I am sure we can all relate to the desire to make our children happy at Christmas time. After all, we don’t want them to miss out or feel as though they didn’t get enough, right? When our kids were small I had that very mindset. Christmas was only fun if there were lots and lots of gifts under the tree. Far too many times I went overboard shopping for them, wanting them to have the most popular toys of the season. You know, the ones the television commercials assure them they cannot possibly live without. The toys which drive them to scream, “I want that” every time they are spotted. Which becomes every toy they see on TV or in the special magazine that shows up in the mailbox at this time of year. Our children were no different in wanting every toy they saw and because I love giving gifts, self-control was hard for me. Until that one Christmas, many years ago, when the Lord revealed to me that a shift was needed in my view of where the importance of the day should be. Not only for me but for my children, because I realized my values would become theirs as they grew older. As I think back to that one special Christmas I hear a familiar poem running through my head. I really am not a poet, but, let’s see where this goes, shall we?
Twas the night before Christmas some many years ago,
Stuffed stockings and presents galore did overflow-
From beneath the tree the gifts poured out,
So many were there I was ready to shout.
I was giddy with glee from the excitement within,
I couldn’t wait for Christmas Day to begin!
The children arose bright and early that day,
Their excitement was heard as they began to say:
“Santa was here, come quick mom and dad”
“Come take a look at all that we have.”
Pat and I, after not having much sleep,
Rose up out of bed so the kids wouldn’t weep,
We watched them open one gift after another-
As the stack of toys beside them grew in number,
Then one of them spoke, when the tree held no more,
The pile of gifts beside them too great to ignore.
“Is this all I get?” was the question that was asked
It was then that I realized my heart had just crashed,
As I began to pray and I began to repent,
I decided the next Christmas would be far different.
Together Pat and I came up with a plan,
To put the focus back on One Man.
Christmas is for Jesus; it is His birth we celebrate-
How do we teach this? How can we best demonstrate?
Three Kings came to greet Him, each bearing a gift-
After talking it over we made this one little shift,
Three gifts for each would be under the tree
Each bearing love from their father and me.
I will never forget the Christmas one of our children, whom I shall not name, stood with gifts taller than they and asked if “this was all” they were getting. It really did break my heart. It was the following year that I learned, from the woman who cut my hair at the time, about their tradition of three gifts. She and her husband had decided a few years before that Christmas was about Jesus, not about gifts and toys, and He got three birthday gifts so why should their kids get more? I loved it. I went home that day and Pat and I talked it over and decided we would begin the same tradition. When Christmas came around that year, I will confess, it was really hard for me to see so little under the tree. I was certain that our children would awaken the next morning and be devastated over how much was missing. But you know what? That is not at all what happened. They ran in our room with as much excitement as the year before. They were thrilled over what was there for them. Christmas in our home began to really become more about Christ and less about the gifts.
It is always wonderful to give and receive the blessing of a gift, isn’t it? One of my love languages is gifts, so I love to give and receive. But I realized long ago that I was spending money I didn't really have on an item that they didn't even know they needed. This week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving and give thanks for all that we have. That night we can enter some stores and fill up our carts with the best deals of Black Friday. It might be a good time to remember this statement from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. “'It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!'... 'Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! 'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!'"
What traditions do you share with your family? If Jesus hasn’t been included in them, why not make this the year He is? He is, after-all, the perfect gift. “'And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us'" (Matthew 1: 21-23).
I pray that as you turn your eyes upon Jesus this year, you will have the merriest Christmas ever. I am sure of it!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. :)