This is hands down my favorite month of the year. The lights, the laughter, the remembering, the songs, the food, the anticipation, and of course the gifts. But, on the flip side of this beautiful Christmas scene floating around my mind and heart, is a sense of dread. A great big struggle that I have faced every year since I became a mom. A struggle with gifts – with the amount of gifts my kids will receive. And I’m not just talking about a fear of spoiling them. I mean I downright dread finding space for a whole new wave of toys. Gifts given out of love for my children… My nightmares are usually scenes of me trying to find a place to put it all. Of stepping over piles of stuff to get to my children’s beds. I think I just shivered. But, I need grace rather than gifts.
What I consider the problem
You see, I’m a bit of a minimalist… and a neat freak. Not a clean freak – dust lining my picture frames doesn’t really bother me – but certainly a neat freak. I like to see lots of wall space and floor space. No clutter! Quite the challenge with three small kids! As you can imagine, new Christmas toys strike a bit of fear into my heart. I usually plan to get rid of all of their current toys leading up to Christmas, in anticipation of having homes for the new, but of course that never really happens.
I have to pause here, and give my relatives a shout out. I don’t know if they know this side of me, or if they just want to help preserve my kids’ sweetness and thankfulness, but they do typically ask me how many gifts they are “allowed” to give my girls. And they ask for ideas, etc. And I do truly appreciate this! Y’all are awesome!
But it still seems like every year I have a mini panic attack around Thanksgiving time… and then I get frustrated with the continual emphasis on stuff all around us. It’s this week-long (if not more) internal melt down over what should be a sweet part of the Christmas season.
So this year, I stopped. And I reflected. On gifts, on the joy of giving, on the joy of receiving, and on Christ… how does grace work into this? For me, it always needs to come back to grace. I need to focus on grace rather than gifts.
the actual problem
While my intentions behind the “one gift per child” rule that I had established for a couple of years seemed honorable, it wasn’t purely selfless. I was trying to reconcile doing what my husband and I feel is best for our kids, with what is best for my personal preference of “less”, and with our relatives’ love of gift giving and generous hearts. And I was coming up empty. That is because the emphasis of my thoughts were always on someone other than Christ. And that never turns out well.
So as I look forward to the joyful family gatherings in just a few weeks, I am choosing not to fear. Because it doesn’t really matter how much our family does or does not receive. What matters is that we focus on the ultimate Gift of Grace – which came not wrapped in shiny bows, but in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. The Baby, who fulfilled the plan set forth before Creation, who restored us to God. The Light of the world. The Infant who brought light to my sin-darkened heart. What an incredible Gift! What a marvelous thing to dwell on this season.
Want to go there with me? Ready to change the emphasis once and for all? Ready to stop worrying about who might be offended by what, and just concern yourself with Christ – with grace? Let’s do it! And let’s see how that truly transforms our gift giving and receiving this Christmas!