Chase joy this Christmas

It’s been such a year, hasn’t it?! So much has been happening. For some, there have been restrictions, masks, separation from friends and family, home learning, travel limits and a longing for “normal”. For others, there has been uncertainty, family challenges, health concerns or conflict. These concerns have dominated our hearts and minds this year. And as we begin to prepare for Christmas, maybe you just don’t feel the usual level of excitement or energy. If that’s you too, let’s look at how we can chase joy this Christmas.

Slow down

I think we build up certain expectations on what Christmas ‘should’ be. We get caught up in the gifts, making the decorations perfect, and stretching (or blowing) our budget. But we know Christmas is not about these things. It’s about family, God’s family, and the birth of Jesus all those years ago. So lets take a step back from the pressure and whirlwind of advertising and shops telling us what we MUST have or do to get the “perfect” Christmas, and think about what we really need.

Alexandra Kuykendall has some great tips in this video from MOPS International. She talks about how to focus on the meaning of Christmas personally, and as a mum, how to deal with the practicalities of this often busy season. You don’t have to say yes to every event or invitation. You don’t have to have the perfect tree or a mountain of gifts under it. Focus on what is important to you and your family.

Do YOUR Traditions

Don’t look over the proverbial fence and worry about what others are doing, as it’s sure to sour your Christmas joy. Your family celebrates Christmas in your way. In our family, the Christmas tree usually gets put up the first weekend in December. Our kids help their Dad put up fairy lights around our lounge room walls, and on the tree in our front yard. We like to tour the streets looking at Christmas light displays. Other families I know have a tradition of making and decorating a family gingerbread house. Another bakes cookies for their neighbours. In another, the children create their own Christmas “tree” each year in fun and inventive ways. While making those cookies, or decorating that tree, you are having fun with your kids, and building family bonds.

“Christmas is a love note we get to read every year” – Alexandra Kuykendall

Focus on Jesus

“The reason for the season” as the saying goes. When it all feels too much- the to-do list, the events, the spending, the stress- take a moment to remember what it’s all about. Do you really need to be doing the things that are stressing you out? Jesus came to bring us peace, joy and new life, not stress and a to-do list. If the family picture is imperfect, or the school concert costume lacking, you’ll likely look back on it in the years to come and laugh.

Focus on the story of Christmas. Alexandra has also kindly shared an excerpt with MOPS international from her book Loving My Actual Christmas, which lists some great ideas and different ways to bring the Christmas Story to life for your children. The Jesus Storybook Bible is another wonderful resource that simply and beautifully tells the stories of the bible, and demonstrates how it all points to Jesus. Perfect for adults and kids alike. (There is an advent reading plan too).

May your Christmas be full of joy. Remember when it’s all said and done, the rush ends, the gifts are unwrapped, the food is eaten, and the visitors leave. What always remains of Christmas is the gift of Jesus.

Kelly McCrohan
MOPS Blog Administrator

Why celebrate Christmas?

The shopping centres are just quietly starting to decorate windows and a Christmas tune or two on the playlist. Television advertising has already begun to help us decide the best gadget we ‘need’ this year. And then there’s the guessing game of if we’ll even be able to travel to see family this year. I’m not ready for the year to end yet – still so much to do!! The anxiety has already launched itself into conversations with those we are closest to. Sometimes I have to wonder why celebrate Christmas at all?

Picture Perfect

Maybe you love it – it’s a time of family, laughter, love, sharing, shopping, eating, holidays… 

But, you see, Christmas, in some ways, while amazingly nostalgic and a celebration of family, has somehow morphed into a season of unstated expectations. There’s the list of all the things that we think we should do to create the perfect Christmas season. The truth? As beautiful as the rum ball making, card writing, carol singing, tree trimming, crazy shopping, bow topped wrapping and all of that is — that stuff does not define Christmas. That’s not the joy part, honestly. It can be such a stressful time of expense, loneliness, overindulgence, selfishness, and pretence for some.

Personally, I can take it or leave it. While I do love to decorate (a visual feast for a visual person), it can be lonely when it feels like a ‘chore’. I enjoy showering gifts on people (too generously according to some close sources). I love to entertain and prepare lovely food (and eat it), but then complain of being overweight while reaching for another apricot ball. It can leave one feeling deflated rather than joyous.

Making Memories

In my own childhood, Christmas was always celebrated with the focus very much on the Christian message and a wider family gathering. We were never lavished with gifts, although gifts were carefully chosen for us, and we had more than enough. (If I’m honest, I don’t recall too many of the gifts.) I have very fond memories of childhood and our family gatherings. 

The Reason for the Season 

When my children were young, my top priority was always sharing and reinforcing the Christian meaning of Christmas. Let’s face it – without that there wouldn’t BE Christmas. It’s what I believe, so I wanted to share it. It was the focus on our celebrations. We would participate in the Christmas shoebox appeal and the Kmart Wishing Tree. We’d make our own gifts to give to the postie and neighbours. We read about the Biblical Christmas story, had our own interactive Nativity scene, played Christmas music, visited the re-enactment of the Christmas story downtown, hosted a “birthday party for Jesus” with our friend and decorated our own tree with handmade decorations. 

Cultivating Christmas

As the silly season starts and you begin to consider YOUR OWN Christmas and the celebrations that you will have, I encourage you to think about WHY you celebrate Christmas? Are your memories happy or not? Do you cringe at the thought of having to be nice to ‘that’ family member? Do you feel as if you don’t ‘give’ enough or even have the capacity to give? What do you believe about the reason for Christmas; is it Santa and his elves, or does it hold a much bigger truth for you? (My children also knew about Santa and left cookies for him.)

What are the traditions and ‘life lessons’ that you want your children to gain from this holiday? Jot those ideas down and share them with your partner and family, then maybe just choose one of those to focus on this year. And if we put our thinking caps on together, maybe we can come up with some ideas on how to celebrate Christmas intentionally, while remaining stress-free!

Natalie Bizzell

Natalie is a wife, mum to 3 grown children (and mother-in-law to 3). She is a part-time primary school teacher, small business owner and Mentor at Humeridge Church of Christ MOPS.

Greener gift giving

The Christmas season is fast approaching.  It’s a time where we love to show people we care and/or show our gratitude with a special little something. It’s also a time where I am sure landfill contributions increase significantly. So much food, wrapping paper and well-meaning gifts end up in the trash! If this concerns you, perhaps we can look together at some greener gift giving ideas. 

Rethink, reuse, reduce

Bought gifts are lovely but I feel like our homes are overflowing with stuff!! There’s nothing wrong with splashing out on occasion but, for the most part, you don’t have to spend a lot of cash to make someone feel loved. It’s the thought and effort that goes into a gift that counts. Up-cycled, handmade, or home-baked gifts can be extra special. 

Literally Green

Plants make a great little gift. You can decorate tin cans as pots to give away seedlings. Old teacups or mugs make cute little planters for succulents. Kids will love potting up some little plants to give to someone special.

Seed packets or homemade seed bombs are also a fun way to gift some cheery flowers. 

teacup plant

Homemade

Baked goods can look really pretty presented in a jar, old biscuit tin or a simple lined cardboard box. Make your loved one their favourite biscuit or slice. Truffles and preserves make great little gifts too.

cookie gift

If you are into sewing you might be clever enough to up-cycle an old pair of jeans into a pencil case. Perhaps convert a vintage pillowcase into a toddler dress or carry bag.

Fabric Christmas bunting or ornaments are a cute way to spread the Christmas cheer too. 

One of the most lovely handmade gifts I have received was little crocheted rounds for makeup removal or toner application. This lovely reusable gift was packed in a cute little jar with a string bow to decorate.

Think local

There are so many great little businesses that make and sell awesome products. From soaps to kids wear and jewellery, Dukkha mixes to custom cookies. Explore what your local area has to offer. Not only will you support your local economy, but the reduced product travel is better for the environment too.

Less ‘stuff’

In the years to come, someone will more likely remember a cool experience you gave them rather than a store gift. A special trip- like to an aquarium or zoo, also gives the gift of a special family day.

My husband and his siblings got a family pool pass every Christmas as kids, and enjoyed many hours of their summer holidays at the pool, having fun and making memories.

Maybe you can bless someone by cooking them a meal. Perhaps pack a picnic for a special couple you know and babysit their kids while they enjoy some quality time together.

Make a donation to a charity, or a cause they care about. Compassion gifts is one I like to use each Christmas for loved ones who ‘don’t need anything’ but I still want to get something for them. 

That’s a wrap

Wrapping paper is synonymous with Christmas, but once the presents are opened I lament the pile of paper that immediately goes in the recycle bin. One look at Pinterest, and you’ll find a lot of creative (and greener) alternatives to bought wrapping paper.

A simple cotton bag makes for easy, reusable wrap. Vintage tea towels, fabric squares or newspaper tied with string are cool alternatives to traditional wrap. The paintings brought home from kindergarten can make for very special wrapping paper too.

wrapping paper

 

Gift giving is a fun tradition, but it need not be expensive to your wallet or the environment. Why not consider some greener gift giving options this Christmas. 

Kelly McCrohan
MOPS Blog Administrator