I love Christmas time for many reasons. It is an exciting season in lots of ways. There is so much preparation in the days and weeks leading up to the event. I think I like those days and weeks even more than the actual day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The day, itself, comes and goes so quickly. I think it leads me to prefer the anticipation of the whole season. I can’t help but think of Mary’s anticipation as she felt the savior of mankind grow and move within her womb. I think of my own anticipation as I carried each of my children, and looked forward to the day I would look into those little bright eyes. How much more Mary’s eagerness must have been. As a young teen, did she even fully grasp her situation? Could she? Could I have?
So yes, while I love Christmas Day, I really love the entire season of love, peace, and giving. Generally speaking, I don’t do a lot of retail shopping during the year. I don’t have a lot of time to do it, and there’s just not a lot of extra money laying around to spend on it. As a ministry family with four kids, we have had to learn to be quite frugal with our spending. But every year, at this time, we let up on our restraint just a bit. Matthew knows that I am eager for the season in part because of my intense love of buying gifts for our children. I begin asking them fairly early to think of things they would enjoy having. They are all fairly well grown up these days, so I no longer shop at the toy stores for their gifts, but I still want to give them things that will make their eyes light up on Christmas morning.
I understand that this intense desire I have to give good gifts to my kids comes from the intense desire that God has to give good gifts to his kids. James tells us that “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights…” There is also a verse that says “What parent, whose child asks for bread would give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9) Godly parents want to give good gifts to their children. It was probably not until I was a parent myself that I truly understood the adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) Before then, I was pretty much all about receiving gifts. It is a sad, but true statement. Now I understand the real gift that giving is.
Without fail, each year, after all the gifts are bought and wrapped, I have a moment of panic. After my kids are all in the bed on Christmas Eve, I set up our family room for Christmas morning. When each of my kids were born, my mother-in-law made them a beautiful Christmas stocking. I fill each stocking with treats for the kids, and place them in front of their “pile” of gifts. When everything is set up, I stand back and without fail, think “Did I get them all enough?” A small amount of anxiety creeps in each year at the thought. I have spent the last month and more thinking, planning, looking and shopping for just what my kids have asked for and will enjoy, and yet as I stand there looking at the fruit of my labor, I worry.
Why? Because there is a part of me that wants to equate the amount of packages with the love I have for my kids. If the piles of packages are in direct proportion to my love for them, then there is never enough. And so I fret. And then I pace. And think. And at some point each year, the Lord gently taps my heart and reminds me of something very important. While I give material gifts to my children, my love for them cannot be measured in material goods. My love for them is measured in other things I have given them.
As parents we have to constantly ask ourselves, have we given them enough?
While it is certainly true that I can, and have given, my children enough material gifts, I can never reach the point where I have given them enough of the things in this life that really matter. So I will keep on giving, just as my heavenly Father keeps on giving those good gifts to me. It is only through his generous giving that I can pass any of it on to my kids. So I hope that this year I won’t have that moment of panic as I set up my family room on Christmas Eve, because I know in my heart that I will never be through giving good gifts to my kids.