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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Redirecting Christmas

For Heaven's sake, it's not even Halloween and it's started already. The "Get Ready for Christmas" rush is here.

My mailbox is crammed full of magazines advertising the perfect gift for everyone on my list. The stores already have their isles packed with stockings, trees and ornaments. Today I even saw a giant, candy-cane shapped dog bone at T*rget.

I'm not a Scrooge. I actually happen to love Christmas. I love family traditions and Christmas music and twinkling lights on trees. I love cookie swaps and children's nativity plays and carolers at my front door.

But what I hate is this: the amount of money I feel compelled to spend on Christmas each year. Between the gifts, the decorations, the parties, the party attire, the Christmas cards with the matching outfits, the postage, the Santa breakfasts, the Nutcracker tickets and the travel expenses, Christmas can add up to a pretty obscene amount of money.

According to the Advent Conspiracy, Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas in 2009. That's this number: $450,000,000,000. All spent in the name of a holiday intended to celebrate the birth of Christ. The Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor... the One was was sent "to preach the good news to the poor." That one.

I admit, I've not always been so outraged by a little worldly Christmas cheer. There have been plenty of years that I've succumbed to the pressure. This was our family Christmas card picture from 2006:

I would be truly ashamed to disclose how much those matching, custom outfits cost. But dang, we had a cute Christmas card that year. Surely, Jesus would want that for my family, right?

In 2007, after Dan had received a series of raises and promotions at work, I threw our strict Christmas budget out the window and decided to spend "generously" and with reckless abandon. After all, Christmas only comes once a year. (Nevermind that my self-proclaimed generosity was intended only to bless people who were already blessed).

That year, Dan and I stayed up way too late wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, we woke up way too early to plow through our massive stack of presents.

And afterwards I felt happy and joyful and completely fulfilled, right? WRONG. Less than half-way through the morning, the kids were bored with opening gifts. I was irritated because I felt that the kids were being ungrateful. Dan was irritated because I'd clearly spent too much money. And all I really ended up with was a big pit in my stomach and a serious case of regret.

(By the way, Madeline's favorite gift from that year was a glass paperweight with a small, pressed flower on the inside. A student in my VBS class had given it to me that summer as a teacher's gift and, at the last second,  dropped it into Madeline's stocking. She loves it to this day.)

Anyways, I know I'm stepping all over toes, but I can't help myself. My husband spends several weeks per year in Africa. I've just returned from Africa myself and I can say this with a high degree of confidence: We don't need anything else.

I was introduced to this short video clip back in 2008 and I've never forgotten it:

 If you're one of the few people who is still reading this post and is not completely offended, perhaps it's because you're tracking with me on this subject. Perhaps you're desiring, like Dan and me, not to rid our lives of Christmas, but to celebrate it differently.

Later this week, we'll be announcing a HUGE project from SixtyFeet. It's something that's been a long time in the making and it's very near and dear to my heart. If you desire for your Christmas to be about something different this year, I pray that you and your family will consider redirecting some of your Christmas funds to this opportunity.

If you're a fellow blogger and would like to partner with me on this project, please email me at shellyowens at gmail dot com for "advance" information. I'd love to have others help spread the word.

This project is major. It's going to take a whole lot of redirected Christmas gifts, a great big God and serious dose of faith to make it happen. But I'm believing we can do it.

The Announcement is coming, later this week. Stay tuned...


Sara said...

I totally agree with you! Last year we said we were going to "tone it down", but our 2 girls still ended up with a huge haul. This year we're being very intentional about giving meaningful gifts and not a ton of them! Can't wait to hear the announcement!

Lara said...

Your kids look like they came out of a catalog! Every year we intend to tone it down, but I still end up feeling like we've gone overboard. The pressure sets in and I succumb to the lure of glittery things at Target and the awesome marketing that American companies use to get their hands on my dollars. Not this year (we're too broke from the adoption!) That'll force me to rise above the commercialism!

Meagan said...

I needed this post, thank you! Every year I have said we are going to cut back and bless those who TRULY need it. Every year we spend more than the year before and ignore the budget I've set. Just this week my husband and I were discussing increasing the budget because we wanted to get our family "better gifts". Now I've been reminded why I set the low budget to begin with: We NEED nothing and honestly, we must not WANT much when it takes weeks to come up with a "wish list".

Anonymous said...

Great post, looking forward to the announcement! I love how Davis is already looking a little skeptical- he was a bit ahead of you on this I guess. :)
Carrie Andersson

Jane said...

We cut back crazy last year , then on Christmas day we went to Samaritan's Purse on line and let each of them "shop" . They bought shelters for people in Haiti to drinking water and chickens. They LOVED it and the best part was that at then end of Christmas day they looked at us and said "are you sure you cut our budget? It was a great Christmas!" I can honestly say it was one of our best Christmas' ever.

Sarah said...

I am most certainly tracking with you on this. Thankgiving has long been my favorite holiday (over Christmas) because of the big-time overemphasis on STUFF that often comes with Christmas. It wasn't until I and those around me got into giving to those who actually need it that Christmas started to feel like Christmas to me.

Anonymous said...

Ah. That pit of which you speak. It's already indwelling my stomach. As I grow closer and closer to the Lord each year, I hate what Christmas has become more and more. And I hate that I succomb to it. Every time. Looking forward to whats coming later this week. What on earth do we possibly REALLY need anyway? I'm asking for a plane ticket to UG. :)
Stephanie O'D

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

Totally with you. I saw the Advent Conspiracy clip as well, and was so challenged. We cut back tremendously as well, and try to give gifts that give back or handmade gifts. It truly s a challenge in this culture. Our parents shake their heads at us when they see our kids's Chrstmas list.

Happy to blog for Sixty Feet!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog and LOVE this post. I have had so many similar thoughts, but you articulate them perfectly... thank you!

Tara said...

can't wait to hear more about it!

Anonymous said...

I love this post!! I have started to despise what Christmas has become. All of these people trying to fill a void with stuff. A void that can only be filled by a relationship with the Lord.

love said...

praying & with you!

Anonymous said...

Shelly thank you for this-- love your boldness to speak truth on this blog! x anna