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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gifts of Grace . . .

Well . . . ready or not, here it comes: The most wonderful time of the year.  And even though I share my life with the most amazing people on the planet, and worship the Birthday Boy himself, I am just slightly disenchanted with the Holiday season this year. And here is why:

I spend countless hours shopping for the toys and goodies for our kids. I research the best prices, drive around and find those things their little hearts desire, wrap them up with the cutest paper I can find, and place them under the tree. After this process, inevitably someone (at least one of the kids) will remark that what they REALLY want for Christmas is ___________ and name some other toy that hasn't been previously talked about. This makes me a little crazy and I feel like telling the kids there is a "wish list deadline" - sort of like April 15 for taxpayers. You can add or change something to your list before the wish list deadline (say, November 23) but when it is midnight on November 24 don't even THINK about changing your wish list. And if you try to back out of something you previously listed, I will take it all back to the store and you get NOTHING. 

But here is the other problem: my kids are "counting" presents under the tree! They aren't just looking at them, shaking and listening to the packages, or talking about what might be in those beautifully wrapped gifts. They are COUNTING to see how many gifts they will be getting, and comparing their numbers to the other kids.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HAVE WE REALLY GOTTEN THAT MATERIALISTIC?

I feel that something drastic needs to happen. Maybe John and I should load the kids up in Big Bessie and find a Leper colony, or a family of homeless bums and camp out there for the duration of the Christmas season to give the kids a little perspective. They have completely forgotten what this season is all about - sharing, sacrifice, and being together with those you love. How can I teach this to kids I haven't had for very long? How can I teach them that Christmas is NOT about what you get- it's about what was already given!

When my sisters and I were little, our parents had a good policy on the gifts. The scriptural record tells us that Jesus essentially received three Christmas gifts from the Magi: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Never mind the fact that spices and precious metals aren't exactly the most practical gifts for a toddler, we all know that those gifts were shared to honor and bless the King of Kings. I feel this practice Mom and Dad put into place is a good one, so I have instituted the "Three gift maximum" for the Line bunch. It only gets complicated when the always-brilliant Mitchell points out that "Jesus got gold, which is basically like a gift card or money because he could spend it on whatever he wanted."

Maybe the biggest problem with Christmas is Santa. I never really thought of him as "Bad", in fact I always thought the jolly old soul was just fun and magic, and an innocent part of childhood. And though I'm not ready to lump him into the same category as Osama Bin Laden or Satan, I am beginning to wonder if "he" is part of the problem. You see, Santa brings gifts to the "good boys and girls." Santa "knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes!" The problem with this is: who is good, and who is bad? It's the same problem that the Pharisees kept running into all over the gospels. The Pharisees had a long list of rules and regulations, and were so busy running around trying to catch the bad guys, they didn't realize that they themselves were outside of the perfect holiness of God. But through the important lessons that Jesus taught in the gospels, we have learned that through GRACE, we can be made right with God - and ONLY through grace. There are simply not enough "good" deeds that we can do to earn the magnificent, complete and perfect love of Jesus Christ. While many kids who still believe in Santa Claus might try to be "good" around the holidays in case Santa is watching, we who follow Christ know that "being good" is not the way to get in right with our Heavenly Father. If we tried to be good enough to earn gifts from God, we would find ourselves to be utter and hopeless failures. Every gift from God is the complete opposite of what we deserve or what we have earned. Every gift from God is just that - a gift - not something we got because we were "good little boys or girls."

So maybe instead of trying to teach my kids about Christmas, I should try instead to show my children GRACE. By loving them just as they are, and accepting the fact that they are children- sometimes foolish, sometimes weak and ALWAYS in need of a Savior, I can give my children the gift of grace. After all, isn't that what Christmas is really about anyway?

1 comment:

  1. When I was growing up, my Mother always took us to the "ANGEL TREE" at the local discount/department store. The tree was always at the entry, and it had paper angels all over it. Each angel had the name of a less fortunate child, and it detailed their age, sizes and Christmas wishes. We'd spend time reading the lists and each child selected the "angel" they wanted to help. Usually, we tried to pick a child who was similar to our own ages.

    After we made our selections, we would shop for the angels. We'd pick out clothes we thought they'd like, and we'd select toys they had on their lists. I was always touched to think about someone who mirrored me - the same age, the same wants, living in the same area - who wasn't as blessed as I was. This always put things into perspective for me.

    On Christmas day, as we tore into our stash of presents, my Mother would remind us to think of the Angels and how they would be opening their gifts, too. To this day, those thoughts stay with me and shape how I feel and act during this season.