The Tradition of Giving Gifts with Meaning
Even when times are hard it still seems that one of the easiest things to give of is money. When we give gifts it is easy to just flippantly buy something for someone, especially as children. While, it is a very important lesson to teach children how to save their money with the end result not being purchasing something for themselves; sometimes the more difficult gift to give is giving of yourself, your time. Because giving the gift of time seems more difficult as adults, this is a valuable habit or tradition to teach your children. For the last few weeks we have discussed planning a family gift to Jesus or ministry opportunity. Once that gift is planned you can then get your children excited about looking for ways to serve each other in the home and giving gifts of themselves. Parents can lead by example. A fun, possibly funny, idea for parents is to give your children coupon books for items of service as stocking stuffers. Something like, one coupon good for mom or dad doing one load of your laundry or helping you clean your room. Get as creative as you want, even with something like a late bed pass good for an staying up an hour later on the weekends or a coupon good for the homemade meal of their choice. Help your kids with ideas for gifts of service for their siblings and mom or dad.
Another great gift idea is helping your children make a gift to go along with the store bought one. This will also help teach your children giving the gift of time. For dad, a great idea would be having each child list ten of their favorite things about their dad or their favorite memories with dad this year. If they are older you can have them type them up and add pictures, you may find that your children are much more proficient in computer skills then you are. If your children are younger you can type it or have them write it neatly and draw a border. Then you can help them frame it for dad’s office. For mom you can have your children pick out their favorite pictures from this year and each make pages for a homemade scrapbook. Both of these can be a fun tradition to give every year. The important thing is to teach your children how to give gifts with meaning, whether it’s through your family Christmas ministry or to each other.
Listen to today’s podcast for more insight on Christmas traditions and giving gifts with meaning.
What Exactly are Traditions?
When we break it down what is a tradition? Who decides the tradition? Why is it important to think through this? A tradition is something that you do year after year. It can be something that you do individually or as a family. There are many areas that can dictate traditions, especially at Christmas: family, religion, and culture to name a few.
It is important to think through your traditions to see who is influencing them and what your traditions are really teaching your children. Just like we talked about last week, Christmas needs to be more then just the tradition of materialistic overindulgence. Christmas is the celebration of God’s greatest gift to humanity His Son, our salvation, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Are the things we do as a family to get ready for Christmas pointing to this miracle?
One thing that we can do as parents to help keep the right focus is to have some personal traditions around Christmas time. We can spend this time reading through the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to read the Biblical accounts of Jesus life. Spend time really processing what must it have been like in the shoes of each of the characters of the Christmas story and journal your thoughts. So often we read this story so much that we miss the reality of it and the amazing faith of the characters involved. Spend some time preparing your heart to celebrate this Christmas so you can truly communicate the Joy of this event to your children.
What to do with Santa…
The discussion of Santa will stir up different emotions in Christian circles. For some, Santa totally distracts from the message of Christmas and so there are very strong feelings against Santa. Others feel strongly that there is no harm in the fun of Santa.
We would like to say that this must be a personal family decision but there are some things to consider. First is if we are teaching gratitude and teaching our children how to give to others then obviously Santa cannot be the one bringing all the gifts. If you do decide to do Santa in your house maybe Santa could bring one gift or be the one who fills the stockings. Secondly the attempt is to make the center of the Christmas season Jesus and not Santa. Which is another reason why it is a good idea for a gift, not all, to be from Santa. Finally, we need to remember that childhood should be about imagination and fantasy. The harsh adult world is imposing itself far to early on our children. It is our job as parents to fight for their childhood. The fun of Christmas may be a perfect time. Whichever you decide to do take full advantage of this Christmas season to begin or enjoy family traditions.
Listen to today’s podcast for what we did with Santa growing up in the Barnes’ house.
Using Christmas Traditions to Teach
We can use traditions at Christmas to point back to the birth of Jesus, which is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Choose to look for ways through the holiday season to point back to God’s gift to us. As you are decorating, you can even use these moments as teaching tools. For example as you are trying to get all the knots out of the Christmas lights, ask your children what they think the lights represent. They can represent that Jesus is the light of the world. They can also show that when they are plugged in they can shine brightly. Just like we can’t do anything with out God as our power source but when we are “plugged into Him” we can shine His light.
As you are hanging ornaments you can talk about how the Christmas tree can represent Jesus. It was alive but was cut off for us. Make a game out of seeing who can do the best at finding how each ornament points to Jesus.
We can do this all through the Christmas season in different areas. This is a great way to start teaching our children to look for how God reveals Himself in everyday life. Again, as your children are leaving home what do you want their Christmas memories to be? This year choose to keep Jesus the center of Christmas.
For more fun Christ-centered Christmas traditions check out,
Listen to today’s podcast for more insight on this topic.
What Is Your Christmas Ministry?
A thought to ponder, what if Jesus spent Christmas with you, what would you do differently? What would the focus of the day be, would it be about the presents or about serving others? It is ironic that the very person this day is celebrating, so often, we forget to honor.
The week of Thanksgiving we discussed choosing a service project for your family to spend time on through the Christmas season. Now is the time to put that plan into action. Giving to others is truly how we give a birthday present to Jesus. In fact, in Matthew 25:34-30, Jesus says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
What will your family birthday present to Jesus be this year?
Listen to today’s podcast for more insight on teaching the gift of giving.