Intentionality at Christmas | Part One: Gift-Giving

Dec 5, 2013

Hi! Welcome to my series, Intentionality at Christmas! I'm excited to write about what's been on my heart lately about all things Christmas and what living outside of the cultural norm might look like for my family. 

I've always struggled with Christmas. As a Christian, I've known and believed that this holiday was more than gifts, decoration, and traditions. It's a day to celebrate God becoming man... the birthday of the man who would eventually sacrifice his life so that we could have a relationship with God. As much as I love all of the other fun things that have become a part of Christmas, I'm always saddened when I realize the day, much less the season, has gone by and we haven't devoted time as a family to honoring what the day really means. 

The materialism I see in our culture, and sometimes in our own home, makes me sad, too. I mean, people being killed over half-priced tvs? People getting arrested for fights? Families rack up thousands of dollars worth of debt so their family members won't be disappointed on Christmas morning and the success of the day is measured by the number of things they can cross off their wish list. 

Been there. Done that. Guilty. (the last part, not the killing, fights, or debt!)

I'm not criticizing having things, but when things are the focus of our culture and homes, and especially when they're the focus of Christmas, it only further contributes to discontentment and unhappiness. I, admittedly, can easily fall into the same trap of thinking things can make me happy, and I am always, always disappointed when happiness is the last thing I feel. Things will never buy happiness.

Now that we're parents, my desire to be more intentional around the holidays has deepened and I've been contemplating and praying about how I can effect change in my own family. I won't be so naive to think that a few families changing how they do Christmas could change our culture in the blink of an eye, but it can certainly set a precedent for our children and their future families- a precedent of true celebration and thankfulness to God, and a contentment with what we have. 

That being said, I do believe gifts have a place at Christmas. We are celebrating, after all! And what better way to celebrate one of the biggest events of our faith than giving to others in honor of what we've been given? Making positive change starts with our hearts, and asking God to help change us and show us where we need to change. We know that we won't be perfect with our goals, and it will take intentionality, but here's a little of what I've had in mind:

1. We want the focus of Christmas to be on what it means for us that Christ became man.
2. We want to give joyfully and creatively from our hearts.
-giving doesn't always have to be big, flashy, and expensive to be meaningful. 
3. We want to model contentment and thankfulness.
-we want our children to understand that our value is found in Christ, not name brands or bigger and better.
 4.We will not put Christmas gifts on a credit card. We will budget and save throughout the year.
-we want to teach wisdom with money, paying cash for what you want, and patience.
 5. We want to have a big family and having a plan will help keep us in line with our budget.
-can you imagine the lists and budget for an outrageous, materialistic Christmas?

The plan I'm talking about? I'm sure you've heard this little jingle on Pinterest or other blogs, but it's the best way to describe how we want to go about giving gifts and setting boundaries:

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

We also want to include "something to give away". This may include serving in the community, reaching out to others who need help, selecting an Angel Tree tag of a child close to their age and picking out the gifts themselves, etc. We want it to come natural to our children to think of and serve others, and not just around the holidays. This plan helps us not only by setting a standard for more minimalistic living, but also by giving practical guidelines and expectations.

I do want to make it clear that our main focus is the heart, not just having another routine or going through the motions. We want our children to have a true relationship with God and depend on the Spirit to guide and teach them.  It's vital that we not only talk the talk, but that we walk the walk and allow our children to see these principles played out in our personal lives, not just on Christmas day. As parents, Michael and I are the ones given the responsibility of shaping our children's worldview during the years they're in our home and setting a precedent for being wise with money, considerate of others, thankful for what we have, and focused on what matters is important to us.

What are some things that are important for you and your family at Christmas?


  1. Thanks for sharing all of this. I never got the 'go into debt' for Christmas and bling bling. I've thought it would be fun to adopt a missionary at Christmas instead of buying unnecessary gifts.

  2. This was a great post. My hubs and I want to do something similar when we have kids someday. I love how you put it "focus on the heart."

  3. No shock here but I love this post Kelsea! So much truth!

  4. Kelsea this is a great post and really ministered to my heart. Jesus is the reason for the season and with all the holiday cheer we sometimes cut him out. I have noticed extreme materialism on my own family. Thankfully I've never really been saddened for not getting gifts but I did look at Christmas more as a time to get what I wanted than to serve and celebrate Christ. My husband'a family never exchanged gifts or celebrated Christ so we are now making our own traditions. Between us we also do the want, need, wear, read - we will add something for a "friendly deed" when we have children. Right now we make sure to participate in some service project to bring glory to God. I want to make sure that I start this tradition in my own heart so it will be second nature when we have children. I have been telling my Godson that he gets gifts on Christmas to celebrate Jesus. I told him that Jesus loves him so much he wants him to have present on his birthday. I also have been doing an advent study to keep my heart fixed on him each day. I plan to still do a tree and celebrate but I want to always remember why we are celebrating and who we are celebrating! Thanks for this reminder!

  5. I think this is so amazingly true! Especially in America we get so wrapped up in the "stuff" that comes along with Christmas. I hope I will be able to instill in my future kiddos an appreciation for the small things at Christmas!

  6. Kelsea, this is a beautiful post that touched my heart tremendously. I too, have been struggling to find the balance between the meaning of the season while still incorporating the fun things too for Madeline and our family. It's so so important! Thank you for speaking to my heart today - I needed it. XO, friend and have a wonderful weekend.

  7. I love hearing about how people make Christmas more about Christ and less about all the other stuff (not saying that stuff isn't fun too). Thanks for the reminder to be intentional this season and I can't wait to read through this series!!

  8. I just read about this gift idea last week on a blog and i love it! we do not have kids yet but I would love to start something like this when we do! right now we only get one gift for each other and stocking stuffers.

  9. I couldn't agree more with every word you wrote! Having a child makes you want to be that much more intentional than you've ever been before. A little soul is watching, learning, and imitating everything you do. What an overwhelmingly awesome job we have as parents.