Christmas gift-giving is really hard for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love presents. I love thinking about presents, buying presents, wrapping presents, and watching my kids open their presents. The joy on my kids’ faces is palpable on Christmas morning, and I love making them happy almost more than anything in the world.
I know in my heart that Christmas is about Jesus and not about the presents, but it’s so hard to escape the materialism of Christmas! And I struggle with feeling like we put too much focus on the gifts.
Difficult as it may be, I want this year to be different. This year I want my family to focus on all the wonderful things God has already done for us and praise Him for those: for sending His Son to give us eternal life with Him, for the beauty and wonder of Christmas, for the blessings of beloved friends and family and warm houses and full bellies.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. -1 Thessalonians 5:18
If this lesson is hard for us as adults, you can imagine that it’s near to impossible for our kiddos. My 6-year-old has a three-page long Christmas list this year.
What I have decided to do this year is something that you may have heard about people doing during the Thanksgiving season, but I think it’s equally valuable during the Christmas season. I’m starting to focus my family on gratitude.
Every day during dinner, we are going to go around the table and say something we’re thankful for that day. It’s a very small thing, but we will also include those blessings in our prayer and make our thoughts more about God’s gifts to us than to what we might get wrapped in a pretty package at the end of the month.
We’re also starting a gratitude jar. This is another really simple idea, but it can be effective in building an attitude of gratitude in kids and adults, too.
Over the weekend, I bought a cheap vase at the dollar store. It’s one of those that’s big at the bottom and then a little tapered in the neck and big again at the top. I have sticky note sized papers and a pen next to it, and I am asking everyone in our family to write at least one thing per day on a paper, fold it up, and put it in the jar.
A gratitude jar will encourage us to look for good stuff – moments of joy, tangible and intangible, precious big and small gifts from God.
If you have little ones who need some practice at finding the gifts (that aren’t wrapped up presents), take a look at One Christmas Bear. It’s a sweet counting story about a bunch of cute animals and the fun things they do together. It would be really easy to pick out their blessings; for example, bear finds a friend on Christmas Day and three rabbits are excited to find their own Christmas tree. You can bring the conversation back to the fact that these gifts from above are presents from God and wonderful blessings all the same.
It’s hard to focus on gratitude with Santa looming large at the end of the month (for those of us who celebrate with Santa), but I think it’s really important to cultivate gratitude first at this time of the year and all year long.
How do you teach your children to count their blessings?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments!