Are you into Christmas presents or Christmas presence?? It’s a little bit of both over here at the Enoch Homestead.
I love to watch the children tear into presents on Christmas day. But I’ve realized, especially with the little ones, that it doesn’t matter what the monetary value of a present is when they open it up. The cost of the present does not change the smile of surprise on their face. And unfortunately, whether you have purchased it at Target, Walmart, or the Dollar Tree, the toy will almost inevitably end up broken, lost, or forgotten at the bottom of a toy box.
Knowing these things does not change my desire to give my children good gifts but it increases the wisdom with which I use while shopping for the holidays.
And of course this year, I’m longing for a greater simplicity and needing a smaller Christmas cost than usual. I’ve been singing “I’m dreaming of a Dollar Tree Christmas” for a while now. What’s awesome is, I’ve managed to spend wisely and make it fun. I usually pick up little things here and there starting in August. However, we are not finished with the present list, but we are planning to make a trip to Dollar Tree in the next few days. Each kid will have the task of finding the best Dollar Tree present for each other. The secrecy and conniving of each kid as they do their best to sneak around the store unnoticed and then make it home to the wrapping paper before anyone sees them is going to be awesome. My kids just love the Dollar Tree. And I just love hanging out watching them in action.
It’s also funny how each year I’ve purposefully downsized Christmas. Our first year with children was incredible. We stayed up till almost midnight assembling toys. They extended beyond the Christmas tree at least 4-6 feet. I woke up grumpy. Of course the children were amazed and overwhelmed. There were too many toys to even play with. The next was less and then less and then less. But it doesn’t change the excitement on their faces when they have 3 instead of 10-20 toys to play with Christmas morning.
And of course, the more simple that I make Christmas the more generous that I see my family being. We were overtaken with Amazon boxes from Santa Les (my brother) and Nana Claus came on her red sleigh (RAV 4) this week with bags of goodies. I stepped back from trying to make everyone of my children’s wishes come true this Christmas. But what is amazing, is that my stepping back, created space for others to give good gifts to them-willingly and genuinely.
Then I question: Do we even need the Dollar Tree extravaganza? Well, yes and no. No, we don’t need any more things. But yes, they need to think about someone else’s wishes for a little while and enjoy the spirit of giving and the thrill of surprise. They need to pour their little energy into crudely wrapping a gift in a box or fluffing the tissue paper in a bag. They need to have their little hands guided to spell their brother or sister’s name. They need to wait in expectation as someone opens their gift and have a sense of satisfaction when it is well received. It is for these reasons that we will have presents.
What about Christmas Presence? Definitely.
I love visiting family over the holidays. I like the sleepy nothing-to-do mornings and the chilly walks outside. I love how my mom has come to visit for 5 whole days. We barely have an itinerary and we have enjoyed our long talks over coffee, tea, or eggnog.
I absolutely love Christmas events. More so now than ever. With little eyes that sparkle with amazement when we see something new and exciting. We went to a Christmas orchestral concert this past weekend. It was beautiful. The littles made it through about 30 minutes before we handed them over to the childcare and enjoyed the rest of the concert in silence. But in those 30 minutes, they marveled at all the music and melody that was coming from each of those instruments and the large choir. Especially because we had been listening to an instrumental Christmas music CD in the car and the tunes were familiar. It was so fun to share that event with them.
There is a little town north of us, which has a small driving Christmas light tour. We drove through it 4 times and they were still begging for more. Each time we drove through there was something new to see. We drove through a live nativity that even had a camel in it. The kids “ooo’d and aahhh’d” too.
I also love Christmas cookies. There was one year where we had cookies for dinner. I enjoy making little batches here and there and especially on Christmas eve. And of course, the live action Nativity Story. It’s a beautiful movie and a Christmas Eve tradition of ours.
What’s great is when there is a balance of Christmas activities. We planned a few choice concerts and events here and there but for the most part are just chilling this week. It’s so easy to turn the time before Christmas into a frantic, rushed time where there are so many lists and so little eye contact. I can turn cookies into obligatory bake-a-thons. I can turn a Dollar Tree extravaganza into a grab-and-go get-a-thon. Or I can chill out a little bit and wander into the holiday season. We can site-see and marvel and smile. For these reasons we will have lots of together time and activities. If they drain me, I will avoid them. If they are a good fit and energize and uplift we will enjoy ourselves together..
So presents or presence? There is a good mix of both if we are to have a balanced celebration. To remember the “reason for the season” we need to remember. The Bible shows us that Jesus’ birth had a mixture of presents and presence too.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:8-10 NASB
The Bible recalls the Shepherds visiting the infant Jesus in Bethlehem after being told by angels concerning him. The Bible does not mention that they gave him any gifts but that they came to visit and acknowledge his entrance into the world. Then they spread the news about him. Being shepherds, they probably didn’t have much to give him anyways. They lived in the fields. They gave him the gift of presence.
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12 NASB
The wise men or Magi gave gifts. They had carried these precious things with them from far away just for the new family of 3. Their gifts had meaning and were important to the family. They would see them through their years in Egypt, living in a foreign land without family or reputation.
So, you can see. That the Christmas story has much to do with presents and presence. In the end, we see the presence of God in Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling place among us.” John 1:14 NASB
Praise God today that he is the giver of great gifts (James 1:17).
Praise Him because He sent his Son, in the flesh, to share in humanity with us. He was be willing to make himself small and BE with us. Then in selfless sacrifice, He offered himself as payment for the sins that separate us from God.
Praise God that he will be Emmanuel ,with us, and ever-present, for where we are there he is (Matthew 18:20).