This Christmas will be unlike any other I have ever celebrated. This is my first holiday season with a child of my own.
Truth be told, I am thankful Nora is only going to be 8 months old this Christmas– it gives us another year or two before we have to make all the Christmas family tradition decisions. It’s a little sad that parents in this day and age have to consider just exactly how they are going to do Christmas with their kids. Are we going to do the whole Santa thing? If so, are we going to go all out (like jingle bells on the roof kind of deal), or are we just going to let them figure out the truth early on? Do I have the creativity/energy to do Elf on the Shelf, or is it too creepy? How many presents does Santa bring them? Does he wrap them or leave them exposed? How many presents should each kid get from Mommy and Daddy?
It’s really exhausting thinking about it, and the worst part is that however your family chooses to “do” Christmas– you’re pretty much stuck with it until your kids are married and out of the house. That’s a lot of pressure for new moms and dads that want Christ to be central in their celebration, but don’t want their kid to think, “Why does Santa bring Tommy five presents and me only one?” Whew.
We still don’t have our answers to 95% of these questions. I’ve been pondering these predicaments, and asking myself how I want our child(ren) to experience Christmas when they are old enough to have a perspective. I have come up with a few conclusions:
1. I want them to see a joyful Mommy.
Here’s the thing. The holiday season is always SO stressful, especially for moms. Women are pulling their hair out trying to get the shopping done and the Christmas cards mailed. We don’t have time to sit down for even a few minutes to think about what it means that God became a baby in order to save us. It’s the kindest, most selfless thing to have ever happened. It’s unthinkable. It’s unimaginable.
Delight in this truth should make us stop in the middle of our shopping and wrapping and Lifetime movie-watching, and worship with hearts bursting with song: “Fall on your knees, hear the angel voices, ‘O night divine, O night when Christ was born.” I want Nora to grow up noticing that Mom and Dad are joyful as they celebrate the birth of their King.
Easier said than done, I know. *Note: these are merely the conclusions I have come to, I have yet to actually put them into practice…
2. I want Nora to see that “family time” isn’t really a thing.
I know this one sounds weird at first. But the Bible doesn’t say too much about making sure that your family spends time alone. However, it says a whole heck of a lot about showing hospitality to strangers. Jesus says:
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
The author of Hebrews writes, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers…”(13:12)
*For a few more verses on hospitality and caring for others, check out: James 1:27; James 2:2-6; 1 John 3:17-18; 1 Peter 4:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 15:11; Proverbs 14:21,31; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 31:20; Isaiah 58:6-7; Matthew 25:35; Luke 18:22; 1 Timothy 5:3.
Even when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were waiting outside to speak to Him, He replied, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49).
This is NOT to say that spending time with family is wrong– it’s wonderful in fact! God has given us our families to love and to cherish. But as followers of Jesus, we extend His love and mercy to the lost by inviting people inside our homes and serving them. Just as Jesus poured Himself out for the weary and downtrodden, so we too must show kindness and love to others. Even those who don’t share the same faith or political beliefs. Even those who don’t say “Merry Christmas.”
During the holidays, we tend to flock towards our families and enjoy “family time” while forgetting that many people don’t have families or a place to celebrate. That would break Jesus’ heart– why doesn’t it break ours?
3. I want Christ to be the source of her excitement.
This one is hard. Good parents love to witness the happiness on their children’s faces as they eagerly tear off wrapping paper in expectation of what’s underneath. God is the same way- He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).
I can’t wait for the day that I give Nora a present and she opens it and is delighted by what I’ve given her. But…I want her to see that the things of this life pale in comparison to knowing Christ. The apostle Paul says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8).
I want her to learn that the free gift of salvation is more precious than any man-made trinket. I don’t want the tinsel and lights of this season to distract her eyes from the the overwhelming glory of the Lord. The same glory that made countless angels cry, “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14).
My daughter’s joy can only be complete when she receives her King.
I am thankful that Nora is still young enough that I have time to ask God to give me the right heart at Christmas time. My prayer is that our family would be joyful givers during this season. That strangers and acquaintances and friends (and family, too) would be warmly invited into our home and served well. That our children wouldn’t beg us to speed through the reading of the Christmas story on the morning of the 25th in eagerness to open gifts, but rather they would stand in awe of God’s kindness.
And when this ideal doesn’t happen, and we’re selfish with our time and I’m stressed about whether or not to send so-and-so a Christmas card, and I’ve run out of ideas for Elf on the Shelf, and all Nora can think about is what Santa is bringing her for Christmas, and we don’t “do Christmas” right at all…I can have peace knowing that God is full of grace and mercy, that next Christmas is a new opportunity for our family to do better, and that Christ is still God’s gift to mankind.
Thankful today for the best Gift ever given.
“And they gazed in wonder at God’s Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, ‘Emmanuel’- which means, ‘God has come to live with us.’ Because, of course, he had.” – Jesus Storybook Bible