Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Feels Different This Year - Volume II

My mind remains mid-swim over this whole Christmas thing.

Only, in this case, the longer I tread water, the stronger I get, the more things start to make sense.

Why has it taken me 34 years to really start to understand that this is all about Jesus? That's all I've got here - just a flickering start of understanding. But it's more than I had last year and less, I hope than I'll have next.

I have spent my life knowing one thing and living another. I have spent my 5 Mama years caught up in the hullabaloo and throwing out like a postscript - "Just remember - Jesus is the reason we celebrate!" The end.

I remember being bummed one year that Christmas fell on a Sunday. No one wants to be the jerk skipping church on Christmas, but it really put a wrinkle in my day. My day. Mine.

Isn't it possible for children (and big people) to direct all of the refried Christmas wonder toward the birth of One who transformed the world, redeemed humanity and hand-picked them for a special, specific purpose?

I think it is, but it's going to have to start right here in the heart of the girl with too-long arms and misbehaving hair.

It's confusing. At least I think it is.

I like baking the cookies and roasting the oranges and feeling the hype. I may even like a Christmas song or two, although I won't put that in writing. Oops.

I started off feeling vexed by the whole internal dilemma. My black/white, all/nothing personality wasn't able to make sense of it all.

My arms were tired, my legs growing numb. I considered putting the whole debate to bed and sinking blissfully back into the water. I felt sort of scroogey and it just seemed easier to pretend that I wasn't feeling the way that I was feeling.

But in the end, you just can't unknow something.

So, here's what I know:

I know that Christmas is fun. My kids feel the buzz more this year than ever, and it makes me smile.

I know that Jesus appreciates a rollicking, twinkly celebration.

I know that I want my kids to grow to understand the importance and beauty of falling on their knees.

I know that all of those ages back, Love came to walk the dirt, and nothing was ever the same.

My first move seemed embarrassingly elementary: This home needed a nativity scene. One that my kids can handle.

So I didn't buy more Christmas "stuff" this year. That cash went toward a wooden nativity, hand-carved and painted in the Philippines, courtesy of Ten Thousand Villages.

My kids argue over who gets to play with it, which wasn't exactly what I had in mind, though I appreciate the fervor.

Ruby gravitates to it most often.

She huddles everyone around the Baby, and even more often, she lines them up on a "thtage" (stage) like a choir, with Baby Jesus holding post as the shortest Alto.

I've been told that the pink wiseman and the angel are Honeys.

The next week will be brim-filled with parties. I'll have sugar in my hair and Scotch tape stuck to my jeans, but my hope is that this year, more than ever, we will celebrate Him. Not as an afterthought or half-heartedly, out of guilt.

How will we celebrate Him?

Oh, I've got some ideas... and I would love to hear yours.


  1. Ok girl - I'm meanin' no disrespect - but I'm thinking that a scary baby needs to make an appearance in the manager - just once -even if it's for a flannel clad friend next week. That's all I'm sayin' about that. This might be a long comment - cause I had afternoon tea and my fingers be a flyin' tonight. So - I'm nearly 49 - and I always START the season in the right frame of mind and then right now, the week before Christmas I see it all as a chore and something that I have to DO - and I have to GIVE - and really it's all about us RECEIVING now isn't it? Maybe by the time I'm 50 I'll get it. You are doing good at 34. The first playing of O Holy Night this year, I literally fell on my knees and wept, and felt it was enough, that I done had my Christmas, right then and there. If we could only hold on to that moment all the live long day. Ok - I'm stopping now, cause I'm not making sense....xox

  2. I love Ten Thousand Villages... we've got one right here in our "back forty". Love them...

    "the shortest alto"...that is so darling.

  3. Beautiful. Again.

    If you get a chance, check out my blog. I posted something that may speak to you. It's Day 15 of my Project Beauty.

    By the way, I may have to blog you once as my "Beauty" of the day. Your heart, as I see it, is just that. Thank you for the reminder.

    ps. I gotta get me nativity set.

  4. You, dear one, are so very special. Your honesty and transparency are what keeps drawing me back here, day after day, whether I leave a comment or not.

    I am 61 and, Shanan, this year is different for me, as well. I shared with you at Thanksgiving how I viewed that holiday differently. That is leading me to hopefully being able to make a positive physical difference. Will know in a few days.

    Christmas is extremely different for me this year. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've met so many wonderful Christian ladies this year through the world of blog that cause me to be stirred in my heart and soul about issues that I've never taken the time to ponder before.

    I am grateful for you, Shanan.

  5. it's funny that you mention the whole church/sunday/christmas thing... i was just thinking tonight about how i bet the attendance will be low next weekend with christmas being on saturday... pretty sad. love your new nativity though - looks perfect for the little people:)

  6. My kids actually asked for us to get a nativity to put in our front yard this year... a BIG one.

    So to be frugal, we are actually going to work on making one this summer from wood when the weather is warmer. They noticed that there were more blow up snowmen and Santa's in people's yard than there were nativity scenes...

    I make a point to always say Merry CHRISTMAS, and not happy holidays.

    This year, a lot of our gifts to others are home mead and handmade.

  7. We are on the same wavelength about Christmas this year. This year that I hope is just an introduction to many more Christ-focused Christmases to come. I don't think there's anything wrong with Santa and the fun hype but trying to find the proper place for it is tough. We're scaling back this year. Less decorations, less places we have to be & things we have to do...more Scripture reading, more anticipation of celebrating the birth of Hope. It's a tough transition. But a good one.

  8. God loves festivities and celebrations. I happen to know that because he created so many for the Israelites to celebrate... and to help them remember. Interestingly, I learned last year that we are never actually told to celebrate Christmas. Interesting.

    Much like you, I feel like I've just been figuring out that it's ALL about Jesus... I've spent hours reading pages upon pages at learning about the origins and symbolism of Advent and the Christian Year quietly contemplating how I really want to celebrate the season to deliberately remembering the gift God gave. Maybe this reflection comes with being 34!

    Apparently Advent used to be a time of fasting, much like Lent, where the first 2 weeks focus on reflection and repentance. Then the second two weeks focus on the hope and anticipation of the arrival of our Lord. I like that. I will certainly consider that for next year.

  9. shannan, this post leaves me with a contented sigh and a silly grin on my face. I just love how your writing will remind people to slow down and enjoy the gift of Jesus birth!

  10. I have been looking for a similar nativity that the kids can handle - thanks for the info. :)

  11. WE to have a nativity set in our lounge room.Perched on a silver tray with baby Jesus being protected under a glass cloche.Jesus is the reason we are all here to celebrate and I'm really looking forward to taking my 2 boys to Christmas eve mass this year.Family first,give with love and mean it..That's what I teach my boys..xx

  12. This year, Christmas is on Saturday. The Sabbath day. We go to church on Saturday's. This is the first time that I can remember in my whole life looking forward to going to church on Christmas. I never wanted to before and usually didn't, but this year is different. I want to give to Jesus this year. My heart and my little family. He gave up so much for us.

    Happy Christmas celebrations to the Martin household and may all our children grow to learn that this holiday is truly a Holy Day.

    Ky xx

  13. I love Christmas but my favorite part is sitting in the light of the tree and reading about Jesus and his life while I do my study. I happened to be in my bible studying about his crucifixion and I found myself wondering how his mother would have felt if she had known that night in the manger what lay ahead
    My fav song "Mary did you know?" always makes me cry. I guess I can so relate to her because of the mother in me.
    I love the gifts, the music, the lights, the gatherings of friends and family, but I love the way my heart almost bursts when I think about the gift we received when that baby was born in that smelly old inn.

  14. If it's any help to you, I've posted a big downloadable resource full of simple stories, craft activities, recipes and play ideas for sharing Jesus with our kids. It's aimed at preschoolers and has been lots of fun for us! My theory is that if I try to teach through play my kids will enjoy getting to know Jesus and it will be a more effective teaching tool. Plus it brings conversation about Jesus into the every day scrappiness of life!


  15. You're so right on! My cute, little grandma bakes a birthday cake for Jesus every Christmas and we sing Happy Birthday. It's really cheesy and feels silly but it does remind us what it's all about.

  16. 34 years old huh? It took me until I was in my 50's to be able to keep things straight in my mind.
    I'd like to share a tradition of a friend's and I only wish I had known about it when my children were small. She has her children place the nativity scene out except for the babe. On Christmas eve, one of her children gets to place baby Jesus in the manger to signify He is born. I think this is a lovely way to share the birth of our Lord with children and help them understand the full meaning of Christmas.
    Reflective words, my dear.

  17. first of all, lovin that shallow dof first image my friend!
    secondly, love that nativity!

    our christmas eve service is larger than life . over 10,000 expected but last year it was hands down one of the most holy spiritual events i had ever attended. it is powerful yet so sweet at the same time. i love the worship & the clear huge dramatic reminder of our savior's birth

  18. With my 2 year old, he barely gets Santa and Christmas. But he knows who Jesus is... you know... in statues and pictures and stuff. He has no idea what he did for us. This year I started a tradition of wrapping our baby Jesus from the nativity and opening him before bed Christmas Eve. He IS all about surprises so I am hoping that this will be at his level. And it isn't much but I hope to build on it. I also sincerely hope helping him "get it" will help me get it.
    beautiful post, girl!

  19. With two teenagers, the Santa magic is gone and we can really concentrate, more than we were, on the real reason for Christmas. Love the nativity and the "choir". Thanks for this post.

  20. Beautiful! Just beautiful! So well said, and a gentle reminder on a day when I am stressed about all things me. God gave me his son, surely I can pause, take a moment and give Him thanks.

  21. I appreciate your honesty, and would like to pass along me ol blog address, for I've already said there what I might say here... Bless you this season and always...

  22. I'm so glad I came across your blog on Kelly's Korner! You have a way with words and I found myself smiling so much as I read different posts...and your children are BEAUFITUFL!

    I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas!

  23. Love that nativity. Lily has an old wooden one that was mine as a kid, that she can play with. She put Baby Jesus right in front of her fish bowl so fish Abby can "see Jesus". I love it. I suppose we ALL need Him huh? ;)

  24. I have the nativity set I grew up with.My kids have played with all the pieces and it has seen better days!!!! I even have superglued angels !!!Can't beat that!!! LOL ,Blessings,Sara

  25. This is something we're working on with our kids too. Aubrie is starting to get it this year - Everett has no clue! Aubrie was drawing pictures of a hill with a cross at the top, presents below, and a Christmas tree. When you ask her which is most important - she knows the cross. However, I did catch her praying to Santa so we have some work to do :) I need that wooden nativity set. Everett took Mary's head clean off her porcelain body last year!

  26. Growing up our tradition with our nativity set was that each kids bedroom, (6 of us, 3 kids rooms)started at the beginning of Advent with a wiseman leaving their room and moving each day closer to downstairs where the nativity scene was. Each day they would be "traveling" and then get there on Christmas Day. Baby Jesus would never be in the manager until Christmas morning. Can you tell I grew up when there was only 3 TV stations to watch...we thought this was high entertainment!!!

  27. girlie, we after a sad, grief-ridden Christmas, we decided to focus on HIM. Jesus never moves far away, becomes ill, joins a *new* family, nor dies. He is the One Constant in Christmas. i applaud you! bravo!

  28. You know, it's like squeezing stuff through a funnel. It's editing. it's saying YES to Father Christmas and NO to his decorative coffee mugs and velvet posters (He and Elvis have a lot in common these days but really? It's not his fault. I can't ban the guy because, he's dead, and he never would have approved of it. So I try to find the roots).

    Oh, and YES to Muppet Christmas Carol and NO to stupid Snow Paws or whatever and YES to the Grinch and NO to The Santa Claus.


    It's like balancing on a giant log in the middle of the lake. It's redeeming the good things that have gotten a little...cheese factor.

    I always remind myself when I get tired of it, and want to become ALL JESUS NO SECULAR (Because it would be easier to ban humans from the festivities) that C.S. Lewis had the White Witch in Narnia ban Santa, and she was a bad lady. C.S. Lewis is smarter than I. Also, I don't like throwing old guys out in the snow.

  29. Growing up (and still) we have a stalking for Jesus. Each year we fill each others stalking and we also put something is Jesus' whether that is a picture that the compassion child we have been supporting drew for us, or a favorite bible verse that has meant the world to us that year, or operation shoebox prayers written on the back of the brochure, or a prayer for the child we got a gift for from angel tree... the possibilities are endless. Going through His stalking Christmas morning makes us more excited about the gifts we give than the ones we receive. We give gifts to celebrate the best gift given to us ever, life. Without Christ we would be in darkness, searching, restless... we rejoice because we have hope now, light and love. giving gifts is how we show that love!!

    Also: ever since we were kids (I am the oldest of four) we have to tell the Christmas story to my parents before we open presents. It is hilarious... according to them, we cannot get out of it until we have kids to replace us, so our husbands will just have to join us until then! We get really creative with our ages change. When we were little we used our dolls and my 2 year old brother drove hot wheels through the manger! one year we made angel wings and told the story from heaven's year we were "live at the scene" and last year (brother 14, sisters 16 & 19, and me 21) we wrote christmas song to the tune of our favorite pop song..
    before we even start on the presents we remember the true meaning...and we have a lot of fun doing it!!!

    Please steal one or both of these ideas if you want!!!! I love you heart.

  30. Love this post! Yes it is all about Jesus! I love what you said "I know that Jesus appreciates a rollicking, twinkly celebration."
    Yes He does! He delights in us when we delight in Him. He is worthy to be praised and celebrated! God bless you darlin'
    Sugar Pie Farmhouse

  31. this post brings so much glory to God.

  32. this is so true, true, true. I really want a nativity set myself. I've never gotten around to getting one. In the past ~sometimes~ we make Jesus a birthday cake... ooohhh I'm ashamed that it's only sometimes. This year we are making a house cake for His birthday, from a vintage cake cookbook.
    If I play to many christmas hymns, I start crying and my family looks at me funny, so I prefer to do that when everyone is at school/work and I can really , fall on my knees and hear the angels voices!

  33. You know I have kinda felt a little change in myself this Christmas as well, but I haven't been able to put it exactly into words like you have, so thank you. I feel a strong desire this year to just go back to the basics, keep it simple, and remember the real reason for celebrating.

    And I love LOVE that nativity scene. I have recently decided that when I start to build up my own home some day, I want to fill it with meaningful, look at, roll around in your hands, and appreciate everyday type things. This is a far cry from my hobby lobbying, cheap clutter collecting tendencies.

  34. I loved this post. It was something we all need to focus on. It also inspired me to get a nativity scene that my kids can play with. The one we have is old and has been passed down several generations.
    When I went to Ten Thousand Villages it wasn't there. Do they have limited amounts of each item?

  35. I went to a seminar this month, and it was indeed about having things, especially manger scenes around the house for kids to touch and feel throughout the month. So, actually it's wonderful your letting your kids play with it. Sounds like your getting pretty content with where your at with how to celebrate. It is challenging to get it all 'right'.
    Thanks for these thought provoking posts.

  36. Beautiful! It's so easy to get caught up in the hulabaloo...I do it every year! About two years ago I put a stop to Christmas Eve commitments. I said no thank you to the requests... to go to or host something on that night. Instead, we go to our Christmas Eve service at church then come home for soup and bible story time! It works for us! Thanks for sharing this post.
    Blessings to you and your cute little munchkins!

  37. Goodness, I can reLATE. I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. Love the celebration of Jesus' birth; hate the craziness that goes along with it. I always start out with the intention to keep focusing on Him, but I think I get overwhelmed by trying to wrap my mind around how our Lord and Savior became man. So I just trot off and eat a Christmas cookie instead. But all the while I know He is there working on me, in my heart.

  38. beautiful post- i adore your thoughts and how you express yourself.

    33 years and sometimes i still get caught in the hulabaloo.
    sweet christmas blessings to you.

  39. True confessions, Farmgirl. This very day, I was thinking that since we did Christmas early this year, I would actually have a chance to focus on the Child's birth for once. For once. Because it usually gets lost in the shuffle and buried beneath the cream cheese wrappers.
    Sad, but true.

  40. It's so hard to keep Him in the center of it all...when we are getting whipped around in so many directions. Loved your thoughts on this. Such a pretty nativity. My girls used to play with ours all the time...not so much this year. Makes me sad.

  41. Two year old Riley and I stood watching a neighbor set up her yard nativity scene - plastic figures, a simple wooden frame, and real hay in the manger. As we stood watching, I pointed out baby Jesus, his mommy Mary and his daddy Joseph. Riley stood silent for a moment, taking it all in.

    Then, "Grammy, baby Jesus is asleep. In his....nest."

    I find myself remembering, smiling, and humming, "the little Lord Jesus, asleep in his nest."

  42. My guy and I really wanted our little three year old to start to grasp the reason we celebrate this time of year...I mean, she is definitely aware of what's going on this year. She knows what the Christmas tree is, she also can feel the "buzz" of the holiday as you put it so aptly in your post. All of that stuff is so fun. And it's okay to include that in our celebration but I feel much like you...the real reason to celebrate should be something we hold dear and close all year round. And, it should definitely be at the center of everything we do at Christmas time, with the other fun stuff taking the supporting role.

    We also have a nativity she can hold and play with. We set it up in her room. And we made some flash cards on the computer that illustrate the Christmas story. We've told her that story probably four times a week for the past three weeks now. She will look at the cards now and tell us the story in her little three year old way. "This is the star, and Mary is Jesus' mommy. Joseph and Mary didn't have a house. They goed to a stable. Jesus didn't have a bed. He sleep in the hay." Anyway, you get the picture. This warms my heart. I may not do anything else right this holiday season but this one thing I will hold dear. She knows that Jesus was born. She knows his story. (p.s. I love your post, as usual. Sorry this is so long.)

  43. Our nativity is from Ten Thousand Villages, too! It will make an appearance on my blog next week. And this year I found baby Jesus riding on a ox one day and then he went missing for a few days. I felt a little odd about that. :)

  44. Great post! As an "older" mom I'll share just a couple of our "refocus" ideas. Each girl(we have 4) got their own Nativity one Christmas. All unbreakable and placed on each nightstand or dresser. The girls are grown now and each has the nativity she grew up with in her home.
    Daddy built the stables. We have a Jesse Tree. Google it. We also do a birthday cake for Jesus (Chocolate-sin, topped with cherries-Christ's sacrifice, white whipped frosting-our placement with Christ) We give small gifts to Him by taking things for Church or Sunday School(new crayons etc.) Bless you this season!

  45. We do advent for my daughter. My church has a link where you can print the countdown. Each week is a different focus...1st hope, 2nd peace, 3rd joy, 4th love and on Christmas day you light the Christ candle. She has really enjoyed the activities this year! - click on Advent Calendar

  46. We do advent each of the 4 Sunday's before Christmas. We read the scriptures that go with the theme of each night (prophecy,angel, shepherd, Bethlehem) and light the candle. We sing the Christmas carols. We add some figures to the Nativity. The last one- last night, we light the last candle, put baby Jesus in the manger, and sing Silent Night. That's the main thing we do to keep the Savior in Christmas, other than going to church every week.
    I also like to do some service. Tonight we are going with a group of Church friends to carol at a retirement home with our whole family.
    I love your nativity! We have the Fisher Price one and it was a great investment. No little pieces, kid friendly sturdy parts, my 3 year old daughter plays with it constantly!

  47. Nothing better than having a nativity your kids can play with. It was my daughter's favorite Christmas thing.