This blog was first published on https://sarahhamaker.com/wp/putting-the-spirit-of-christ-back-in-christmas/
I have added a few pictures, but please visit her blog to see the original and read some of her other wonderful parenting blog posts.
How many times have we heard complaints like, “young people don’t know the true meaning of Christmas anymore”. Or, “Christmas is all about commercialism, Christ has been taken out of it.”
I was guilty when my kids were young of making Christmas too much about the gifts and not enough about service and loving others, the things Christ asks us to do, not just as we celebrate His birth, but all year long.
As I’ve grown older and watched my kids have kids of their own, I see the damage an emphasis on “receiving” rather than “giving” can do. I see it in the public school where I’ve taught for the last nineteen years. I see it in the youth program at my church. I see it on the news, and in movies and television shows. In fact, you don’t have to go far to see evidence of the attitude of entitlement an emphasis on getting has brought to this country.
Of course, receiving in itself is not the problem. In order for someone to give, another must receive. Being a willing receiver is as difficult for some as being a willing giver. And, I believe that all children should receive at Christmas. I’m not advocating for the suspension of gift-giving.
What I am advocating for is the idea that receiving should be tempered with learning to give of one’s time, resources and effort. As we learn to give, and I don’t mean that gift card from Amazon or to the local eatery, we can also experience the joy that comes from serving others.
This lesson, if learned well and early, can make a difference in a child’s response to a bullying situation at school, or to how a new student is welcomed. It can change a student’s attitude toward respecting those not exactly like themselves. It can bolster a spirit of generosity and grace instead of encouraging stinginess and judgment.
So what can families do? I would encourage limiting the number of gifts to one large, really cool present and a few that meet needs. Then take some of the money that would normally have been spent on bigger presents #2 and 3 (or more) and donate it or use it for personalized, handmade gifts or goodies. Some ideas are in the bulleted list.
- Pick out something from an IDES or World Vision catalog. (We’ve donated rabbits, chickens, school books, and water in the past.) Have the family members voice their opinions on what to choose. Cut out the picture and make an ornament out of it. Each year, there can be another ornament to remind your family of past gifts.
- Find a service project the family can do together. Volunteer to serve a meal. Wrap presents at a nursing home. Play bingo or cards or sing carols and visit the elderly.
- Bake treats and deliver them to people without family close by.
- Make personalized cards or write encouraging notes for those who seem down.
- Sponsor a child through one of many available organizations. This gift allows kids to interact with the child throughout the year. They will learn about the country and culture where your child lives and learn that others appreciate and need their help.
- Choose a worthwhile charity and donate money in the family or children’s name. Research the charity and put a map or logo in a gift to be unwrapped on Christmas as a reminder of the gift. Watch a video about who was impacted by your gift.
- Invite someone to dinner that has no family of their own, or put together a basket with holiday meal staples and deliver it in person.
- Spend the money to draw closer as a family. Choose an activity you’ve been wanting to do, but keep putting off due to the extra cost and plan to do it as a group. Be sure it is something everyone will enjoy. Ice skating. Skiing. Road trip to a warmer climate. (Just some suggestions.)
- Have each person make something special for each family member and give it as a gift. This could be something as simple as a card or it could be more elaborate. Perhaps a song played or sung, or a list of why the person is important or special. Perhaps a batch of cookies or a card for free dish washing or laundry folding.
I’m sure you can come up with other ways to balance the receiving inherent in Christmas with some meaningful giving and thus become more like Jesus, the true Spirit of Christmas.
One of my fondest memories is of my seven-year-old son who asked if he could give a present–in secret–to a classmate. He knew the family didn’t have money for a lot of presents. On Christmas Eve, after dark, we walked to the boy’s house a couple of blocks away. My son laid the gift on the doorstep, rang the doorbell, and scampered away to join me in the shadows. We walked home and never saw when anyone opened the door. He never said if the boy remarked on the mystery gift once school started again. I was so proud of his generous heart!
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What a wonderful memory! That would make me proud too. My daughter is one of the most generous and giving people I know. She taught me a lot about how to be less selfish and more aware of the needs of others. Thanks for reading, Linda.
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