Our family love music. It has been a bit of a heritage really- growing up my family and that of my wider family- my cousins, aunties and uncles could often be found around my grandmother’s piano and my uncles’ guitars singing. When I became part of Dave’s family, I quickly realised music was a big part of their life too. Dave’s dad quickly educated me on music such as Ray Charles and now with my mothering meaning I am a little removed from current music charts, a visit to Dave’s dad will often rectify this as he shares the music he is currently listening to.
We have continued to enjoy music in our little family. Before bed our children are often found crowded on Dave’s lap, listening and watching music clips on YouTube. This tradition makes our Miss 3 want to eat her whole dinner (most of the time) as she wants to watch YouTube with Daddy and our little man (10 months today) has also just started bopping along and clapping to the music.
One of our latest favourites is the acapella group Pentatonix. Here is “What Christmas Means to Me,” a song we have enjoyed watching that helps us get excited about Christmas.
One evening, as we were listening along, I started to think though- at our heart what does Christmas really mean to us? Here, the song and group reinforce the message that Christmas is about enjoying family and presents. We too perpetuate this message- we shop for pressies, we learn new recipes for our family to enjoy eating, we decorate the house to help us get excited and make things look festive and pretty. Like any girl, I love pretty and glittering things. But is there anything wrong with this? I think celebrating family and enjoying giving is a great thing to do: I love it! But if our celebration of Christmas becomes more about celebrating family and gifts, haven’t we missed the point?
Why Do We Give?
In the article, “Christmas Spending is a Test of Your Treasure” by David Mathis on DesiringGod, Mathis prompts us to look at our heart motives as we spend money this Christmas. Mathis reminds us that just as our Heavenly Father is generous in giving us the gift of his Son, it is important that we too are generous. At the core of Mathis’ article is a reminder to question our hearts when we give- are we giving sacrificially? Are we giving to bless others? Are we giving because we know it is expected? Are we giving to show others how clever we are at finding the right gift, or to show our financial status? Are we giving because we are trying to fill a void in our lives? or are we giving to glorify God and celebrate his blessings firstly in his Son and then in the provisions he showers upon us? As Mathis says:
“God made us for rhythms and cadences, for feasting and fasting, for noise and crowds and silence and solitude. There is some help, even if minimal, in identifying and naming the extremes of sustained opulence and austerity. We need a place for both financial feasting and fasting. We should abhor the prosperity gospel, and not be snookered by stinginess masquerading as Christian stewardship, and beware that running up large credit-card debt is likely giving beyond our means.”
As we shop this year, gathering our gifts from near and far, as Mathis suggests, I will take a moment to ask “What desire am I trying to fulfill? Is this for private comfort, or gospel advance, or expressing love to a friend or family member?” (Mathis)
Treasuring God in Our Traditions
Noel Piper, the wife of John Piper, has written a book that is available for free download here, titled “Treasuring God in Our Traditions” (2003, Crossway). In this book, Noel Piper shares the importance of creating traditions that honour and glorify God. She writes how important it is for us to plan our “celebrations of a world-shaking event like God being born a baby so that we can be reborn as his children.” (2003, p.76). This year, with our Miss 3 able to understand more of what is going on, I really want to be intentional about honouring God and his gift of Jesus. Noel Piper encourages us to recognise the importance of this gift, “We are a people of promise. For centuries God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfilment of the promises God made—that he would make a way to draw near to him.” (2003, p.76). As we have tried to be intentional in this nativity period, we have been reading the Nativity Story from a children’s Bible each evening and opening an advent calendar square (with accompanying chocolate). Noel Piper also suggests traditions could include advent candles, an advent calendar that tells the Nativity story and nativity crèches that children can play with and that can decorate the home. Picture books focused on Jesus’ birth could also be a good addition to family traditions. I’d be interested to hear how you celebrate Jesus in your home! As we get closer to Christmas, may we take the time to look at what Christmas really means to us and make a conscious effort to focus on Jesus.