We had a great Christmas this year. We did something that we have never done and it ended up being better than expected. Honestly, when our Christmas morning started out, our kids were disappointed and little frustrated. But in the end, it turned out to a more beautiful Christmas than ever.
In fact, it was so beautiful that this will probably become a new tradition in our family. What we are about to tell you, may sound extreme in some regard, but it was exactly what our children and our family needed.
You see, Alex and I love to celebrate Christmas – and of course the kids do as well. We love giving them gifts and seeing their joy and excitement on Christmas morning. But something always seems to happen when Christmastime rolls around. It seems a little difficult for kids to keep things in perspective and to realize that receiving gifts is a privilege, not a right. It is a blessing, not a need. But the “I wants” start early on. Then moves into the long wish list, then moves in the discontentment even before Christmas actually comes and then it finally seems to roll around into a full-blown selfishness.
In the end, it seems like the real gift that is given to our kids is a continual selfish attitude.
Our kids, having received gifts on Christmas morning each year of their lives, tend to forget that this really is an extra blessing and a privilege. They don’t realize that many children can’t enjoy the same type of Christmas. They tend to forget there are others in the world (even in our own nation and town) who are looking for their next meal and a warm place to sleep – satisfied if those basic needs met.
And then…..the selfish attitude morphs into discontentment and bickering towards the other kids in the house. The selfishness utterly consumes our kids.
And then our frustration as parents increases as we struggle to know how to deal with it.
Throughout the year we spend many evenings in family devotions and prayer; not to mention the extra time spent in personal prayer and devotions throughout the year. Plus we talk about the blessings and privileges we experience versus the lack of basic needs and sufferings others experience in the world throughout the year. We teach and seek to instill sharing, kindness, patience and love for one another many times a day.
So what happens at Christmas? What is it that the thought of receiving some of the gifts you requested means throwing out all that you have learned, been taught, nurtured in and encouraged out the window? It is kinda crazy how this one day makes kids feel so entitled and selfish!
Well, this Christmas, we tried something different after another seemingly very rough month of selfishness upon selfishness being built up despite our daily lessons and prayer to remember what the true meaning of Christmas really is and that these gifts are merely blessings and not a right. It really seemed hopeless and we didn’t want to feed into this nonsense anymore!
When our kids came down this past Christmas morning, it wasn’t the usual – let’s dig in and see what we got. They did wake us up early with excitement and anticipation – that was the same. We got up and came downstairs to the Christmas tree – that was the same. But we didn’t let them touch, inspect or reveal anything – in fact, the gifts and stockings were not in sight. It was empty under the tree and everything was hidden.
Instead, we asked them to sit down for an important lesson. We had about an hour long discussion about all of these things mentioned above. We memorized and discussed Phillipians 2:3-4 which states “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” We then discussed the context of that passage which describes the incarnation of Christ. About how having the gift of family and most importantly the gift of eternal life from the One who came and Whom we praise everyday as a family and every week as members of the worldwide church, and how the world remembers and celebrates the birth of Jesus this time of year – how these things were was most important reasons for the season.
Reminding them when the gifts are out of sight (and really not knowing if they really had any at all) that this was a mere blessing and not a privilege really seemed to hit them to the core. Really seemed to wake them up a bit. Really seemed to help them realize that Christmas was about the gift of eternal life, love, family, friends and blessing others (yes, sometimes through giving gifts). It was wonderful. We could have said it all season, every day, like.we.had.done. but the words had been literally going in one ear and out the other.
They really listened this time. But we didn’t stop there. We asked them to go to the table and write a letter to each of their siblings – to realize that these were their friends and siblings for life and how they had been so selfish before Christmas – even hitting and mistreating each other so meanly – that they really needed to find, write down and express the things they were thankful for in their sibling.
They went to the table and wrote their letters. We then had them present their letter to each sibling and apologize for how they had been treating them and ask for forgiveness.
It was AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL! There were lots of tears, hugs, apologies, love, forgiveness and happiness that filled our home. The restoration in their relationships that had been torn apart this month (as the desire for stuff overshadowed their love and happiness in their relationships with each other) was beautiful. Our 8-year old son was even crying when he saw how much his older sisters really did love and appreciate him.
We had a time of prayer and discussion afterwards helping everyone to remember that we live in a house full of sinners. We were never told that it would be easy to live with one another, nor are we allowed to react or retaliate when we have been hurt or wronged. The Fruits of the Spirit did not include happiness, convenience or comfort. But instead include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, long-suffering and self-control. And we encouraged them that although this time of restoration was beautiful and relationships strengthened, we should all know that reality was going to hit again and we needed to respond with long-suffering and love (and all of the other Fruits of the Spirit). We cannot even express how important this step was in our family.
Then when this time was all done, we sent them back upstairs to play in their rooms with one another. They did not even ask once if they would be receiving gifts. They went upstairs and played while we set up Christmas…
The rest of the story was a beautiful Christmas morning of gifts and celebration with joy and love shared between us all – the fights that did happen that day were quickly resolved with a warm hug and expressions of love and gratitude for one another.
We plan to make this a new tradition in our home where we can appreciate, remember and praise our Savior who gave the greatest gift of all and then express our appreciation and love for one another each Christmas morning before any earthly gift is considered or opened.