My husband has told me that we are not going to be able to spend as much as we normally do on Christmas gifts for our three children this year. I know they will be disappointed. How I wish I could help them come to a better understanding of what Christmas is truly about. Can you help me?
Your situation is one that I am certain many parents go through every Christmas season. I believe, though, that you are being presented with a possibly unforgettable opportunity. Giving and receiving gifts at Christmas is a wonderful tradition. The problem comes, however, when we focus too much on the gifts and not enough on the “Giver.”
A gift is defined as something given to show friendship and affection. Christmas is most definitely about giving the giving of love. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest gift ever bestowed on mankind. God, who is love, gave Himself. He willingly took on a human nature in order to suffer and die so that we might live.
If you want to make Christmas meaningful and different this year for the people around you, make it one of love. I guarantee you that if you stop and consider everyone in your life, and look deeply, you will see that each one is in need of love we all are in one way or another. It may sound too easy to say, “Give people love this Christmas.” But do you know what? One cannot give what one does not have.
In order to give true love, we must first be filled with true love. And that, my friends, is to be filled with love for God. How do we do that? One of the best ways is so simple. Read His story. Read it to your children. I am convinced that no one who reads the story of Jesus Christ found in the four Gospels of the New Testament in a prayerful way can come away without falling in love with Him. And when you fall in love with Him and stay in love with Him, your life will change. Your Christmases will be different.
The celebration of the birth of our Savior is fast approaching. Will we be ready, or will we be too busy with material things? The gift so badly needed is the one the “Giver” gave. In a family, children need to be hugged and told that they are precious to us. Wives need a husband to listen to their heart and make them feel cherished. Husbands need a wife to look up to them with respect and appreciation for all they do. These are only some of the gifts we profoundly long for and are in need of.
Material gifts do not bring intimacy with God. Only the gift of love can do that. Often we think we are too busy to do these things, and perhaps we are. A priest once told Mother Teresa that he was so busy he hardly had time to pray. Her response to him was, “Father, if you are too busy to pray, then you are too busy!”
I myself grew up in a poverty-stricken family of eight children, all girls. Our mother raised us by herself. As little as she had, it was always a miracle that every Christmas there was a tree and a little doll and toy dishes for each of us. We never really knew how she did it. But do you know what the warmest memory from my childhood is? It is not those toys we received. It is the memory of a time when I was very sick, and my mother was rocking me and holding me with so much tenderness. I wanted that moment to last forever.
Surprise your family this year. Don’t spend your last few days of preparation in shopping. Spend them instead in finding ways in which to lead them closer to the “Giver” in the things you do. Give your children something valuable to model. This does not mean that their attention will suddenly not be on the material gifts, but it will be a beginning. And it will be memorable.
© Copyright 2003 Grace D. MacKinnon
For permission to reproduce this article, contact Grace MacKinnon at email@example.com.
Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine and teaches in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit her online at www.DearGrace.com.