Update: 12/11/17 … The tone of this post has been updated to better reflect the heart of its message. My purpose in writing on gifts at Christmas-time is to encourage other women, especially moms, to focus on God first as you give and receive gifts. I truly hope you are encouraged, and even challenged to think about how the giving of gifts in your home can better center around the gracious gift of Jesus in this wonderful season.
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 struggle which I have dealt with for the past few years- since becoming a mom, and having the added responsibility of teaching the next generation in every area, including Christmas. I have struggled with gifts – with knowing the appropriate amount of gifts, the presentation of gifts, and even the attitude toward receiving gifts and toward giving them. I have feared them focusing on receiving gifts as the main part of the Christmas season; I have feared the feeling of overwhelm when many new toys enter our home; and I have also selfishly feared my personal discomfort with excess. But, the truth is, 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. I really hate clutter. Quite the challenge with three small kids! And in years past, as I anticipated many new toys entering our home at Christmas, I felt the overwhelm of where to put it all; how to help my children show appropriate thanks, care, gratefulness, and even responsibility to maintain their new treasures; and wondered if my husband and I should give them less ourselves to make sure we didn’t over-do it. You see… I have continually emphasized the gift, rather than the generous giver and the love that prompted these gifts. I have totally sabotaged my own attempt to de-emphasize gifts in front of my children.
I have to pause here, and give my relatives a shout out. I don’t know if they know the minimalist side of me, or if they too are trying to preserve my kids’ sweetness and thankfulness, but they do typically ask me how many gifts my husband and I feel are appropriate to give my girls. And they ask for ideas, etc. And I do truly appreciate this! Y’all are awesome!
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. (And honestly, it wasn’t really fair to those who gave gifts to my kids.) 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 the generosity of others during this season of giving. 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 gatherings of this Christmas season, I am choosing not to fear. Because it doesn’t really matter how much my 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 simply 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!