Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Giving at our House

If you've been a reader here for awhile you know how we turned our Christmas giving upside down, backwards a few years ago and how very much we love, Love, LOVE it.

If you're new and don't know what I'm talking about.... I'm happy to share what the Christmas giving looks like in our home.

It started about a dozen years ago.... that Christmas when I realized the gifts were out of control. 

I use to take pride in how far the presents piled out and away from the Christmas tree but that year was different. That year the excess hit me upside the head and sickened me. My girls whined as I made them continue to open presents when all they really wanted to do was play with the things they'd already opened.  That was the year I found the pile of presents I had hidden in the laundry room.... four days after Christmas.
I had forgotten about them.... I was horrified.
I promised myself I would do better the next year, cut back on the excess.
And we did.
And it still felt like too much.

The next Christmas we were expecting The Boy and I had an epiphany of sorts. I had heard about the giving four gifts idea (a gift you want, a gift you need, a gift to wear, a gift to read) and I liked it, but I really wanted to put my own spin on it. I don't know who it was that off-handedly said, "Jesus got three gifts. Give three gifts." But if I could go back, I'd plant a big ol' kiss of thanks and gratitude on 'em.

Three Gifts just like Jesus.
So I decided to read up on the three gifts. I knew what they were: gold, frankincense and myrrh but I wanted to know the meaning behind each one as I dimly remembered having heard that each had special meaning.

Here's what I found out-

Gold is a gift for a King, a precious, expensive gift. It honored and recognized Jesus's kingship.
Frankincense is an incense that is lit and burned in the temple for religious ceremonies. It honored and recognized Jesus as a teacher/preacher/prophet.
Myrrh is a burial spice, an aromatic resin used to anoint the dead. It foreshadowed His death and honored Him as our Messiah.

How does this translate into modern day gift giving?

Quite nicely.

Here's what we do:

The Gold Gift is the gift each child really really wants and is often also the most expensive  gift on their list.
The Frankincense gift is a gift that grows the child in their walk with Jesus.
The Myrrh gift is a gift that can be worn on the body.

Some examples of each gift from our own home over the years:

Gold- American Girl dolls, Legos, Kindle, MP3 player, set of expensive books.
Frankincense- Adventures in Odyssey cds, Christian books on audio cds, Jonathan Park Adventure cds, devotionals, new Bibles, Christian music.
Myrrh- clothing, jewelry, bath and body products, perfume/cologne.

When we decided to go the three gifts route my children were all under the age of seven. We sat them down and explained that we wanted to do Christmas differently, why we wanted to and what it would look like. Praise God, the kids were immediately on board and trimmed their lists to fit the gift requirements. They all deeply love this family tradition and are eager to tell friends, family and acquaintances about it.
They are always pleased when they hear of another family that follows the same tradition and how much they enjoy it.

Now days, my children make my Christmas shopping extremely easy as they only ask for 3 things that fit the parameters of our gift list. 

I love how this change in gifting changed my children's (and mine and my husband's) view of what Christmas really is about. 

I love that we've learned to make Christmas about giving rather than gifting.
I love how it had a hand in creating hearts of service in our family.

A few years after we started the tradition we hit upon yet another way to do Christmas differently. Ms. Books decided one Christmas that instead of giving her siblings cheap-o gifts from the dollar store she wanted to spend that money on purchasing something from the Samaritan's Purse catalog in their names. We loved her idea and suggested her siblings do the same. Sassafras was all in but The Boy.... well, he balked at that one but after his sisters discussed it with him and read the Samaritan's Purse catalog to him he was all in.
Last year we expanded again- we decided to purchase items from Samaritan's Purse in honor of our Sunday School teachers and church leaders.

This year we've started to add another new tradition- an Advent calendar of service projects. We got the idea from right here and are working through it and tweaking it to better suit our family and our schedule. Perhaps we'll be able to share our own version with you next year, if we work out all the kinks. 

Do you do something special as a family to bring the true meaning of Christmas to the forefront? Please share!


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