Gifts were wrapped beautifully under the tree. White twinkle lights shined and glinted off the ornaments that Christmas morning.
Radiators knocked, steamed, and whistled as the boiler heated the old, drafty, red brick house on Maine Street. Through the front picture window, you could see our family of three all cozy in holiday pajamas begin to open presents.
It was the first year the Man Cub was really old enough to understand gift-giving on Christmas morning. There were many special things we had tediously curated with him in mind and I couldn’t WAIT for him to open them!
Though I was in a rush to open all the gifts, the toddler was not. I specifically remember placing a new gift in front of him almost as soon as he had opened the first one, barely giving him time to process the wonder of it before I whisked it away.
Then came the train set.
My sister had given him a simple BRIO train set: Curious George and The ZOO. As we showed him how to put together the wooden parts of the track, he was entranced. With this special gift, Christmas paused. We tried to move him forward in the gift-giving festivities; he refused.
Baby Man Cub wanted to focus and live right in the moment. Children show us such brilliant revelations as we parent them, don’t they?
Watching my child play and appreciate a gift like that melted my pre-Jesus, consumer-driven heart. Glimmering on the horizon, I saw “more” may not be “best” and childlike awe and wonder trumps grown-up expectations and schedules.
Could it possibly be there was more to Christmas than gifts?
The greatest gift I have ever received came that January as I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! Although I had a personal, intimate relationship, there were still many things I would have to reconcile in the years to come. How my family would observe Christmas would be among the first.
The next Christmas Eve, we read the story of Christ’s birth from the Book of Matthew for the first time. I skipped the genealogy (the names were too tough for me to pronounce!) , but was happy to be on the right track for my family.
Until the next morning.
We had SO many presents under the tree. We couldn’t begin to keep count. And as we spent the next two hours opening gifts…
(Wait, did I say“opening” gifts?
…I witnessed “Greedy Grubber Syndrome” firsthand. No time to pause for a breath or to throw away trash as carefully tied ribbons and bows were thrown like confetti, wrapping paper shredded. He grabbed for the next thing not even appreciating what had already been received.
I was horrified.
I’ll own up to it.
This was the monster I created.
I wanted my kid to have the best toys, books, clothes, and experiences. I was trying to keep up with the Joneses.
It must have been the Holy Spirit working in the heart and mind of a brand new believer. It was all about the ugliest of traits:
When I looked at it from the perspective of Jesus, I was ashamed of myself. We all had so much already; why did I think we needed more? Father, forgive me. You have always known the state of my heart.
The next year I instituted “The Three Wisemen” gifts. It is a simple and straightforward strategy: we give a single gift to each child for the Mind, the Body, and the Soul.
The Mind: A gift to stimulate the meninges and make them think.
(books, games, puzzles, Lego sets)
The Body: A gift to do with the physical body.
(clothes, running shoes, workout equipment, bikes, first razor set, skincare)
The Soul: A gift we just KNOW our kids have really, really wanted.
(a gaming system for Man Cub, a waffle iron for Lil Blu, tickets to a big-city show)
That’s it. We have some stocking stuffers and a nice breakfast now. We each take turns opening gifts and, although we have much less under the tree, it takes us longer to savor and appreciate what we’ve been given.
Recognizing the Savior and knowing that we have life-everlasting because of His birth and death, the vision of Christmas has shifted drastically back into childlike awe and wonder at our house. Not that we have it all together or that we’re doing it right, but we believe for our family, it has been a giant stride in the right direction.
Are you a minimalist at Christmas or is it “the more the merrier”? How do we keep at center stage what’s important?
SHARE how YOU keep Christ at the forefront of your Advent season.