As we do traditionally in our family, the entire clan piled into the minivan and went searching for our Christmas tree last weekend. Rachel and Paige, our twin girls, are of course the most excited about it, although there is always a bit of a magical aura about this for all of us. For our family, this event is really the kick-off for the entire Christmas season.
This year is a bit different, however. Way back in early November, we had a series of conversations and family meetings about the gift portion of Christmas. We talked about the economy, about how other people lived in comparison to us, and how we really receive gifts that we may want but really don’t need. We had been talking about the message series we were in at our church entitled, “The World According to God,” where we discussed the global implications of really living as a Christ follower—including justice, hope, redemption, and our incarnational calling. Through it, we had some encouraging talks with our kids about how God really sees the world and how we could reorient our lifestyle and thinking in a more big-picture way.
Quite apart from our series, Debbie and I were already talking about how we might be able to afford to help purchase a water well in a third world nation, where clean and available water is often the difference between life and death. And we talked about limiting our gifts to one or two each, and encouraging the girls to make presents for everyone. In short, we were preparing our family to celebrate an Advent Conspiracy Christmas.
So when we hit the tree lot, the family already knew we weren’t getting the traditional sized one. We were going after a Charlie Brown tree. And we ended up in the $19.99 end of the lot, sifting through what looked more like bushes. Suddenly Justin, who has 18 years of experience finding just the right tree, propped up a short, fat bushy one and exclaimed, “how about this one?” The girls swarmed around it, adopted it into the family, and quickly named it “Joe.” (Paige named last year’s Christmas tree “Bob.”) And after we took it home, smoothed out its bad haircut, and threw on the lights and ornaments—it was the perfect tree. And we had a perfect time making it so.
I think there’s a lesson here for us. (And frankly, it is NOT about how our Christmas isn’t about the size of the tree or the number of presents. Because that’s a lesson that us Christians are supposed to already know, right?) The lesson is that we as families and individuals really have to work hard at remembering what Christmas is about, and make it a meaningful and selfless celebration of the Christ child. I admit that we as a family have a hard time remembering that Christmas is about God giving Himself to us, and then calling us to give ourselves to others. Frankly, it is hard to be counter-cultural in the way of Jesus—to be generous and other-centered, and to keep God as the King of our hearts. Because when we are honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that we are just as egocentric as the rest of the world. And it is actually quite ironic and shameful when we use Christmas to celebrate our me-centered tendencies.
This year, we intend to gather as a family to celebrate around our little Christmas bush. We will open fewer gifts, but we will remind one another that it doesn’t really matter. Instead, we will celebrate the fact that somewhere in the world, we helped bring clean water to families who have lived without. And we will celebrate the God who became a baby, and revel in the mystery of His love for us.
For more information, on the Advent Conspiracy, slam it here.