The presents. The presents. The presence.
Yes, I am about to join the ranks of people telling you not to focus on gifts with your kids this Christmas season. How annoying. But what would you really expect from your children’s minister?
Bear with me. We will get through this together. Remember, I am trying to raise Christians at the same time? Just the other day, my five-year-old asked for an iPad for Christmas. An iPad! I just got my first iPad the other week, and I am 33 years old. But instead of launching into the “When I was your age…” saga, I replied with “I am sorry but that is far too expensive. Daddy and I are working on finding special, meaningful gifts for each of you, which are more in line with our family’s budget.” Her response? “But it isn’t too expensive for Santa to bring!”
Dang it, Santa.
We don’t even talk about the man in red much- we never have. I seriously considered not having Santa visit our house at all- “Mommy and daddy bought you these gifts because we love you, there is no Santa”- but I was really worried about crushing the dreams of all the other kids in their preschool class, to whom they would certainly pass along this news. I am pretty sure their parents would have a hit out on me within the hour. Suffice it to say, we don’t focus on Santa. We don’t even really focus on gifts- but our children are of the world, and those ideas still seep in.
This year, we are choosing the very popular four-gift method. Each of our children will receive four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. Matthew and I will be very intentional and thoughtful about each of these, and our children will know that we love them and care for them as they open each. In this way, gifts can be such a beautiful symbol of God’s grace for all of us. “You don’t get this because you had to earn it, or because you particularly deserve it- you get this just because I love you and want you to be happy!” You know- the way God treats all of us? Santa will fill their stockings with a few little things, but it won’t be the focus.
This four-gift method can be done very expensively, or very inexpensively. I imagine that in different seasons of our family’s life, this will fluctuate. But I certainly don’t want to start with the iPad at age 5! We are starting with battery operated toothbrushes (Ooooooooh! The excitement!), some new (not hand-me-down) mittens, a subscription to National Geographic Kids, and Water Wow! drawing pads (around four dollars each- thanks, Brenda Allison!). We will take our time, and take turns, opening gifts.
I am not anti-gifts. I just want to be thoughtful, intentional, and present.