Ah, holiday memories. My mind tends to go on a “This is Your Life” Ferris wheel during this time of year as I recall memories of Christmases past. I know everyone can’t look back at their childhood Christmases and reminiscence with fondness, but I have nothing but great memories surrounding the holidays. And I didn’t come from a wealthy family.
I had one experience growing up that forever impacted my view of Christmas. I was about 11 or 12 at the time. My parents were pastors and they had recently suffered a huge loss of financial support due to a chunk of our congregation leaving. My dad never took a full salary from the church and always held a full-time job even while pastoring. To keep the doors of the church open, my dad gave up his part-time salary and began to work overtime. By the time Christmas came, there was nothing left for gifts.
My parents sat us down and explained the situation. They informed me and my sisters that this would be a really lean Christmas and that we’d receive maybe one or two presents a piece.
Now, to kids who were used to at least five gifts each Christmas, this was a startling change. We didn’t complain but it did force us into a new reality – one that unfortunately too many children around this country experience year after year.
As the big day approached, however, my parents started receiving presents for us in the mail from various aunts and uncles who had never sent us a gift before. And the gifts kept coming! When Christmas morning finally arrived, we had about 13 presents a piece between three girls. We were all shocked!
What a message my parents showed us that year. They humbled themselves and made a decision to put God first, despite the possibility of disappointing their children who were used to a fuller display under the tree.
From that moment forward, I learned that Jesus deserves first place in our lives despite what the world thinks or what we have even convinced ourselves to believe. Why? Because what He has already given is worthy of that place and what He can give is so much greater when we do!
Today, I try to instill this spirit of giving in my own children. When teaching our kids the reason for the season, we need to remember to teach them that our faith is more important than gifts and the consumerism of our culture. I feel like my husband and I work hard to give our kids everything they need, but we also seek to not drown them in sea of self-centeredness, materialism, and selfishness. The struggle to achieve this balance is real! We make our kids clean out their toy closet before birthdays and holidays and have them donate to children in need. We also ask that they each donate something of value. Why? Because, Jesus didn’t give us something that didn’t cost him anything. Giving is a sacrifice in some capacity.
We teach them that when they give, they should give because it means something to them and out of that heart they are able to receive something of equal or greater value. It doesn’t always have to be material. Whenever they give, we make sure to let them know that their gift made some child really happy. Once my kids hear this, I usually end up with an even bigger pile of donations the following year.
I love these holiday book selections, The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving and Jesus, God’s Great Gift (an I Can Read! book) to help convey the true meaning of Christmas to your little ones. Did you know that Zondervan publishes an entire series of faith-based I Can Read! books? You can’t always find them in public libraries (maybe try your church kids’ library if you have one), and they are available at retail. These books are such a wonderful option for Christian parents looking for early reader selections. There is such a wide variety of I Can Read! Bible stories, Berenstain Bears stories, Veggies Tales stories, and other series with fictional characters that teach moral lessons with a Biblical foundation.
What are your favorite Christmas memories? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below. Have a blessed holiday, from my family to yours!