Presence, Not Presents

Much of Christmas is centered around giving presents.

I challenge you to give the gift of presence to your family this Christmas.

Instead of worrying about what to buy, think about who you can be with. Don’t be concerned with how much money you spend on someone, instead consider the time you spend with them.

A few suggestions for bringing your presence:

Play a game. Card games, board games, whatever gets people involved.

Bake some sweets. It seems to me we have an abundance of sweets at our family gatherings, what if a baking crew was selected at random to bake the cookies on hand? An adult version of Home Economics Class, perhaps.

Do the dishes. Some of my best conversations happen while doing the dishes. The doing dishes part isn’t fun, but making it fun with whoever helps out certainly can be!

Ask good questions. “How’s it going?” is not a good question unless you REALLY want to know the answer. Learn about what others are involved in or what interests they have developed. Ask about their job, what they like or dislike about it. Any question that requires an answer that’s not canned is a good one to me.

Our culture has succeeded at dividing our presence with regularity. Don’t worry about the presents you give, rather consider the presence you can give this Christmas.

Question: Who will you offer your presence to this Christmas? Click here to comment.

Things we do at Family Chirstmas Celebrations [Saturday 7]

Today is the first of many Family Christmas Celebrations that we’ll be attending over the next few weeks.  Here are some of the things to expect when we get all the relatives together.

1.  Food.  Two meals is standard for my side of the family.

2.  Many sweets.  And they are tremendous!

3.  Card games. Pepper and Cribbage are popular choices for competition.

4.  Silly string. Uncle Mark always gifts silly string to Grandma so that she can spray it at everyone.  It was fun the first time.

5.  White Elephant gifts.  The rule for these gifts is that they must be lying around the house.  We draw numbers and let the dealing begin.  Last year’s hot item was a 4-slice toaster!

6.  Avon products.  A staple gift from my grandmother.  Growing up, we always received roll-on deodorant.  Not too great for the armpit hairs.

7.  Photos galore.  Why are family pictures such a tedious process?

Question: What might we see at your Family Christmas Celebration?  Click here to comment.

5 things to help your family focus on Jesus during Christmas

Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth and this is a message that we cannot afford for our children to miss.  Here are some ways our family makes Jesus the focus of the Christmas Season:

1.  Help someone in need.  There are many opportunities for children to make a difference in the world.  Local service opportunities, making meals, or donating through the World Vision Catalog are just a few options for your kids to choose from to help those in need.  Liz does a fantastic job at asking the kids how they would like use some of their Christmas money to help another person in need.

2.  Read the Christmas Story from the Bible as much as possible.  When the Christmas decorations come out, so does the intentional reading of the Christmas Story.  Each of our children has his or her own Children’s Bible and we enjoy reading the Christmas Story from each one of their Bibles.  There are also many translations of the Bible that you can access and read through sites like

3.  Three gifts for the kids.  Jesus got three gifts.  You are fortunate if you get more, but we’ll stick with three.  Each of our children will receive something to clothe them, grow them spiritually, and something they want.  I’ve heard of other people share that they give four gifts: Something you want, something you need, something you wear, and something you read.  Either of these strategies seem wonderful to me, given the state of our consumer-minded-give-me-more culture.

4.  Attend a Christmas Eve Service.  Our home church does a wonderful job with having Candlelight Services every Christmas Eve.  It is a priority for our family to attend this service together and a strong tradition we share.

5. Birthday cake for Jesus.  We have two kids who have birthdays within a week of Christmas so making a cake for Jesus seems like cake-overload for our family.  Still, making a cake is a great way for our kids to realize the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  And if we make cupcakes, they’re easy to share with the neighbors!

Question: How do you bring the focus to Jesus during the Christmas Season? Click here to comment.

Read more:
What we told our kids about Santa
3 points to a truthful conversation about Santa

3 points to a truthful conversation about Santa

Yesterday, I shared about how we told our kids about Santa.

I used to think there were only two options when it came to having Santa as a part of a Christmas celebration:

1. Either you do it
2. Or you don’t

It turns out, there are more options than that.  As a family we have decided to share the truth about Santa, not take part of his festivities, but to talk about it, laugh about it, and have open conversation.  Santa does not have to be a banned word in our house, as I used to think.  Here is the framework of our truthful conversation about Santa.

1.  Like Buzz and Woddy, Cinderella, or Snow White, Santa Clause is a pretend character.  We can enjoy books and songs about Santa, but we know that it is for fun.

2.  Some people call Santa, “St. Nick.”  This is because a long time ago there was a man named St. Nicholas who gave gifts in secret to families who were in need.  That was very nice of him and we also have the opportunity to give and serve others

3.  You will probably hear your classmates talk about Santa.  You don’t have to get in an argument if he is real or not, you can simply know that their mom and dad have not told them that it is make believe.  You can also share that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

We celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus.  That is very exciting because he is God, coming to earth, to get to know you personally.  Let this be the resounding message you share with your kids.

Question: How do you handle Santa in your family? Click here to comment.

What we told our kids about Santa

We told our children that Santa was not real.  Right from the start.

“Yea, that guy in the mall is dressed like Santa but he’s still stuck in his Halloween costume and will not be making a visit to our home through the chimney,” I said to the kids.  “Don’t worry, you’ll still get presents.  But not from him.”

My wife was not pleased with “our” decision to spill the beans, an act that has earned me the nickname “Grinch” all December long.  Liz liked the idea of having a whimsical-fun Santa vibe in our house.  I like fun, but that doesn’t match my definition of it.

My purpose for sharing inside information about Santa was not supposed to be a big deal.  It’s with the intention of making Jesus the big deal.

As a kid, I went coo-coo for Coco Puffs over Santa.  I had a Christmas Wish List longer than Santa’s beard and I couldn’t wait to get to the mall to sit on his lap and tell him all about it.  My brothers and I would fight over who got to set the milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve and then we would try to stay up all night, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa.

As a family, we were involved in the church community all throughout the year.  We talked about Jesus and knew that he was “the reason for the season” and that was all good and nice.  But when it came to Santa, he was the one who brought presents and the one I waited for.

Yea, Jesus was delivered.  But Santa delivered.

When I found out that Santa was not real, it was a crushing blow.  It seemed as if I was lied to.  And I was embarrassed for being dumb enough to believe it.

In that moment I knew that I would not promote Santa to my kids.  Why focus on a fake part of Christmas and miss out on the real deal?  Why even drift toward it and blur the lines?  Can children really hold two images of Christmas (Santa and Jesus) in their mind?  Or will one grow stronger than the other?  They hear about Jesus, but Santa gives them presents.

Thinking about this whole Santa vs Jesus thing, this is what it comes down to:  You will stand for something at Christmas time.  Do you want your children to wonder who you stand for?

Question: When did you learn about Santa and how did you feel? Click here to comment.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what we shared with our children and how they’ve handled the insider information about Santa.