Thursday, December 4, 2008

Making More of Christmas with Less

“Johnny wants a pair of skates, Suzie wants a dolly…” and the list of wants and needs goes on and on. If you’re like most families this year, there are less resources to cover this list than in years past. But this is also the “best of times.” Surely the season when we celebrate the Lord’s birth should be the best season of all. How do we make sure that it is? I have a few ideas, born of my own experiences, which have sometimes been hard.

Have you ever played the word find game Boggle? Our family loves it. One time we played the game and rotated the angle of the cube half way through the timed contest. We each found words that we weren’t able to see before turning the cube. It really was an eye opener. We often get frustrated by life and its options for the same reason we run out of options in Boggle, we have looked at things from one angle too long.

Let’s have a “cube shift” for just a moment, about Christmas. We have come to expect certain ways of thinking about Christmas here in this culture that has also come to mean a great deal of planning, decorating, partying, buying, financing and shopping. With those expectations there is little about Jesus Christ or even the strengthening and building of families. It is important before we can find needed changes in our old Christmas “must” list, that we first look at what is really of lasting value and what is culture-driven. It may even be well to sit down and make a list of everything that you expect out of Christmas this year and what is causing you stress.

Next, circle from that list only the things that bring your family closer together and bring you close to Jesus Christ. With this list you can begin to make a “cube shift”. Perhaps a shift in our expectations and the direction Christmas has taken us in the past, would be a gift not only to us but also to our children.

Several years ago, my cube was shifted. I was going through a particularly difficult time during the Christmas season. I remember sitting in a doctor’s office overlooking a dark, cold and snowy parking lot. I felt so over-burdened. We had health problems and many other very serious concerns that seemed to have no answer and no end in sight. I felt the tears fill my eyes. Then a thought came to me, this was the holiday to celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the reason and He was about hope, happiness and healing. Ideas about the things of this season that were of no cost to me and that were there to heal me came into my mind.

As soon as I could get to the car, I turned on the dome light, grabbed a pen and paper napkin from the glove box, and I started to write every idea that came to mind. These were simple thoughts, but they were powerful to me. I think they came from spiritual promptings as answers to my prayers for help with Christmas. I share them with you in the hope that you will consider them. Also consider taking the time to do less this year. Take the time for the healing He intends for you to have. The “cube shift” we most need is to see that less can be so much more.

Here are some of the ideas:

  1. Take time to pour out you heart to God in a secluded, private place.

  2. Drive above the city and overlook the lights below while listening to Christmas music.

  3. Sing every Christmas song you can think of to yourself when you are alone. Pop in a spiritual Christmas CD and be still. Some of the greatest sermons are words to songs of theseason.

  4. Write a letter to someone who has blessed your life. Even an old school teacher or forgotten friend.

  5. Lay beneath the Christmas tree with the room lit only by the lights of the tree and listen to music, sing or tell stories of favorite Christmas memories. You may even consider snuggling in sleeping bags and make it a family sleep over under the tree.

  6. Write anonymous letters to unsuspecting people in your life who work hard for you or your family or who might need a lift. One whole evening can be spent taking these door-to-door, ringing and running. If time is an issue, take time to mail these.

  7. Rent a few old Christmas movies from the library. Get your pajamas, popcorn, blankets and turn off the phone.

  8. Find the last few years of the December Ensign Magazine and read the first presidency’s stabilizing and healing messages.

  9. Listen to the first Presidency Christmas devotional with your children.

  10. Read only 10 minutes in either “Jesus the Christ” or the four gospels of the New Testament each night.

  11. Break out those board games that are costing you a closet full of room, that you never have time to play and play them.

  12. Build a fire in your fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, build a fire in a park barbeque pit. Roast some marshmallows and cuddle in blankets. Bring along friends, grandparents or just someone who is lonely for the warmth of a fire and friend.

  13. On December 23rd have a special dinner in memory of the prophet Joseph Smith for his birthday. Cut out and frame a small picture of this amazing prophet and place it in the middle of your table. During dinner go around the table and recall what each of you know of him and his life and bear testimony of his divine mission and contributions.

  14. Invite an older person or grandparent to tell of their favorite Christmas ever. You will find that it wasn’t the year they had the most money.

  15. Take a walk in fresh, fallen snow at night or look up into a starry night and ponder on the star long ago that shown to celebrate the most important baby boy that has ever been born.

    It is easy to see that there is much to do that costs little or nothing that will bring the blessings and healing of Christ into our heart and homes this Christmas. Christ as always remains the giver. He gave His life for us and the giving doesn’t end there. His gifts are so simple. It’s a wonder we have made such a complicated ordeal of Christmas when it is to celebrate a brother who is so sweetly simple.