Whether it stems from financial necessity or desire, many of us today are trying to recapture simpler times, like those portrayed in Little House on the Prairie’s Christmas at Plum Creek. As Christmas rolls around, I found much to be admired in these Little House lines:
“I don’t have much,” Laura says to Mary as they’re counting their coins.
“Neither do I,” Mary says.
The next scene shows Pa counting his coins and Ma counting her coins—both expressing disappointment over how little they have. A few seconds later, Mary comes in and asks, “Ma, what can I get Pa for Christmas?”
“I don’t know what I’m going to get him myself ,” Ma responds. “I’m sure that he’ll like whatever you find.”
“It’s got to be special,” Mary says.
Ma: “One thing is certain. We don’t have money to buy presents. If it’s going to be special we got to make it that way ourselves.”
So they set out to make handmade gifts for Christmas. They each gave one gift to a chosen member of their family. Do you see the Ingalls or their children acting pouty and slighted that they only received one gift total from all their family members? Quite the contrary. Fewer gifts meant they cherished what they were given much more than if they received a multitude.
I think there’s much to emulate about their attitudes and approach to Christmas.
Making handmade gifts for Christmas is special, often practical, usually frugal, and always an expression of love. But it takes time. Christmas is a exactly five weeks away. So if you’re going to create a handmade gift, how do you find time to get it done?
1. In Christmas at Plum Creek, the Ingalls had time to get their projects done because they were only working on one gift each. Keep it simple. If you haven’t started by now, it is not the time to knit a scarf for Grandma, sew a quilt for Mom, make a dress for your daughter, decorate a wooden jewelry box for your sister, and sculpt a mug on the pottery wheel for your husband. Pick one thing…or a few very doable things.
2. Be intentional about setting aside time to work on the project(s) each day. It doesn’t have to be much—15 minutes a day for several days will likely ensure your gift is ready to go under the tree.
3. As you’re carving out time to work on handmade projects, you’ll have to eliminate other activities that would normally fill your free time.
4. If you can't find time in your regular day to do your projects, extra time can be found by getting up early during this season, or staying up late, as the Ingalls did in the Little House episode Christmas at Plum Creek.
5. Avoid getting too frazzled and worked up about getting gifts made in time—remember why we’re making and giving gifts in the first place, and let love rule all you do.
Christmas at Plum Creek closes with Carrie holding up the final present, exclaiming, “Open mine, Pa, open mine!”
Pa asks, “Who’s it for?”
Carrie says, “Baby Jesus.”
What was in her package? Remembering that Pa had told that Jesus is the true Christmas star, Carrie used her only penny to buy the shining star she set her eye on in the Olesen’s Mercantile.
The key to a spectacular Christmas season of celebration is focusing on the true Star of Christmas, Christ Himself. While we work hard to make our gifts (or shop for them), we do well to remember the real meaning is not in giving and receiving gifts, but in focusing on the Giver of all gifts. It is out of this overflowing gratitude over what Christ has done for us that we find the desire to give gifts to those we love. We can get caught up in materialism over finding many gifts, or we can take the simpler--and perhaps more meaningful approach—of finding (or making) one special gift. This is so counter-cultural now that many people may feel a slight sting over only receiving one gift at Christmas, but one gift was good enough for the Ingalls and should be more than enough for us today too. Christmas is really not about us anyway. Christ already gave us the best gift we could ever ask for, much more than we deserve. Eternal life in Him is a gift that keeps on giving and can never be used up.
We’ll talk about more ideas for a simple, spectacular Christmas on Coffee Talk Thursday.
(linked to WFMW).