Our kids accidentally didn't ask for anything for Christmas last year.
Not a thing.
They did not have the chance.
Never did I think that this simple way of starting the day would change – I mean, really change -- the way we did Christmas.
(#Momfession: I did eventually ask them to make a wish list because I could not resist seeing their sweet crayon letters!)
The difference was simply that we started Advent with a different kind of list.
With some burlap ribbon, clothes pins, paper, and my trusty glue gun the change had begun:
The prep: (See first image on the right)
The idea: a "Merry and Bright Advent" calendar where (ideally) the kids would start their day by walking down the steps for breakfast -- excited to open up our Advent calendar and see how they could make someone's day better.
Secretly I had waged an emotional war with our Elf on the Shelf -- "Mittens" (who still finds himself fishing in snow, and bathing in mini-marshmallows) hoping that he would get a little less attention.
Never did I think that this simple way of starting the day would change – I mean, really change -- the way we did Christmas. After all, I didn't particularly have a problem with our Christmas. It was perfectly fine.
And there stood the problem:
"Fine," my least favorite word, had made its way into Christmas. And something was gently nudging me to do something about it.
I don't believe in magic -- but I do believe in miracles.
What happened in our home was one of those little miracles that will justify my craft project every, single, year
Our afternoons were transformed from "getting and wanting" to "giving and serving."
Our dinner talks were sweetened with the recap and play by play of knocking on the door of the firehouse, or writing a soldier a note of gratitude for his or her service, or driving by someone's home decorated in the Christmas spirit and leaving them a treat and a thank you note in their mailbox.
Not getting -- but giving.
Try anything for 25 days straight and it might just change you.
And in practicing the joy of giving…
… even when it was cold
… even when we had lots of homework
… even if someone was not feeling up to it
… even if it meant baking cookies late at night
And in the giving -- we truly did prepare for the best gift ever: receiving.
Receiving Jesus Christ.
Of course there were questions:
Mommy, why isn't there candy in our Advent calendar?
Because you get candy other times, you don't need it in there.
This is sweeter, that is why.
Not sweeter than chocolate!
Just trust me, it will be. (I hoped that I could make good on it)
Are we doing this "just because"??
Because that is what God does for us every day.
Do we get candy at the end?
(good follow up, I have to admit! )
Do we get a gift back?
Well ... it's not a present that you can open.
(You see where this was going)
The answer only came after we had done the giving.
It was a gift we did not have to ask for.
A gift we don't deserve.
A gift that did not require us opening anything but our hearts.
It was the light of the world. God gave us His only Son.
And our family could feel what it was like to receive because they had practiced what it was like to give.
Were there moments of "for Christmas I want..."?
Did they still get treats and gifts and a visit from Santa?
Did getting gifts rule our December?
Not... a… chance.
Because the gift of Jesus -- EMMANUEL -- filled us up.
Heroically, it would be great to take full credit for this transformation. (Headline reads: "Mom of three SAVES the real CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!")
But the truth is: Christmas saved me.
God nudged… And we budged. (And, did I mention how much I love my glue gun?)
Praise God for the pursuit of our hearts, even when we are "fine."
"For God so loved the world he gave his only Son"
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (Corinthians 9:5)