Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love everything about it….the music, the smells, the traditions, the memories, the foods, the meaning, everything. I stretch Christmas as far as I can. I’m not one to wait until after Thanksgiving to get into the spirit, and not because I’m rushing past Thanksgiving, but because, for me, they go hand in hand. For both holidays I’m simply thankful.
Thankfulness is something I desperately want to create in the hearts of my children. One of the difficult aspects of creating thankful hearts at Christmas is the materialism and commercialism which surrounds us this time of year.
I want my children to understand what it is we are celebrating at Christmas and realize it is about much more than gifts and that the holiday isn’t about them. It’s about the birth of a Savior. And it’s about how we can show His love to others.
Each year I find I have to work harder and harder to keep the true meaning of Christmas as the focal point of our festivities. Each year I try coming up with a new system for raising grateful children who aren’t giving me gift lists a mile long of what they want for Christmas. Each year I find myself saying things like, “Remember Christmas isn’t about gifts.” Or “Remember, Christmas is a time we can show love to others and bless other people.”
My childhood Christmas memories are filled with traditions, memories, and moments with my family. I honestly can’t tell you any of the gifts I received at Christmas. I’m sure there were some great ones. But that isn’t what I loved about Christmas. I loved knowing that I would get some great quality time in with my family. I loved anticipating the traditions that would take place each year. I loved the decorations. I loved playing outside, running laps around the house with my sisters, while my dad spent half the day on a ladder stapling big, fat, colored lights to our roof. I loved leaving my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve and hearing my dad talk about Santa’s sleigh being spotted, so we needed to hurry home to bed.
Rarely do gifts create lifelong, lasting memories that make an impact such as time, experiences, and moments.
This year God called our family to something we’ve never done before. During the Christmas season we will be hosting an orphan from Latvia for 4 weeks. The last few weeks have been very busy as we are preparing to have Viktors in our home. Because we have spent so much time focusing on someone other than ourselves, we’ve had no time to even discuss the material aspects of Christmas.
When the boys got home from school, they were ecstatic to see some of our Christmas decorations were displayed. In all their giddiness, I never heard them mention a single gift or want. I heard things like, “Oh I can’t wait until the night we get to watch Christmas movies and drink hot chocolate.” “I can’t wait to see the ornaments on the tree.” “How long until we can open the first Advent door?”
But I kept waiting. I just knew at any moment, it would begin. We would begin talking about the gifts, the wants. Jacob said, “I hope Santa puts a note in the tree that tells us to look in a different spot for something.”
“Will you be disappointed if he does that and it’s something rather small?”
“Mom! Of course not! I just like the note part. In Little House on the Prairie, when Laura, Mary, and Cary received a cup, a penny, a heart-shaped cake, and a candy cane, Laura felt like they were the luckiest girls in the world.”
Zachary, overhearing our conversation, piped in, “Do orphans get Christmas presents?”
As I was forming my answer to say something about how we will not be getting many presents this year and we need to be sensitive to this child who comes from a country where materialism isn’t rampant and how he doesn’t likely receive anything for Christmas, Zachary’s eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “We can give him presents!”
Often kids become focused on what they want because we adults are putting the focus there for them. We are saying things like, “So what are you asking for for Christmas this year?” We are training their minds to focus on themselves by constantly asking what it is they want. I’ve tried to throw away the toy magazines that flood the mailbox this time of year so the boys can’t become fascinated with having to have something they didn’t even know existed 5 minutes prior.
So I want to try something new this year. I want to not ask my kids what they want for Christmas. I want to not ask for a list from them. I want to spend the season talking about what we are doing to bless others. How we are serving others. How we are showing God’s love.
I realize they will still be asked what they want by other people. Or they will themselves begin thinking of what it is they want. But as parents and grandparents, we have an opportunity to guide their thoughts.
I want to enjoy the season by not weighing us down with Christmas spending, taking some of the joy away from the moments.
I want our Latvian orphan, Viktors, to experience life with us, to feel loved, and not be confused that love comes from a show of material gifts.
When December 26th rolls around, I want to wake up satisfied that we showed love, we shared love, we gave freely, and we celebrated our Savior. I don’t want to wake up to a house full of toys that will be abandoned in a month. I don’t want to wake up to a feeling of guilt over money spent on things we didn’t really need that could have been used to bless someone else.
I want to wake up to a house full of little hearts that grew bigger this Christmas. Little hearts that got the message. Little hearts that saw what was most important. Little hearts that focused on the unseen, not the seen.