In my last post I laid out the case for how we have totally abandoned the original intent and spirit of Christmas. All that remains anymore for most people is a hollow, broken shell of the celebration of Christ’s birth. For that reason, we must make some radical changes in how we honor God’s gift of Christ.
I want to suggest that a redefinition of Christmas can come about in several ways:
- Instead of a post-Thanksgiving shopping, party, and event frenzy with an anticlimactic one-day Christmas, we can celebrate a twelve-day Christmas beginning on December 25, preceded by a much quieter, thoughtful Advent season.
- Instead of gifting others with things and stuff, we can follow God’s example of honoring and blessing them with the gift of ourselves.
- Instead of overspending on time, money, and energy, we can narrow the field and focus on fewer, but more thoughtful gifts that would honor and bless our loved ones.
- Instead of falling into the same old typical Christmas traditions and expectations, many of which have lost their meaning over time, we can establish new traditions that mirror the generosity, love, surprises, and grace of God’s gift of Jesus Christ.
Even if you’re not a fellow believer but find yourself somehow participating in the Christmas culture, I think believer and non-believer alike can find some meaning in what I’m about to propose. We all can try this twelve days of Christmas challenge and find ourselves at the end of it far more closer to our loved ones, feeling far more generous, and experiencing the heart and life of Jesus by living out his generosity and grace as a way of honoring of his birth.
So… hold on to your seats and read on. Here is the twelve days of Christmas challenge:
The Christmas challenge takes place during the traditional twelve days of Christmas, beginning December 25 and ending on January 5.
Here’s how the Christmas challenge works:
1) Have your family, or a group of friends, neighbors, or office friends decide to go into the Christmas challenge together. Assemble the group as soon as possible.
2) You each randomly draw the name of someone else in that group.
3) Beginning on December 25, the Christmas challenge begins, and on each of the twelve days of Christmas, you give one gift to that person whose name you drew.
4) Each gift you give must be well thought out and designed to truly love and bless that person. A gift could be something like:
- a note or card that encourages the person or expresses your love and support.
- a handmade gift—something you made for that person.
- an object you own that you decide to give the person—something you know they would truly appreciate
- some planned quality time doing something the person would truly enjoy
- help with a chore or job
- a poem, song, or picture that would honor or celebrate that person
- a mission project or act of service you decide to carry out in that person’s honor
- a small, purchased gift, but something that required some thought and creativity
If you belong to a family with small children (like ours): small children can participate, too. Modify the Christmas challenge to fit their needs and abilities. Perhaps they can give one or two gifts to a few other family members, and those family members in turn can gift them. And if they are too young to able to participate much at all, have other family members take turns gifting the child for those twelve days. Bottom line is that all people, no matter their age or ability can be a part of the Christmas challenge.
Is there room for traditional gift giving? Absolutely. But note that traditional gift giving should take a back seat to the kind of giving in this Christmas challenge.
Please also note that taking on this challenge is going to require a loft of guts and intentionality from you. If you take it on, you’re bucking a mountain of traditions and expectations, especially from those who might be closest to you. Then again, that’s very much in the mold of Jesus, too. He resisted fruitless traditions and expectations in order to live out and uphold a more authentic, sincere life with God and others. Most of the time, the best, most meaningful things in life come at a high personal price. But in the end, the treasure far outweighs the cost, and the treasures to be found in experiencing the heart and gift of Christmas will be well worth the sacrifice.
Lastly, I’m sure those of you who participate will find ways to tweak and improve upon what’s here. Please do that and share with me and others about your experience, what you learned, and how to build upon it. All in all, however, I’m convinced that if enough of us give in a way that honors the person and spirit of Jesus over the twelve days of Christmas, we’ll discover and rediscover a pattern of living, blessing, and generosity that will carry us throughout the whole year.