It's that time of year again--you know, the time when we celebrate the humble birth of the Son of God with excess and extravagance. I love Christmas. I love the music, the lights, the sounds, and the decorations. I love the warm feeling I feel inside when I think of the birth of Christ and what that means to me. But I wonder how to help our children feel the true meaning of Christmas when they are surrounded by such a consumer-oriented society. Every year as Christmas comes I wonder how to scale back--how to give our kids less physically and more spiritually--how to give more to others and focus less on what we are getting. I wonder how to draw our family closer to Christ and pull a little farther away from the "What did Santa give you?" culture. And so I've been thinking about the gifts I would like to give my kids this year--not just at Christmas but throughout their lives.
Feelings of worth don't come from packages--no matter how big, expensive, or nicely wrapped. But when kids learn to work hard they feel good because they learn that they are capable. They learn to think, solve problems, and accomplish things through sheer grit. And they value what they get because they worked to get it. I want to give my children the gift of hard work so they learn that they are good and they can do great things. They won't know that because I told them that--they'll know because they did the work to find out for themselves.
My kids are surrounded by generous and loving family and friends who shower them with nice things. I wish I could peel open their blinders and expose them to the needs of others. When we serve others we feel God's love for them. And we feel good about ourselves because we are able to serve and to give. Cameron and I actively look for ways our family can serve those around us. But service is something we can never expose our kids to enough. Service opens our eyes and our hearts, squelches selfishness, and opens the door to a life following Christ. That's what Christmas should really be about.
It is common for parents to want to give their kids what they never had. But I fear that in the process too many of us (myself included) deprive their kids of the very experiences that made them strong. Instead of saying yes to so many luxuries I would like to say no more often. I don't want to give my kids all the toys and gadgets they want or all the financial privileges we can afford. I want to say no and teach them that money doesn't buy happiness and less is more. Having more, bigger, and fancier too often detracts from happiness because it distracts people from the things that matter most. Christ wasn't known for his big house or fancy clothes. I don't want our family to be, either.
The Gift of Love
At Christmas we celebrate the love the Savior has for us--demonstrated by his humble birth and life. But too often Christmas celebrations are devoid of Christ and filled with emptiness. I want our Christmas season to be filled with sacred moments, reminders of Jesus' holy life and pure love. I want our children to feel the true beauty of Christmas. It doesn't come from the store. You can't wrap it in a box. But we can be wrapped in his love if we choose Him. Anticipating presents is fun, but Jesus' love lasts forever. This is what I want them to feel and know at Christmas and throughout their lives.
Frankly, planning, preparing for, anticipating, and enjoying Christmas morning as our kids open presents is delightful. I have been counting down the days till Christmas for a while now. I can't wait to give our kids their gifts. But as fun as these things are, I yearn to give my children more. Hard work, service, and the love of God are gifts that will keep giving and giving as my children grow. These are the things I want to give my children.