When it comes to Christmas, my husband says I’m like a little child. I still can’t sleep the night before, tossing and turning in anticipation. One of my favorite parts of the holidays is buying and wrapping gifts. I love finding that one gift to make the recipient feel seen and known and appreciated. I want to hear that squeal of excitement or see the tears well up in their eyes.
But ever since I became a mom, my joy in gift-giving has butted heads with my kids’ natural inclination toward greed. Conversations about gifts always tend to drift back to what my boys will get versus what they will give. I don’t fault them or pretend like I’m exempt. Getting gifts is fun and exciting. However, when the greed outweighs the gratitude, my mama heart starts to ache.
I begin to ask: What have I done wrong? How can I help my kids better appreciate the meaning of Christmas and the joy in giving? How can I help them find contentment and compassion?
Like it or not, greed is something most of us battle internally on a daily basis. It’s rooted in discontentment and the belief that something—anything—other than God can fill that gap in our souls. Greed is always seeking but never satisfied.
At Christmas, it’s so easy for discontentment to give birth to greed. For kids, the greed becomes evident in how they focus on that list to Santa, of reminding us over and over again what they want. It’s seen on Christmas morning when they unwrap that 3DS they’ve been asking for, only to toss it aside two minutes later saying, “Is there anything else for me?”
We adults do it too, but in often more-acceptable methods. We want that picture-perfect Christmas card, the special family moments cutting down the Christmas tree, or the mouth-watering sugar cookies that become the envy of all the neighborhood.
None of these things are bad in and of themselves. But so often, they become a replacement for God. Young and old, we so easily turn our arrows inward and treat the holidays like a BandAid for our bleeding hearts. We want more stuff, more memories, more fuzzy feelings that we pray will last into December 26.
But the ugly thing about greed is that it is never content. More is never enough.
So in my love for all things Christmas, I have to stop and ask: How can I help my family experience the holidays without letting greed take over?
I don’t have a step-by-step answer. I know that when it comes down to it, greed is an ailment of the heart, and contentment comes from God alone. I can ask God to help me find my “enough” in Him, but I cannot change my kids’ hearts. That’s God’s job, and I have to let Him do it.
However, what I can do is join God in fighting for them:
• I can pray that my boys will know God more and find satisfaction in Him alone.
• I can take notice of opportunities around the Christmas tree or on the way to the store to speak truth, to gently remind them to turn their arrows upward (to God) and outward (to others).
• I can help them develop habits rooted in gratitude: writing thank-you notes, making lists of gifts they’d like to give, and maybe even preparing and delivering gifts to our neighbors.
• I can tell (and retell) the Christmas story—and not only on December 25 when we read Luke 2 before the boys can open presents. (They’re numb with excitement at that point anyway.) Instead, the Christmas story—how Jesus came to earth as a babe, to be the salvation for our souls—can become a part of dinner conversations, of bedtime stories, or on the way to school.
Now that I think of it, let’s tell the story all year long! It’s too big to be contained to Christmas anyway.
As parents, we cannot shrug our shoulders and let greed win, in us or our kids. We can’t blame the over-commercialization of Christmas and just hope we all come out the other side unscathed by greed. Instead, this Christmas, let us join God in the battle for gratitude in our hearts and theirs.