On my daughter’s third Christmas, something was obviously amiss. Surrounded by a pile of boxes and wrapping paper, she barely looked at the gift she had just opened because she was busy looking for the next one. I felt like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas as he knocked on the metal trees: “This really brings Christmas close to a person.”
Here is the reality: the world does not need Jesus for its Christmas celebrations to continue. They have Santa, trees, lights, Clark Griswold, Cousin Eddie and, of course, the gifts. Without deliberate action, it is only natural for our children to value the wrong things.
If my daughter was missing the mark, it was not her fault. It was her father’s fault – one of those #parentingfail moments for me. For our children to be as excited about Jesus as they are about gifts, it takes more intentional parenting.
Here are some practical ways we can foster a more Christ-centered Christmas celebration in our homes.
Talk about Jesus early and often. We should talk about the things of God with our children constantly, or as Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV).
My daughter, now six years old, likes to ask a lot of questions before bedtime. Often, she is just stalling, but when she asks questions about Jesus, my wife and I take all the time necessary. I am happy to talk about Jesus’ appearance and whether He can play soccer if it helps my daughter learn about His love. With a strong spiritual foundation, the observance of Christmas is truly something to celebrate.
Value experiences over gifts. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans estimated spending around $780 on Christmas gifts alone. It seems odd when you consider another academic study (from San Francisco State University) concluded that life experiences actually make people happier than material purchases.
I do not remember specific gifts from when I was nine years old, but I vividly recall watching movies and looking at Christmas lights with my family. If you invest more time in making memories, the results will have more lasting value.
Help your children develop an “others” mindset. Every Christmas, we try to involve our kids in a special project such as Operation Christmas Child or Salvation Army Angel Tree. Choosing a child their age is a fantastic way for your children to feel connected. It is a joy to watch them scurry through aisles to find gifts for a child they will never meet.
As parents, we must be intentional in showing our children that the holiday is about more than the presents under the tree; it is about the gift in Bethlehem’s manger. Our only natural response is to give of ourselves, both to God and to others.
Many of us complain the world has taken Christ out of Christmas. But maybe we have done that. We emphasize other things over Jesus and wonder why our kids do the same. If we want our children to truly experience Christ at Christmas, we parents have to reduce the distractions.