I am really, really glad we decided to do a low-key Christmas this year. It was truly a relaxed, hassle-free holiday for once, especially since we were able to avoid all the chaos of the stores.
We were able to steer clear of most of the commercial holiday gimmicks (especially since we don't watch television), and no one seemed to miss going sans-trees and holiday decor. (Although, I still do have a fake strand of evergreen above the kitchen windows- it's been there for a year.) I've read so many posts on Facebook, blogs, and other places in which people exclaim that they are so stressed out. And, from my current prospective, I have to say that most of that stress is self-done. I feel we choose to put so much on ourselves around the holiday seasons- we want it to look and feel a certain way, and we think we have to have so many gifts under the tree, and the family meal has to go just perfect and....
Then there's the depression that sets in when you cannot afford to buy very many gifts for your children, and the pretty Christmas picture you have in your mind does not unfold as you wish it would. I know what that's like, I've been there as well. But, more and more lately, our family has been looking at other families around the world and seeing that, even at our poorest, we are incredibly rich.
We complain about not having this or that gadget or toy, or not having the best gifts under the tree, or there not being ham at the Christmas Eve dinner (finger pointing at my husband here, ha!) .... and we're so caught up in what we want, what we desire, and things we think we need... when in reality, it's all a cherry on top. I suppose this is one of the big negatives of living in America where wealth is taken for granted and called "poverty", where people who have a big screen television and expensive gadgets complain about not having enough food on the table. I don't think we understand how completely ridiculous that sounds to someone in Lesotho, South Africa where our friend, Nkutu, lives.
Our perspective is extremely skewed, and we call our selfish desires our "rights", and we think we deserve every little thing we desire while people who work harderthan us, live tougher than us, and see things no human being should ever see struggle just to get food on the table.
Believe me, I'm preaching to myself as much as anyone else.
And, maybe it sounds like I can say this stuff now because we're doing good financially, but that hasn't always been the case. And, while the main reason we're doing well financially is because of the grace of God, another reason is because we've learned our lesson in managing money, don't buy anything we can't pay with in cash, and try to keep a savings stored up. However, all of that is just MONEY and it can be gone in a second.. and someday it will. (Seriously, all China has to do is cash in on all the debt we owe them, and the people of the United States are going to find that they won't be able to afford a loaf of bread!)
For all the folks talking about the "Christmas Spirit", I really hope they aren't talking about the Spirit of Christ... because that's not what I see this time of year (for the most part). What I see is a spirit of materialism, people concerned about what they are getting, what to get for other people, who got something better than they did..... and depressed when the "Christmas Spirit" doesn't hit us like we hoped, and we can't smile through the season because the season is a hassle and a hoax and is making us go broke and our kids hardly appreciate the things we spent good money on.
Know what I mean?
I'm not saying we can't have nice things, but man... so often we make life about those "nice things". This morning, I was looking at my face in the mirror, noticing the subtle changes that aging brings, and I actually felt okay with that. It's just a face, it's just skin, it's just a vessel. It's not me... it's just the vessel that contains me.
Lord, I don't want to be so obsessed with how I look, what I have, and my own status in life that I miss the point of it all. It's not about any of that, yet we spend so much of our time- waste so much of our time- obsessing over it all.
These last half-dozen years of my life have been very interesting to say the least. I had everything stripped away from me, and I had everything "returned" (so to speak) and more. For me, who I was, my identity, was tied to my stuff- the appearance of things, how it looked, how I looked, what I had. It was very humbling to have that all taken from me. Very.
I didn't write a lot on my blog in those days, and when I did, I didn't go into much detail about that part of our lives. It was embarrassing. I didn't want anyone to know that we hardly had two pennies to rub together, and were always in danger of losing our business and our home. But, through all of that, God taught me that it's just stuff. And I learned to give, even when I had little to give (whether it was of my money, time, effort, strength, love..). I learned to take joy in those "simple" things, which, in reality, are the big things.
But it's so easy to forget those lessons.
This month has been absolutely amazing as we have leaned on the Lord to show us what to do, how to bless others, how to be vessels of His love. I keep having to remind myself- it is not about me. It's easy for me to get caught up in my wants, feelings, plans.... and to ignore God's desires, His will, His hopes for me.
We started out this month with plans not to "do Christmas", and yet I feel that we have "done" Christmas more than ever. It has been so refreshing to set aside the materialism, the rush and the mental stress of it all, and just focus on Christ. It's been so great have so many opportunities to teach our children about giving, real giving. Giving to people who can't afford to return the favor, who won't be able to repay your kindness. I'm talking about the kind of giving that is not a "gift exchange", but the kind of giving that is as Christ's example- giving to those who truly need and will never ever be able to repay you. I mean, if we're going to celebrate Christmas, isn't that what it's REALLY all about?
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [Romans 5:6]
That is what it's about, isn't it? That's what life is about. Sometimes I picture Christ dying for those who had stoned Him, scorned Him, betrayed Him- dying for those who hate Him, blaspheme Him, use His name in vain. Dying for those who justify sin and love wrong-doing. Dying... dying for the murderer, the child-abuser, the rapist. Not just the "good" people, but those society deems bad and horrible and disgusting as well.
This is the kind of love we are called to have. To love the unlovable, not just those we like. To give, to extend ourselves to the fullest extent. To think of others, to serve others, above ourselves.
This was the lesson God was desperately trying to teach me when our friends were living with us, yet I kept thinking about myself, my own feelings, and justifying myself by society's standards. Afterall, as people kept telling me, hadn't we gone "above and beyond" in inviting a family of six into our home for a month?
But Christ calls us to go beyond what "good people" do, to stretch ourselves, to give until it hurts. And, in doing that, there really is no room for this mindset that Imust have, I will have, I deserve....
Like I said, I feel that, in "skipping" Christmas, I have had the best Christmas of all. I've appreciated my family more than ever, I've enjoyed giving more than ever, I've seen the Holy Spirit move more than ever (not that He wasn't moving before, I just didn't see it).