Tips for Treasuring the Season: Rewrap Gift Giving (2)

Interestingly, in the revised introduction of “Unplug the Christmas Machine,”[1] the authors are comparing the state of the Christmas economy from their first printing (1982) and the current printing (1991). Their assessment: “Some aspects of Christmas have been slow to change, however. As a nation, we are still spending a lot of money to wish each other a Merry Christmas.”[2] Surprised? Probably not. Borrowing their pithy phrase, gift giving runs the Christmas Machine. Giving and receiving gifts has become central to most people’s thoughts of Christmas. Satan has promised happiness, acceptance, and love through commercial messaging in our gift giving. Think that’s too strong? Watch a few Christmas commercials and it seems every store claims they have the products to make our family happy this Christmas! Two weeks ago, my children made Christmas lists without instruction to do so. In free time, my children watched a cartoon, fresh with Christmas commercials. I frankly was disheartened, not because I did not want to know what they wished for, but because I have been the woman who traditionally refuses to think Christmas or plan for Christmas prior to Thanksgiving. God gave us this wonderfully rich season to intentionally discipline ourselves to be in a position of thankfulness. I refuse to lose that in Christmas lists! However, due to my dogmatic timing issues, there have been Christmases I find myself in a panic trying to cover everyone on my list last minute. I have been guilty of the anger mongering mom discussed in the last Tip for Treasuring the Season, Gearing Up: Reality Check. So what are we to do? Let’s address the two common problems separately:

1) How do I protect my family from the “I want for Christmas” phenomenon?

2) How do I preserve the joy of gift giving in planning for Christmas?

1. We are parentally responsible for the discipleship of our children (Eph. 6). To assume your children know the real meaning of Christmas is to leave the discipline of your children to the media. It is irrational to think children can watch hours of commercials and walk through stores designed to engage their Christmas senses without being immersed in Christmas consumerism by default. Just as we are to talk about God’s word when we sit in our house, when we walk about, when we lie down, and when we rise (Deut. 6:7), we also should train our children to think counter-culturally as Christmas approaches. For some of us, that means we will be changing our thought patterns as well. I have been privileged to homeschool my children the past four years with the help of the Classical School P.A.C.E.S. PAideia (www.pceinfo.org) where we attend classes one day a week. At PAideia, students are trained from their first of school to watch movies asking questions of the producers, actors, and writer’s intent. What is the producer or writer wanting us to think about the characters? What is the character wanting us to see in himself, or in others? Most importantly, how this movie made us look at anything differently and does it line up with what we know to be true? I have determined to take this approach with Christmas messages being fed to my children and honestly, to myself. If we are training our children in the ways of the Lord, they will be equipped to recognize darkness from light (Prov. 22:6, Isa. 55:11, 2 Tim. 3:16).

2. Good news! The second problem is easily solved with advanced planning! The first task is to set realistic expectations for gift giving and make a master list. If you are utilizing the Christmas Countdown resources on www.organizedhome.com, a master gift list template is available. Whatever method of madness you have used in the past or would like to use this year, get it out! I have a Christmas journal my mother gave me years ago and I keep a perpetual yearly master list inside. As you are thinking about the master list, also rethink the type of gifts you have purchased in the past.  Mrs. Mohler, during the Holiday Traditions conference breakout[3], highlighted the importance of discerning how the gift was received. If the recipient is not giving pleasant feedback or tragically no feedback at all, then maybe you should consider buying something else this year. If we give gifts to extend God’s love and honor the recipient, we should consider their needs. Most importantly, keep in mind the value of the gift is not found in its numerical value! As a pastor’s wife, I am usually involved helping my husband provide gifts for his staff. Think outside the box! Is there a young woman or teenage girl that enjoys baking who would be willing to bake gourmet rolls or cinnamon buns? Why not hire her to bake a few dozen to give as gifts? The recipients can freeze them, use them for their own family Christmas dinner, or simply enjoy!  Try combining your cookie baking day with gift giving (we will discuss this in more depth a few tips later under Tradition or Rut). Purchase an inexpensive plate or platter from your local discount store, take a day to bake multiple dozens of a variety of cookies, platter a dozen variety, wrap nicely, and voila! Great gift! Do you have some ideas you would like to share? Please do so in the reply box below! If you are using the Christmas Countdown Weekly Planner (www.organizedhome.com), then your task next week is to conquer gift giving. You can do this! Just think….no last minute panic this year.

Most importantly, we want to be known as a generous people. As we meditate on Christ emptying Himself of His glory, coming to earth, taking our punishment, and conquering death, we cannot help but be generous as God has been generous to us. I leave you with a few scriptures reminding us of these biblical truths, including my theme set for Christmas this year, Philippians 2:1-11. Make much of Christ in your gift giving this year!

1 Timothy 6:17-19 –  As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

2 Corinthians 9:13 – By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others.

Philippians 2:1-11 – So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in

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Journey Through Bethlehem, 2009

the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.


[1] Like many books I read, those written from a biblical worldview and those that are not, I do not agree with and support everything contained from cover to cover. All truth is God’s truth, so if you choose to read this book, chew on the bone and throw out the excess.

[2] Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli, Unplug the Christmas Machine : A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season, Rev. ed. (New York: Quill, 1991), 10.

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

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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.