

Over the years, I’ve decorated hundreds of cookies with different friends—the friend whose son is autistic; the ladies who volunteer at a local clinic; the girl whose only sister died. Their kids and my kids and their sticky hands decorating and tasting; conversation flowing over frosting and warm cookies.

This tradition that tastes good and makes me feel all Christmasy becomes tied with relationships and love. Many of these friends don’t yet celebrate Christmas. But I hope this is a start to decisions that bring freedom and hope.

3. Throw a party—for those who most need it.

A few days before Christmas, we throw a party—complete with Indonesian food for our Indonesian friends—many of whom are in need. I put out the cookies that many of them helped me decorate, and we welcome them into our home in a country where hospitality means treating the guest as king. (And we finally get to attempt to pay back all the amazing hospitality given to us by our Indonesian friends!) The house gets messy and I get all sweaty and it always ends past my bedtime. But I hope they experience warmth that has nothing to do with the weather.

4. Say no and say yes.

Simplify and complicate. Cut out the things that make the season too busy, that are draining, but that don’t matter. But the thing I learn again and again each year? Not to close my door to the world and make Christmas about just my home and only my family.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my own inadequacy in doing this. I don't use the right words, or cook the perfect recipes, or have a clean enough or quiet enough home for my guests. (There was one year when I asked my friends to critique my cooking of Indonesian food and I definitely fell short!)

But then my son reminds me about the story. The one hidden behind ornate doors meant to be discovered every day. The Story that was born—and lived for the least, the forsaken, and the hurting.

photo credit, *Vintage Fairytale*

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