I was young, very young, sitting in big church with my mom on Mother’s Day. The pastor had most assuredly waxed eloquent throughout the hour long message about love. Love was the best give a mom could give and love was all she desired in return—so much more than gifts.
To sum up his point he came down from the platform into the aisle and asked various church members what they were giving their mom for Mother’s Day. “Love” they each replied, until he came to me with microphone extended. Blond curls and an upturned nose, big, brown expressive eyes and a slight speech impediment—I exclaimed, “I got my mom a micwo-wave oven!”
And the laughter flowed into the benediction and out onto the patio.
Here we are years later and now I’m the mom, and up to my jingle-bells wrapping Christmas presents thinking about love.
In light of Christmas, love is the best gift God ever gave! (John 3:16) And in the glow of twinkle lights I know that love is the gift He most desires in return. After all, “we love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) And so, as I stack presents under a tarp in the back of the hall closet, I’m thinking of my middle boy who wants Legos, and the teenager who’d love a Bluetooth speaker for his room, and the little one who fell asleep holding a picture of the dirt bike he’s literally dreaming of.
So what about gifts, when the real gift is love?
My first son was born 13 years ago this holiday. He was our Christmas gift. The following year I felt a weight upon my heart when it was time to shop and wrap and begin making holiday traditions with a child in our midst (and another in my belly.) My husband and I decided together that each one of us would get a single special gift, and a special book, and something new to wear. And as a family we would give something purposeful and generous to another family in need.
Something to get,
Something to share,
Something to read,
Something to wear.
Those boundaries were put in place to limit our focus on presents, that we might focus in on His Presence.
However, Christmas presents aren’t the only thing keeping us from focusing in on the greatest gift of all. There’s plenty of distractions vying for our attention—distractions dressed in tinsel and ringing bells on every corner!
Here are three loving traditions we’ve layered in at Christmas time
1 – Serving others. Echoing back to the second line from the poem above: Something to share … I look for ways to take our eyes off of our own wants and onto the needs of those around us. Whether it’s delivering meals to those less fortunate, packaging a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, or visiting a local retirement home to deliver handmade Christmas cards, we try to be intentional during the holidays about introducing our three young children to the wonderful world of loving others well. The tendency for children is to focus on the gifts—let’s teach them to be the gift this year.
2) – Advent. The Season of advent is four weeks long—with ample time for worship and reflection. When we try to cram it all into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we end up feeling conflicted. So much pressure, between the gifts and the meals and the family togetherness, and the need to make it all spiritually impactful as well. This year I’m personally reading through the new book, Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Cameally. Last year I enjoyed Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift (affiliate links).
3) – Visiting neighbors. I love the idea of old fashioned carols and cocoa door to door. This year we are beginning a new tradition as a family, and delivering a special plate of cookies to half a dozen families. But not just any cookies. Angie Mosteller of CelebratingHolidays.com has written out the Christmas story in a rhyming holiday poem, featuring a different cookie for each stanza. We will be baking all of the cookies and wrapping them up with the poem for our neighbors and family friends. (Grab the printable and recipes at Celebrating Holidays.)
How will you purpose to keep your family’s focus on the gift that is love this Christmas season?
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