Christmas in July (create)

Hand Prints

Hand Prints (Photo credit: chrispwalsh)

With time on your side and a few weeks of summer left on the calendar, creating a meaning-rich Christmas is still well within the realm of possibility! 

God’s creative genius has been passed along to each of us in a variety of ways. This Christmas, why not embrace these holy genesthe image and energy of God in YOU – by creating presents that reflect His presence?!

Hand-Bags

One year my family created Hammit Hand-Bags for everyone on our gift list. We chose a suitable bag for each person – canvas totes, backpacks, laundry bags, camera bags – and we adorned each one with our family member’s handprints. You might add the names belonging to each set of handprints, or consider embellishing with gems and ribbon to represent jewelry (rings, bracelets). Many family members used these bags for years as their library book totes, picnic or pool bags, etc.

Hollow Ornament Gifts

For many years we hung a ball-shaped ornament on our tree that was hollow inside. It sort of resembled an Easter egg, though it was larger and more sturdy and could be tightly closed. Consider crafting such an ornament for the families on your list, encouraging them to put something inside of it each year:

  • Choose one family memory from the current Christmas and write it down, then fold it up and place the paper inside. Add another one next year! Within only a few years’ time you will have a family tradition and stories to tell around the tree!
  • List the names of those who celebrate Christmas with you each year. Keep the list in the ornament and add names each December. This would be especially appropriate for families who welcome neighbors and friends at their holiday gatherings.
  • Encourage each family member to write a Christmas wish or prayer. Save these inside and pray or revisit them year after year.
  • Put the names of each Christmas guest and your family members on separate papers inside the ornament. On Christmas morning, have each person pick a name! This is the person you will pray for in the coming year… the gift of prayer!

Rather than a hollow ornament, a Christmas Box could work for these ideas as well. You might buy plain boxes at a craft store and decorate them, or search local thrift stores for unique and unusual designs!

Photo Gifts

Not everyone is crafty… Thank goodness for digital cameras and Vistaprint! Companies like Vistaprint allow you to put your photos to work as gifts – in many forms. Key chains, t-shirts, ball caps, greeting cards, blankets & tote bags are just a few of the items that can be dressed-up with your photographs and given as gifts to your loved ones.

Check out the Costco or Sam’s Club websites (memberships required), or simply do a web search for custom photo gifts – you’ll have more ideas than you can implement! Thrifty shoppers may want to keep an eye on Groupon or Living Social for vouchers toward photo gift purchases (I regularly see $70 vouchers for Vistaprint product for ridiculously low prices – sometimes as low as $17).

Blessing Bags

One way to expand your Christmas cheer and invite others into the celebration of Jesus’ birth is to create an assortment of Blessing Bags to give away. These can be as simple as a gallon sized Ziploc bag or inexpensive canvas tote, filled with items that those you run into on the streets around town may need:

  • A bottle of water
  • Fast food gift certificates
  • Small snack packs (granola bar, crackers, nuts)
  • Tissues
  • Small toiletry items
  • Anything else your family can come up with!

Decorate the bags, enclose a Christmas card from your family, and keep a supply of Blessing Bags in your car throughout the month of December, giving them away as you are inspired to do so!

Secret Angels

A twist on the Blessing Bags would be to pre-determine whom you wish to bless with each bag, fill them accordingly, then leave the bag on your recipient’s doorstep or desktop  – for a surprise discovery!

Wrap It Up!

One of my happiest Christmas memories consists of a roll of butcher paper, some sponges and tempera paint, and our driveway on a warm November day. In one afternoon, my family made personalized wrapping paper which was used to cover all of the gifts we gave that year! A roll of butcher paper and some creativity is all you need to make wrapping paper that communicates your joy to everyone on your gift list.

  • Choose a medium (paint, markers, crayons).
  • Choose a color scheme.
  • Choose a design (shaped sponges, hand or foot prints, lyrics from Christmas carols, words from Scripture, or have each family member choose a trademark word or design and place their mark all over the wrap).

I had never seen so many smiles at the sight of wrapped gifts before the year we made our own family gift wrap!

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Christmas in July (theme)

Pile of gorgeous gifts

 

If you really want to make some Christmas memories, pick a theme!

There are lots of reasons that gift-giving holds such great appeal for us, and of course not all of them are particularly redeeming. Retail bullying, the noose of empty tradition and multiple applications of guilt often drive our gifting choices, but there is another way to frame it…

Simply put: Gift giving can be fun!

When believers choose to focus on Jesus at Christmas, our giving of gifts and sharing of life take on deeper meaning than the contents of the packages underneath our tree. A Christ-centered Christmas ought to free us up to celebrate – we are God’s kids, after all! – and to generously spread our family’s joy in any way the Spirit moves. Including the giving of gifts to the people we love.

Not only will theming your gifts make shopping less tedious and potentially less costly, but the memories created as your gifts are opened and shared will build community and connection between friends and family in a way you’ve not experienced before.

Choose a theme that makes you smile, laugh or gets those creative juices flowing!

Choose a theme that says something about you – your focus for this Christmas, your values and causes, the way you like to spend your money and your time.

Beginning now – with months in front of you to git ‘r done – the options really are (almost) endless!

Think brainstorm as you make your way through the ideas that will be rolled out during this Christmas in July! And please let us in on your own gift-giving themes by using the reply option below each future post!

 

 

 

Christmas in July (focus)

In only a few short months, Christmas decorations will hit store shelves and the countdown to December 25th will commence.

NOW is the time to decide how you will celebrate the birth of Jesus in 2013!

Each of us has a history when it comes to the holidays. Much of what we have come to expect or require comes from what others have expected and required throughout the years.

Of course, we can continue to perpetuate cycles that are grounded in someone else’s idea of what makes for a meaningful Christmas… or we can build momentum toward authenticity by simply shifting our focus from tradition to expression.

Expression of our love for the God who could not stay away.

Expression of our growth in the ways of the Kingdom.

Expression of appreciation for those whose lives we are tethered to.

Expression of the child’s heart residing in these aging bodies.

Don’t get me wrong – tradition isn’t the enemy. But tradition can be a bully if we choose not to keep it in check.

This year, why not choose your focus instead of defaulting to an old one?

Ask yourself what word, phrase or question matters most to you – then use it to guide your holiday decision-making over the next six months. Perhaps these questions will help you in the process of finding your Christmas focus:

  • What is my fondest Christmas memory? Who was there? What made this time special?
  • What do I look forward to most when I think about Christmas?
  • From this vantage point – six months out – what one thing matters most to me about this particular Christmas?
  • When I – and my loved ones – look back on Christmas 2013, what word(s) do I hope will come to mind?

Compile your words. Consider the connections. Ask God to show you how the celebration of His birth can bring something new to life in you. Through you. Then sum it up as succinctly as you can.

That’s it for today… Choose your focus!

It may sound ridiculously simple, but it just might be the beginning of a very beautiful thing.

 

And You Are Loved III