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All I Want This Holiday…Is to Change the World

I think most people would agree that Christmas has become quite commercialized.  Somehow, we decide each year to buy in anyway.  We go into debt to create magic and meet expectations and in the end we feel exhausted, broke not sure how we got to the new year. “It just goes so fast” we say, “There is just too much going on.” Every year we pledge that this is the year we are going to slow down.

Sure we will go to church and sing songs and remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger for a few hours.  Then we will rush to the store to try and snag the last Hachimal, Tickle me Elmo or whatever the crazy kids are convinced they want this year.  Then us parents develop a twitch when said kid doesn’t care about that perfect gift in a few months, having moved on to something else. Or we aimlessly walk department stores wondering what to get your grandmother, or aunt, or cousin ultimately defaulting to a gift card, sweater, slippers or something random because are expected to get them something.  Just check it off the list.

Did you know that in America, in 2015 we spent more than $625 BILLION on Christmas?  Did you know that  the estimated cost to solve the world’s water crisis is $30 Billion?  

Why do we justify the need to spend so much??  Creating magical childhoods, or buying love? Expectations? Showing others we have made it?  Capitalism?  America?

I struggle with not getting my son everything he wants because he is cute and I love him. But it only takes a split second of thinking to realize that buying him lots of stuff won’t make him feel more loved, cared for or most importantly grow up to be a decent, functioning, grateful human being.

I promise I am not all grinched out at Christmas.  Quite the opposite:  I love Christmas, and I love giving to others. But the older I get I just can’t understand why things have gone this crazy? Why we have lost our perspective?

We can do better.  Remember that baby in a manger?  That is what Christmas is about—God sending his son, as a baby to save us—to give us the gift of relationship with God. He came and spent time with us.  Jesus had time for anyone who needed it. Christmas is about a gift—the gift of relationship and presence.

So can we commit to following Jesus’ model of presence for our Christmases now? Shouldn’t we care more about spending time with others than getting our stuff done or checking things off the list? Christmas changed the world once.  I believe it still can today. If we focus on making Christmas more about relationships and presence than stuff and lists we would buy differently.  Or maybe even buy less.

Over the last few years I have tried to focus Christmas more about relationship and impact.  If the initial Christmas changed the world, than maybe we can try to create impact each Christmas, refocus and spend less and give more.

If you haven’t heard of The Advent Conspiracy you should check out their website.  The idea was started at the church I attended back in Portland and has refocused how I celebrate Christmas.  The motto is simple: spend less, give more, worship fully, love all.  Christmas can still change the world.   I would say go check it out now….but I want you to keep reading!

I know this is late in the game…but I have been busy trying to be present with my family and enjoying the Advent Season. So let’s re-think how we celebrate Christmas. Maybe you can take some of these things for this week, or save them for next year.  But here are my 5 Relational Christmas Tips.

  1. Give the Gift of Presence
    Instead of just buying a random gift to check it off your list consider giving time and relationship.  This could look like getting tickets to a favorite sports team, museum memberships, a coffee date or event together.  Especially if you don’t see a person often, choose the gift of time together.  Maybe you don’t buy gifts but just do things together.  How much more fun would Christmas be if we spent less time shopping and more time playing and enjoying each other?
  2. Give Gifts that Give Back
    If and when you do buy gifts, instead of buying “stuff” buy better.  Buy gifts that do double and give back or create impact for others.  You know I am a big fan of fair trade.  Check out my Lets Be Fair Resource page for some food and other organizations that do better and create impact.  Speaking for myself, I love getting a gift that I know is making a positive impact for others and it means so much more than just the gift.
  3. Give Gifts you Made Yourself
    I love this one, especially for kids. Spend time making gifts.  Have your kids make you something for Christmas.  The interweb is full of ideas, but past gifts that I have done personally include coasters, bath salts, framed art and food.  Gifts should be relational and when we spend time making something for someone we are more focused on that person.
  4. Give more
    The idea behind Advent Conspiracy is that Christmas can STILL change the world.  When we spend less, we can give more—more of our time and resources to others.  Spend less on Christmas and then give the “savings” to a great cause—solving the world’s water crisis, refugees in Aleppo, human trafficking, the homeless.  Giving more of our resources away helps us to hold our resources with open hands instead of clentched fists.
  5. Give Remembrance
    Jesus is what Christmas is about.  Not presents, not Santa.  Jesus gave himself away for us.  He gave sacrificially.  I love the Advent Conspiracy Family Guide and calendar.  It gives readings for each week of Advent and activities to do each day to remind us of what Christmas is all about.  There are many great Advent resources out there, but I love this one and that it gives activities to keep our focus.

I want my son to see people, not stuff.  My prayer this Advent Season is that we will instill joy, peace and gratitude in our family and others around us.  Peace be with you, my friends.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” Numbers 6:24-26. Then I will add…go and do the same for others as a response to the gift of  baby Jesus.

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About Callie Unruh

I am an passionate wife, mother, wanna be radical, aspiring entrepreneur and recovering evangelical. I am working to create a life of impact in the suburbs of Phoenix and enjoy gardening, hiking and being outside.

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