More than a few years ago, I found myself storing unopened Christmas presents for my children in our hall closet. This was not on account of being a cruel mom interested in destroying the joy of Christmas for my children. No, this was an attempt to neatly store all of the toys that we simply didn’t have any more room for in their bedrooms. These were the “left over” gifts.
It took me stuffing my closet full of unopened presents to realize that I may need to rethink this gift-giving thing. You see, my husband and I had gotten into the habit of starting our Christmas shopping early. Think “July.” I even requested a special key-locking knob to be placed on that closet door just so I could stock up all year long and not worry about needing to hide my “stash.”
We had simply allowed ourselves to become obsessed with presents. And for what? It’s not as though our children could possibly have needed, wanted, or even played with all of those things. To make matters worse, our children had no concept of what Christmas was really about. Admittedly, they were too young to truly grasp the entire concept, but we weren’t even trying to put Christ in Christmas. Our idea of an Advent season simply consisted of a Candy Count-Down Calendar.
We knew we needed to make a change. We didn’t want to raise children who were only interested in Christmas for what stuff they could get out of it. We wanted our children to understand what made it so special.
We decided to start our Christmas Season Make-Over by rethinking our Advent calendar. I wanted the count-down to Christmas to reflect the real Christmas story, not just the one with Santa and Frosty. So I went to my Bible and started compiling verses that chronicled the birth of Jesus, beginning with Prophecy in the Old Testament and ending with Luke 19:10, the reason for His coming.
Next, I divided those verses into 24 days, the idea being to begin on December 1st and finish on Christmas Eve. The verses were printed on slips of paper which we attached to a small token or candy placed under our special Advent tree. Our children loved getting to dig under the tree to find that day’s verse. Once it was found, we would gather together on the sofa to summarize the previous days and to add the new verse into the overall story. Once Christmas came, we would read the entire story from the book of Luke again before opening our presents.
We also decided to alter the amount of presents we were gifting. I had been doing some “research” on Pinterest and came upon this nifty gift-giving guide. The idea was to give four presents. Maybe you’ve seen it. “Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to Read.”
Somehow I convinced my husband that this would be the perfect solution to our need to reduce. As we purchased the few items on our list that year, I was absolutely sure we had found a winning combination between our new Advent and gift-giving.
Unfortunately, on Christmas morning, after having a beautiful spiritual experience with our two small children, we were forced to face the reality of my choice. My children couldn’t read very well and what kid really wants clothes for Christmas?? The thought was a good one; it was the execution that needed some work. We decided balance would be the way to go.
By the next year, we had found that balance. Our Advent season went beautifully as we were able to help our children read the verses themselves. They were even able to recall the story from the previous year, allowing us to expand our discussions with them. They still enjoyed finding those verses under the tree.
We continued to refrain from over-indulging with presents while still retaining the magic of Christmas morning. We did go ahead and get more books and maybe a cute outfit or two, but we supplemented with a few things from their wish list as well.
What we ended up with was a Christmas Season that included Christ and a celebration of the greatest gift ever given.