christmas in september (give-away!)

Every year I PROMISE myself that I’m going to make the most of Christmas. I’m going to start preparations WAY ahead of time, so that I never once feel rushed–the whole month of December. I’m going to spend quality time with my daughters, instilling in them the hope and true meaning of Christmas. I’m ONLY going to purchase gifts that are meaningful and fraught with eternal value (not to mention economical). I will NOT succumb to the horrors of last-minute shopping. I’m going to bake, bake, bake and give, give, give. Our home will be filled with greenery and candles and nativity scenes and music and people and laughter and a variety of delicious soups simmering in the Crock-pot.

It never happens.

The Advent Calendar, the Joshua Tree (okay, Jesse Tree–see what I mean?), the caroling around our neighborhood bearing homemade goods? Never happens.

So, this year? I have no lofty expectations. And keep this on the down-low, but I’m thinking that this might be the year that BIG things happen.

It’s already started. I got this book in the mail a few days ago and read it in no time flat.

And promptly wrote an Amazon review.

Touching Wonder by John Blase

Many of us have heard the Christmas Story a bazillion times. It quickly becomes impersonal, just some plastic story about people who aren’t even real. The last few Christmases, I’ve tried hard to put myself in the story as much as possible. To imagine the characters–Mary, Joseph, shepherds–as normal people just like me. People with feelings, weaknesses, fears. I love reading historical fiction accounts that help me empathize, relate, appreciate. (Two from Galilee and the Nativity Story are favorites.) I love how Touching Wonder takes actual Scripture (mainly from the raw, poetic Message Version of the Bible) and then extrapolates on those verses with poignant narration from each of the main players (and some “extras” as well). I’m adding this book to my collection of books that help me truly experience the Christ in Christmas.

I don’t know the author personally, but I feel like I know his wife after reading her blog and chatting with her online a bit. Meredith lost her daddy a little over a month ago to pancreatic cancer (the same thing Patrick Swayze had), and her post yesterday about him really touched my heart. Sending prayers and hugs out West to you, Meredith!

John has graciously offered to let me keep my own copy of the book (woohoo!), and he’s going to send the winner their very own personally autographed copy! And he said he’d sign any name you want. For example: To Krista, Christmas Blessings! Yours–Max Lucado. Seriously, he said he could do that.

So, for a chance to win Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas, tell me one thing you’d like to do this season to make Christmas meaningful. I’ll draw a winner randomly at noon on Friday. And John’s giving away a few copies on his blog as well.

For an additional entry in the give-away, all you have to do is dress up like Santa today and walk up and down the streets of your city/town wishing people a Merry Christmas.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

56 thoughts on “christmas in september (give-away!)

  1. Loretta

    We want to sing for older people, and also have our children play their violins for them this year. We want to keep it simple, and really keep the reason for the season in mind, there are many hurting out there. Let’s share Jesus with them.

  2. Kathy

    If it were possible I would love it if every single person, including our soldiers, could be home with their families for an old fashioned country holiday.
    Could we have a hiatus from all the commercialism, for once, and focus on how much we love Jesus and each other?

  3. Joy in the Journey

    This will be our second Christmas without our oldest daughter. Last year we didn’t do anything new because we were still rather numb and just wanted to get through it for the younger kids (we have three children remaining at home). I’d like to focus a lot more on GIVING with them — work on some projects together that we can give to our neighbors or take to the homeless ministry our church is serving at. But I haven’t figured out any details yet.

  4. Kelsie

    I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve mostly been thinking about how we’re traveling to PA to visit my husband’s grandparents. We’ve done that each year we’ve been married except last year…And most of the family will be there.
    I’ve baked bread and given cards to neighbors in the past, so I’ll probably do the same.
    As far as what to do for our children, I think a LOT of talking about Jesus being the reason for the season. “Do you know WHY we give and receive gifts for Christmas??”…

  5. Marlen

    I would really like to just slow down this season. I feel like we rush through everything, especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Not this year. I want to enjoy my family’s annual CE get-together and CD with my kiddos.

  6. Stephanie your sister

    This technically isn’t my first Christmas with a baby yet, but it feels like it is. I want to cherish this Christmas more than ever before because of the little baby GIRL (!) in my belly. 🙂 It’ll be a time of joy and change, and I absolutely cannot wait for it! I love Christmas!!!

  7. Jen Boan

    About 2 1/2 years ago, my husband and I moved to Colorado. Since then we have had two amazing kiddos. We are in the process of moving back to Arizona where all of my family is (and some of his family). This year, to make the holidays extra special, we will be spending time with family!!! It will be our first time all being together! 🙂

  8. Becky

    I want to slow down and take in every day. Whether or not my house is perfectly decorated (which it won’t be with my two little ones) is not as important as taking in each day of the season. I have a book about how to take a day at a time, and I actually want to remember to read it every day.

  9. Holly @ Crownlaiddown

    Please don’t enter me in the giveaway, Marla. Just wanted to stop by and say that Meredith and her husband, John, are the real deal. Good Folks. Godly. Prayerful and thoughtful! Praying that whomever wins will be truly blessed!

    PS I love that he said he’d sign Max Lucado’s name. Hilarious!

  10. becky

    I want to do the same thing we did last year. We gave each of our fully grown children $100 each at Thanksgiving and they had from then until Christmas eve to make a difference in someone’s life w/that money and on Christmas day we got to hear all their stories….

  11. Sarah Montanye

    That book sounds like it would be a great read! You should have a made it a requirement that anyone that puts on a Santa suit and strolls down the street sends you a picture. I’d love to see that – awesome! 🙂
    This year we’ll actually be home for Christmas, I’d love to start some traditions with our daughter. Not sure what that would be yet, but I have time to think on it. Also want to think of ways to reach out to others neighbors on our street. I want it to be more about serving and giving and Jesus this year than meaningless gift buying and stress.

  12. Gail

    This year, I’d like to write a very special Christmas letter to my children, explaining in their terms, why Christ’s coming was such an extraordinary gift of grace.

    And I can’t find my Santa suit. Darn.

  13. Rhonda S

    I’m determined to stop the last-minute silly gift buying. I want all of the gifts I give to be meaningful this year. My plan is to start early and have a wonderful peaceful home this December.

  14. Jenny

    Now that our kids are old enough (4 & 5) to understand more about helping others, we’d really like to do something substantial and meaningful for another family. We’ve done smaller things like the shoe boxes, etc…. But it would really be neat to pull the focus of Christmas towards serving others instead of getting presents and sitting around eating a boatload of yummy food. I’m hoping we can accomplish something like that this year.

  15. Krista

    I want to have you and your youngest come over so we can tackle Christmas cookies together while the lasses play. That way, we fellowship, as well as get cookies for the neighborhood.
    My goal this year is to get a bag of cookies to each house on our block and get to know them!
    And eat cookies. I forgot that part.

  16. Rachele

    This year we want to start a family tradition that my son will remember, he’s only 14 months right now, so we hope that by December, he may remember what we do. We hope to do something meaningful like serving food to the homeless or getting gifts for kids whose parents are in prison (Angel Tree). We want our son (and future children if God blesses us with more) to know Christmas isn’t all about mememe and presents.

  17. Lisa H

    This year my goal is to stick to my budget, focus on giving to those who are truly needy, and try to keep things simple so my kids don’t see me running around frantically trying to get a hundred things done.

  18. Rebecca

    I want to do the Advent Calendar! 🙂 Plus, since my daughter is now two, I think we can do more things to show the true meaning of Christmas. Lord, let it be so.

  19. Cheryl Armstrong

    I would like to identify a way for my 5 year old to serve others this Christmas season. We need to slow down and enjoy the time together as a family.

  20. Helen at A Work of Heart

    I think that our family could find the most meaning if we just slowed down and kept things simple. Sometimes I feel like I get caught in the shuffle of more is better and I don’t just mean gifts…it could be multiple nativity scenes, advent calendars, advent wreaths, trees…all are good but when I try to do it all…it is just too much. I hope that maybe we would decorate more simply and perhaps just focus on one aspect in the Christmas story…perhaps the shepherds or Mary, etc.
    Thanks for getting me thinking about this early!

  21. Karla Carlson

    I want to begin doing Advent in our home each Christmas. I grew up with my family doing an Advent wreath every Sunday night and ending on Christmas eve. We would light a candle, read a section of the Christmas story, sing a Christmas carol and then pray as a family. My Children are getting to the age that I think this would be a wonderful family tradition to carry on in my family.

  22. Jennifer

    I’m always forgetting until AFTER the holiday to bring out the Little People nativity for our girls. I’m hoping to do it at the right time this year and to spend the month using it to tell and re-tell the Christmas story. Ana really got into the Easter story last year, so I think she and Em will both be to an age where they can comprehend and remember it this year.

  23. Danielle

    I bought a cookie making kit that has a little story that goes along with it to tell the story of Christmas and this year, I really want to have my husband, 3 boys and I make these cookies and take them around to our neighbors. I really feel that it will be a great chance to reach out to our neighborhood and share the Lord with them. I KNOW that will make Christmas more meaningful, not only for us, but for the people who live around us too!

  24. Nadine

    My children are still very young, but I really want to try to minimize the ‘material gifts’ focus. During the last Easter Season, we introduced the Resurraction Eggs, have led them in structured play with the eggs several times since last Spring, and will probably tell the Easter Story again together with the Christmas story. I’m trying to think of a way to make the connection between the baby Jesus and the grown-up Sacrificial Lamb Jesus in a way that they could at least begin to understand. My 3-yr.-old is constantly pretending that her baby dolls are Baby Jesus. I don’t know…maybe get out the family pics and show them mom/dad as a baby, growing up, and adults, and make the connection between Jesus in the manger, and grown-up Jesus. Probably we’ll also bring it back to the Christmas celebration by emphasizing that the gift is not just in Jesus’s birth, but in what he did on the cross — the real gift is Salvation through His shed blood.

  25. Jodi G

    I have two small boys at home. I want them to know that Christmas is about the birth of a very important baby, not presents. We are finding ourselves in a position of rationing presents from the grandparents and we hardly get them anything ourselves. We could spend all day opening gifts from “back home”. It’s crazy. I want to teach my sons to think JOY; Jesus first, Others second and then (Y)ourselves. I’m not sure yet how we will convey all of this in the context of Christmas (there are so many options). I want this to be something to make into a well-loved tradition and to pass on to my grandchildren.

  26. Elizabeth

    I’m like you and every year I try to be intentional about making the most of Christmas. But I get overwhelmed and never feel like I’ve succeeded in really honoring Christ in our celebration of His birth. I would love to read John’s book. I adore Meredith and I know they work really hard to make Christmas special for their family.

    One thing I plan to do special this year is clear the calendar and sit down as a family every night to slowly read the Christmas story.

  27. Mary

    This Christmas, I’d love to not stress and really just ENJOY the season. And of course make lots and lots of hot spiced tea to drink – YUM!

    I never win blog giveaways…maybe THIS is finally my chance.

    Please, please?? 🙂

  28. Mary Nowlan

    I am dreading Christmas this year. My son will be in Iraq. But I know we will figure out how to make it special. For one thing his three children will be here at my house and I am sure we will skype with him.

  29. deanna

    I’m really looking forward to our Christmas programs at church. I sing in our adult choir and we’re getting ready to start practicing on our program. Our Youth and Children’s programs are always awesome too! And sometimes, on Wednesday nights, our church gets together and goes caroling through our community. What a great way to spend Christmas!!!

  30. Kenda

    A couple of years ago I bought an advent devotional book. This year I plan to work through it, from beginning to end, and use some of the activities in it to do with my two daughters. I really want them to see Christmas as important for Christ….not for the presents.

  31. Kaye

    The book sounds wonderful! As a tradition for years I’ve built and decorated a gingerbread house. These last 2 years Zachary has been my helper:) We even carried the tradition on to keep an extra on hand so we could make an Easter house last year. Fun, memorable times together…love it!
    Blessings today and always,
    Kaye

  32. jess

    I want to take it in slow motion. i LOVE the hustle & bustle of the season. But, I want to breath it in & out…not rush through it. and i want to pour myself into it and make it a warm, memorable time for my family. i love christmas. I can’t wait. 🙂
    (i bought a christmas decoration last night, actually :))

  33. Annie Luidhardt

    I always have those same lofty aspirations to make Christmas more meaningful and special to my children but I think in the process I end up shooting myself in the foot. Maybe a more simpler Christmas would bring about the joy and adoration of Christ that I so desire! I want my Christmas this year to not be rushed but enjoyed in simple ways!

  34. Missy

    This will be our first Christmas since we’ve been married in our own home! We aren’t traveling this year, and at this point, I’m just bursting with ideas…that I’m afraid might turn out to be much like yours (and everyone else’s)! I really want to do some type of advent activitiy with Leah, especially. Just not sure what yet!

  35. Liz

    We are in the process of purchasing our dream house (offer going in TODAY!) and I would love to put up my Christmas tree in the front window with all the pretty lights(I have never been able to do that) and to begin new traditions in our new home! I love Christmas time and I have always imagined what it must have been like those many moons ago when Jesus was born. I try to really humanize the “characters” of the “story” as if I had been there. It chokes me up every time. This book sounds excellent!

  36. Liz

    We’ve been thinking about the possibility of staying home (by ourselves – with the boys), instead of traveling all over for Christmas this year… I don’t know if that’s special – for me it’s about being with family at that special time and if we aren’t with ALL the family what are we going to do? Stare at the walls??
    So… I don’t know if this is what you were wanting about something special — however, it’s something different that we might be doing this year for Christmas! 🙂

  37. Meredith

    I love eating dinner by the light of our Advent candles on our wreath. For me, all of the moments of frantic-ness seem to melt away when we eat by candlelight. The meaning of the candles and corresponding scripture usher in an even more peaceful tone. Our advent wreath has become my favorite tradition over the years…and one I will definitely be continuing this season!

    Thanks for your kind words, Marla. Very sweet.

  38. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Marla, I love you. Your humor always tickles me.

    I want to do something really intentional and concrete in preparing for Christmas this year. Dacey – at 4 – is at the age where she is really grasping concepts presented in a concrete way. I want to make it less about stuff and more about giving. I am not totally sure what all of this is going to look like yet, but these are my hopes!

  39. Shannah

    It’ll be my twins’ first Christmas, so I want to make it special for us as a family and not get overwhelmed with all the gatherings and activities that will be required of us this year.

    And I want to buy at least half of my gifts before December. And maybe actually send out cards this year…

  40. Bethany your sis

    Make homemade gifts for people! My creative juices have been running wild this past week and I hope to keep it up!

    I just finished making Isabelle her first Christmas apron and I’m going to make one for me to match! It will be one of her birthday presents.

    I love traditions. I want to create lots with our little family to carry on year after year. I’m interested to see how others focus on Jesus and what matters to Him during the Christmas season. Suzanne makes a birthday cake (coffee cake or monkey bread) and sings Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas. I think I might like to do that. Our youth group bakes homemade goodies and we go caroling around the neighborhood and invite people to our church! I would love to do that with you and your girlies sometime this December! I might have to make Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls again and deliver them to the neighbors. 🙂

    Jesus came and died for people. So I want to focus on people during the holidays. Encouraging them, spending time with them, providing for needs, and pointing them to Christ!

  41. Laura

    Christmas is such a special time of year! It seems it changes each year too. Some are wonderful like the first grandchild and others are bittersweet and you just try to get through….like the first Christmas after my dad died. This sounds like an amazing book!

  42. Denise

    I have a Christmas tree skirt that I started 35 yrs ago. Each yr I add a heart and inside is something that represents that yr for our family…I date each heart…..very special heirloom.

  43. Meg @ Spicy Magnolia

    This is going to be my baby boy’s first Christmas, so it’s going to be meaningful in so many ways. I want to keep things simple to enjoy taking in the beauty of the season with him and my hubby. There’s not much he’ll understand totally (he’ll be 11 months), but we like putting Scripture in an advent calendar and reading that together every day. We’ll also celebrate 7 years of marriage on the 21st, so like previous years that have been very hustle-bustle, I’d like to think of something special to do to celebrate.

    I’m curious, does Santa visit your house? Any other readers, how have you done Santa and kept the focus and meaning of Christmas on Jesus?

  44. joyce

    I’m afraid I have high expectations this year and I can relate to what you said about that in your post. This is our first Christmas back in the states and my entire family is coming to our house. I am already so excited. My daughters will be home from university for a month. My mother has always had Christmas at her house and the past few have been super stressful -its far too much work for her. I’m praying that having it at my house is going to take the pressure off and she’ll have a wonderful day with all of her children and grandchildren around.

    Oh and I am going to bake bake bake and deliver to neighbors. My girls love to bake and I am looking forward to the three of us in the kitchen together with carols playing in the background. Sigh.

    Love Two from Galilee…definitely put me down for this new book!

  45. ang

    I’m going to bring cookies to our neighbors. With a card that is bursting with Jesus. And I will be in a Santa suit. Mark me down twice, girlfriend.

  46. Kelli

    Will you provide the costume?

    I want to do the Jesse Tree with Caroline. I also want to do the 12 days of Christmas… where you drop a special treat that goes a long with the poem on a neighbors house for 12 days and then surprise them at the end!

  47. monica hartz

    I would love for my girls to experience Christmas how it was meant to be. With family, no need for gifts, lots of fellowship and love. For myself… I would love to, somehow, reach hollywood. To help them experience Jesus.. I have a heart for hollywood and since Michael has died I have really been in on overdrive. Hollywood is soo lost and what better season to reach them. I would love to see anyone, become a believer on Christmas day.. I think that would be the most awesome gift….

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