(As I say "we" in this post, I only mean Gina and I. I don't know what others do, feel, think, etc...)
Yesterday Gina and I were watching Miles walk around the living room. She was telling me how he was lying in her arms in the foyer at church and would occasionally pop his head up after she would ask "Where's Jesus?". He would look up at the wall and point to the picture of Jesus. It's wonderful how kids recognize and are drawn to him. I could just imagine Miles lying in Gina's arms and propping up his curly-haired head to see the picture of Jesus. We wanted to see him do it again so we said "Miles, where's Jesus?" hoping to see him fix his eyes on one of the two pictures of Jesus we have on our living room wall. I turned to look at the pictures and felt an imaginary slap across the head. It felt like I'd been running full speed, then instantaneously met a wall. You see, those two pictures were no longer on the wall. Both had been taken down, one wall now barren, and the other replaced with a Christmas decoration of Santa.
Wow. For a second I was shocked. Then a second later a little numb. Then after that a little mystified. Had we really taken down our only two pictures of Christ to put up Christmas decorations? We had.
This was a very tangible and real example of what I think many of us do. As much as we try to mention every now and then to our children what the purpose and meaning of Christmas is, that isn't enough. Gina and I were trying to have Miles point to Christ, we wanted him to see him and recognize him, yet we had removed him entirely from view.
The quote "Your actions are speaking so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying" applies very well to our Christmas celebrations. We tell our kids of Jesus' birth, we say this seasons about him, and then we take down our pictures of Christ in place of Santa. We teach our children of love, of giving, of the joy that they can feel as they give; then we shower them with gifts because we think that will bring happiness. Our motives are pure and kind, we want them to have everything they ever wanted, but that's only because we believe this one great lie: "It's better to receive than give". If we really felt that giving brought so much more joy than receiving, would we not teach our children to give of themselves to others? Surely we would.
I have three fond memories from Christmas. One is getting a football uniform and helmet. I remember throwing on that jersey and helmet and running outside pretending like I was Steve Grogan. It was one of the only gifts I ever remember, either because it was that perfect of a gift, or because the gifts really weren't that important.
The other two memories I have are of what we gave. Every year we would make teddy bear breads. We'd make the dough from scratch, roll out the stomach, head, legs, feet, nose, and add some raisins for the eyes and belly button. I remember the flour, the sticky hands, seeing the bear come together, putting him in the oven and watching him turn golden brown, then lathering him with butter before we put the saran wrap on top. The delivery was the best part. Our neighbors had come to expect it warm from the oven, and I know it was one of their favorites parts of Christmas, as it was mine. The other great memory I have is of a secret santa thing we did but I don't want to divulge the details.
In light of the fact that my best memories are of giving, I want my childrens' to be the same. We had FHE on Monday and talked about this. I started the lesson by asking the kids what they got for Christmas two years ago. They couldn't remember really. Evan did remember one toy but when he was recalling it there was no level of excitement or happiness. I then followed up that question by asking what they remember doing last year for Christmas. After a few clues, their eyes lit up as they started to tell of the homes we had played "ding-dong ditch" at. Sara was giddy and almost jumped off the couch as she was recounting the experience. Evan was the same as he told of one lady who looked around trying to see us but we were hiding behind a fence. It was wonderful to see the joy, excitement, and happiness on their faces.
We then explained to them that, more than we want them to LEARN what the real meaning of Christmas is, we want them to FEEL Christmas in their hearts. That feeling of giving is what we want our kids to experience. Not so much giving gifts, but giving of themselves. So we talked about the talents we all have and each chose a person that we would help. I don't want to spoil any surprises, but Kamri will spread her love, Evan will use his artistic skills, and Sara will tickle the ivory for some lucky folks. We hope to be able to FEEL the wonderful feelings of love this Christmas as we try to follow his example, by not standing in line for people, but instead standing beside them.
The gift of Christmas isn't wrapped up in presents or parties. The gift of Christmas is Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Son of God. As you follow Him, you put people first. You may spend less time in lines and more time serving others. You may spend less money on - and more time with - the people you love. You may lose yourself and you may find everything else that matters. (link)