By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Christmas By December 1 January 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:26 pm
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I tried something new this year.  Several weeks before my friend Karen wrote this post about simplifying Christmas, she wrote about how she and several friends encouraged each other to finish their Christmas shopping, wrapping and cards by December 1.  When I read that, I knew immediately that it would be a great idea for me.  Since having kids (maybe before, but I can’t remember life before kids), I find myself stressed out every December.  By Christmas day, I am exhausted and overwhelmed, I haven’t cracked a Bible open in weeks, and I know I’ve been too consumed by all the work to spend time talking to my children about Christ’s birth.  Not exactly how I should be preparing my heart or my family to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

This December, I was going to visit my sister and newborn nephew for 5 days right before Christmas, so I had already gotten an early start.  When I read Karen’s December 1 goal, I kicked it into high gear and got it done.  Here’s my timeline:

  • Early October:  Asked for wish lists from family members
  • Mid-October:  Started shopping (was almost entirely done by mid-November), using and other sites with free shipping to save time
  • Late October:  Bought outfits for kids’ Christmas picture
  • Early November:  Took Christmas card picture, updated Christmas card address list
  • Mid-November:  Started wrapping gifts; wrote Christmas letter, got cards printed, got return address labels, stamps, etc.
  • Thanksgiving week:  Addressed Christmas cards, finished wrapping gifts
  • Weekend after Thanksgiving:  Decorated house, cards were ready to mail
  • December:  Talked about Advent with the kids, Christmas crafts with kids, baking, holiday gatherings, school parties, cleaning, travelled to Utah

As you can see, December was still pretty full.  It was a little more chaotic than I thought it would be, due in part to my pre-Christmas travels.  But I knew it would have been so much worse if my shopping, wrapping and cards hadn’t been done!

Next year, I’d like to do some baking in October and put things in the freezer.  This year, I found myself constantly running to the store because I had to bake something for one of several holiday gatherings.  My friend Lynette made multiple batches of cinnamon rolls, froze them, and pulled a pan out for each gathering.  Genius!  I’m not a good freezer girl, so I’m going to experiment between now and October and find some things that freeze well and can serve as my signature item next December.

If you found yourself overwhelmed and exhausted this Christmas, consider joining me for the December 1 Challenge 2010!  Make a timeline now so you are ready in October or September or whenever you need to start to give yourself time to enjoy Advent and prepare your heart to celebrate Christ’s birth.  I want that to be my purpose:  not to impress others with my organizational skills or be the first Christmas card you receive, but to make time for me and my family to mediate on the incarnation, the Word made flesh, God coming to earth to save His people from their sins.


The 10 Commandments and Christmas December 15, 2008

A few weeks ago, we studied the 10 Commandments in BSF.  Since I have been a Christian for a long time, I am pretty familiar with the 10 Commandments.  I have also studied Jesus’ explanation of some of the commandments in Matthew 5, which points out that these commandments are not just about our external behavior, but also about our heart attitudes.  But this time around, I was even more convicted about different ways in which I break the 10 Commandments, and how meditating on the 10 Commandments at this time of year emphasizes the importance of the work Christ came to do for me.

I would challenge anyone to convince me that they have kept the 10 Commandments.  I’ve certainly broken all of them:  I have put other people and things before God, I have failed to worship God rightly, I have misused His name, I have failed to keep the Sabbath day holy, I have definitely dishonored my father and mother (hello, adolescence!–and beyond), I have hated others, lusted, taken what does not belong to me, lied, and coveted.  Even if you set aside Jesus’ discussion of some of these commandments and take them all purely at face value (e.g., believing that if you have not murdered someone or bowed down to a golden idol, you have not broken those 2 commandments), you have admit–that 10th commandment about not coveting anything that belongs to your neighbor has got you, doesn’t it?

I have heard some Christians say that the 10 Commandments do not apply to us.  They are from the Old Testament, the old covenant–now we are under grace, not under the law.  I disagree.  Jesus said, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).  And so if God requires us to keep the 10 Commandments, and if we all have to admit we haven’t done it, then we have a problem.

However, God, in His goodness and grace, not only gives us His law, but He is the one to remedy the situation when we fail to keep it.  God became man and dwelt among us, not only to teach us and heal us, but to live the perfect life that we could not live.  We cannot keep these commandments; Jesus Christ kept them perfectly, and He bore the punishment for our law-breaking on our behalf.  This truth gives us just one more reason to rejoice this Christmas!  Christ came to die for us, and He also came to live for us, to keep the law perfectly for us.

I think this is also an important point to teach our children.  When they sin, we can remind them of the One who was without sin.  Jesus obeyed His parents perfectly.  Jesus did not sin in His anger.  (I wish the Bible told us that Jesus ate his peas, it would really help me out!)  His perfection qualified Him to pay the penalty for our children’s disobedience, and it is important for them to understand that.  The baby Jesus was born to die for them, and also to live for them.  Their obedience should not be motivated by Santa’s list or by an elf on the shelf (no offense to those of you with elves on your shelves), but by gratitude to God for what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.  O come let us adore Him!