Tips for Treasuring the Season – Decorating: The Joneses Moved…(3)

Let me begin with a simple statement: The Joneses Moved! If you need permission to change the way you decorate your home this year, then you have it! If you need freedom from pressures to out-decorate your neighbor, then you have it! Or if you need encouragement to actually buy a Christmas tree and cut loose your traditional Scrooge persona, then by all means you have it! The Joneses have left the neighborhood and you no longer have to keep up with them! When Jared and I were first married, I over-decorated for the holidays. Seriously. We went from a one bedroom married housing apartment at East Texas Baptist University to a parsonage with over 2,000 square feet six months into marriage. Our family was 2 members strong but I needed at least 7 or 8 long, bulky storage containers to contain my Christmas decorations. As our family grew, so did our decorations. About four Christmas seasons ago, my husband and I were on our way home from a Christmas party, and he complimented the simplicity of Christmas decorations at the host’s home. Obliviously, he gave me permission to scale down our decorations. Having said this, I think degrees of decorating swing with seasons of life. I am truly thankful for our relatives whose homes contain elaborate snow villages and pristine Christmas trees, themed by the room. The beauty of their home is comforting and reflective at Christmas, bringing warmth to family gatherings! There will be seasons I spend more time in the decorating details. However, for you moms out there with little ones, trees decorated from only the waist up are all the rage in my home! When Jared shared his desires for Christmas simplicity a few years ago, I was forced to think through why and how I decorated for the holidays. What do I want people to see after the strange top-heavy tree? Jesus.

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Christmas Advent 2012

Have you ever considered your home as a Christian witness? “Many Christians fail to employ effectively one of their greatest resources for influencing others for Christ – that is, their homes.”[1] Advent is central to our family’s holiday celebration and decoration. Our tree’s centerpiece (above the waist of course) ALWAYS holds the manger scene ornaments, and my kids eagerly anticipate and look for those ornaments first. Advent candles adorn our dining room table, ones we daily light during family meals. An Advent calendar hangs in our hallway, serving as a daily reminder of the coming celebration of Christ’s birth. When guests enter my home, I do not want them to see Santa, I want them to see Jesus! If our homes lack Christmas decorations that might cause a non-believer to ask questions, maybe we need to rethink the point of decorating. As believers, we are called to be set apart in order to glorify God and make disciples (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Matthew 28:19). May our decorations be reminders and reflections of our lives – “gratitude for the promises that were fulfilled when God gave us the gift of his Son and anticipation of and preparation for Christ’s coming again.”[2] Midst the cultural pressures, expectations, and Christmas decoration wars, we as believers truly must decide whom we will serve during the season. I echo the lyrical drumbeat I have heard often from my husband’s mouth, both in the pulpit and at home: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

As you contemplate your home for the season, consider these questions:

  1. What changes do you need to make in your home this season to keep Christ central?
  2. How can you display your faith in Christmas decorations?
  3. Who can you invite to your home this season, extend hospitality, and share Christ?

[1] Pat Ennis and Dorothy Kelley Patterson, The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook, 369.

[2] Noël Piper and John Piper, Treasuring God in Our Traditions (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003), 80.

Tips for Treasuring the Season – Gearing Up: Reality Check (1)

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I recently attended a conference[1] and had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Mary Mohler, wife of Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In this session, she was teaching on Holiday Traditions and presenting 8 Aspects of Christmas Celebrations. The session was a fantastic reminder as the holiday season is fast approaching. I have repackaged the points she presented along with a few of my experiences and ideas. I hope you find these tips encouraging not only in philosophy, but also practical in reality. Over the next four weeks, two Tips for Treasuring the Season will be posted a week bringing us to the beginning of December!

My Tips for Treasuring the Season will include:

  1. Gearing Up: Reality Check
  2. Rewrap Gift Giving
  3. Decorating – The Joneses Moved…
  4. Christmas Food Junkie
  5. Tradition or Rut?
  6. Christmas Card Boasting vs. Christmas Card Greeting
  7. Outreach at Christmas?
  8. Celebrate Christmas With People, Not In Spite Of Them!

You know that moment when you walk into a store to pick up a few Fall decorations and are forced to wade through Christmas decorations in September to find the Fall decor? The panic begins to rise and anxiousness sets in as the wheels begin turning about gifts, food, decorations, needs, wants, etc…and you decide to forget altogether decorating for Fall because you don’t have time! At the time of the conference session with Mrs. Mohler, she informed us we had only two months until Christmas, and my friend leaned over and jokingly asked for a paper bag. But isn’t that how we sometimes feel as mothers watching Christmastime inch closer?! So how do we avoid hyperventilating before and after Thanksgiving? We need a plan. A two-point plan to be exact.

  1. Be realistic. At the same conference, another speaker in discussing how to battle anger, presented a plan for staying realistic in all things.[2] She measured the gap between reality and expectations and said everything in between is usually filled with anger and frustration. How true this becomes when approaching the holiday season. Does your family dread the season because we as moms turn into anger mongers trying to get too much accomplished in too short of time? Odds are our expectations need an adjustment, a reality check. Priorities need to be set.
  2. Be intentionally organized. Once you set realistic expectations, it is time to get a plan together to make it happen. Great resources I am utilizing this year are the Christmas Countdown planning tools found on www.organizedhome.com. For simplicity, I do not need every calendar the website provides to get ready for the holidays, but the weekly checklist is proving to be incredibly valuable. In the organization process and in determining priorities, I urge us all to keep the main thing the main thing. We are celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. If in all of the parties, cookie exchanges, shopping, and cleaning we miss time spent with our family apart from the big Christmas dinner, we have missed the season. Set aside family time in your calendar, communicate those protected times so that all family members understand nothing is to override these precious moments. This takes being intentional. Moreover, do not neglect the spiritual disciplines during this season! Find an Advent guide to help you and your family stay in God’s word, meditating on its truths. I have listed at the bottom resources our family either has used in the past or is using this season.[3] If we can be set apart from cultural chaos in our celebrations and avoid the Christmas machine, Christ will be kept the center.

We can do this! Our planning for the season will make much of Christ! As a preview to the second Tip for Treasuring the Season posting later this week, I leave you with this Puritan prayer offered many years ago.

The Gift of Gifts[4]

O Source of all good,

What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,

thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,

my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,

his self-emptying incomprehensible,

his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:

he came below to raise me above,

was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;

when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,

to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;

when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart

he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;

when I was undone, with no will to return to him,

and no intellect to devise recovery,

he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,

as man to die my death,

to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,

to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,

and enlarge my mind;

Let me hear good tidings of great joy,

and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,

my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,

my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;

Place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,

to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,

and in him account myself delivered from sin;

Let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,

embrace him with undying faith,

exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

*Taken from The Valley of Vision


[1] The Art of Homemaking Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

[2] Elizabeth George

[3] Evans, James L. Family Devotions for the Advent Season : Four Weeks of Daily Devotions and Activities to Help You Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1991.

Plough Publishing House. Watch for the Light : Readings for Advent and Christmas, 1 vols. Farmington, PA: Plough Pub. House, 2001.

Ramsey, Russ. Behold the Lamb of God : The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. Nashville, TN: Rabbit Room Press, 2011.

[4] Bennett, Arthur. The Valley of Vision : A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, 16.