This Christmas is shaping up to be different for my family in several ways. First of all, our Friday night home-group has been discussing the purpose of gift giving at Christmas. It’s very important to all of us that we make sure our children understand what Christmas is and is not about. For us, it’s especially important not to get caught up in the materialism that so often hijacks our most treasured family holidays.
I know we’re not the first group of Americans to search for freedom from commercialism during this season. But, something distinctly different is happening in my heart this year. This year I’m discovering what it means to be even handed in these two very different schools of thought.
I was raised in a Christmas “blow-out” type of family. Shopping, wrapping, gift-giving; these are all hallmarks of the season. I can’t remember a year when I had few enough presents that I could actually remember how many I received. I always lost count, and inventory. It was blissful as a child. But, I was also disappointingly empty after all the presents were unwrapped.
I received some old home videos turned to i-movies last Christmas and I’ve viewed them several times this year. Every time I watch those Christmas morning videos, I am just shocked. I cannot believe how many presents were under our tree. And, by under our tree, I mean, all across the floor of our living room, but stacked lower than the height of the top of the tree. I don’t remember seeing that many gifts when I was little.
In fact, everything but the very largest boxes were a blur to me. I was zoned in on the biggest, brightest, most promising packages. I’m still that way, actually.
But, when I watch my 4 year old self tearing through packages, I notice something eerie, but strangely familiar. My children do the same thing I used to do… grab, tear, slash, and rip through paper, then gasp, yell, and laugh before chucking the gift to the side and reaching for the next one. I remember being ecstatic about my presents, but I also remember focusing on what was on my list that I didn’t get. Regrettably, my kids do the same thing.
How do you de-program them to behave this way?
That’s something we have been working on since they were old enough to open presents. We always talk about Jesus’ birth and the reason for the season, but sure enough, the movies, the neighbors, the school parties; they all seem to undermine our efforts every year.
So, this year we are taking a new approach. Our home-group is as well. In fact, I think quite a few families at our church are moving toward a sacrificial giving type of Christmas this year. Our pastor of Education, Byron, was all lit up about building a well for a village in a third world country for Christmas last year. Most people he spoke to said something about “what a great idea,” and “wow, that’s awesome,” and so on. But, I don’t think very many people actually dug a well.
Our hearts are being pricked more intensely this year. Our community is being drawn out of the normal holiday hoopla and into a more introspective and self-sacrificing mindset. Many of us have decided collectively and individually to forgo the normal Christmas routine, denying ourselves the warm tides of wassail and daydreaming of a package-laden Christmas morning, and abstaining from forcing hedonism upon each other in brightly wrapped packages with sparkly bows.
But, how can you do Christmas any other way? I know, I’ve asked that question too. Do we plan to boycott Christmas trees and snowmen? Will LP&L be in the red this season because of our unlit yards?
No. Not at all. Actually, I plan for this to be one of, if not the best, Christmases my family has ever had.
If you are wondering, no, we are not bah-humbugging the festivities. This, friends, is where my even-handed plan comes into effect.