I ran into a big box toy store this morning while the boys were at school to exchange something for Big Bro. And while I stood there for what began to feel like forever waiting at the customer service line, I looked around to see unfriendly cashiers, irritable children, and harried parents scurrying through the aisles to fill their carts with the latest plastic stuff. And I thought to myself, “this must be one of the unhappiest places in the world at Christmas time.”
This toy store–which, by the way, is open for a whopping seventeen hours a day this season, what??–seemed to me to be full of sadness and heaviness, as I wondered how many moms and dads there were trying to fill in a bottomless vacuum of a void in their kids’ lives (or their own) through all this stuff.
I wonder honestly, if I asked my kids–ages 9, 5, and 2–to tell me about one single gift they received last year, if they might be hard pressed to come up with an answer.
And while giving and receiving gifts is wonderful, I just don’t want to rob my kids of some important truths in this holiday mayhem:
Your value is not wrapped up in your toys.
My love for you is not congruent with the money I spend in December.
Your identity is not defined when you have the latest, greatest, fastest, neatest tschotske on display.
That all these trappings can be a trap.
So when we as parents sit around trying to think up more junk to buy our kids, which we then overextend ourselves to purchase, what we are really telling our precious ones is that they are not so valuable after all, that they alone are not enough; that in order to fill this life up, you need more; that in order to experience joy, you need stuff.
And parents (lest we think we are too old for such traps), please remember that your child will not be scarred for life if he returns to school in January without a long gift list about which to brag. You are not a parental failure if you don’t buy little Johnny an iPad or little Susie a pony… [And you’re not automatically a success just because you do.]
So, whether the boxes under the tree could stack to the ceiling or barely reach the bottom branches, there’s a really cool gift you can give to your family this year: a little joy. Maybe you would consider spending some time together as a family this season celebrating the good news of Christ’s birth? Maybe do less, but actually be more?
And…most importantly… actually keep the focus on Jesus by meditating on His Word, perhaps reading aloud or memorizing key passages that tell about His birth. [We are soaking in Luke 2:8-14 over at our house right now, having a good laugh at how freaked out those shepherds must have been. And I also love basking in the promise of John 3:17 as I think about our Savior’s birth.]
What are you doing as a family this Christmas season to celebrate Jesus’ birth together? Do tell!