Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Christmas Slap In The Face

I wanted to post a Christmas memory from two years ago that taught me an incredible lesson.

Yesterday my wife and I were watching Miles hobble around the living room. She mentioned that he was lying in her arms in the foyer at church and would occasionally pop his head up after she would ask "Where's Jesus?". He would look up at the wall and point to the picture of Jesus.

I wanted to see him do it so I said "Miles, where's Jesus?", hoping to see him fix his eyes on one of the pictures of Jesus we have on our living room wall. I watched his face intently, anxiously waiting for his cute reaction.

But it never came.

I was stunned when, instead, I saw a look of bewilderment and total confusion spring up on his face. He turned his head and looked across the room to the wall that held another picture of Jesus. Miles often pointed to these pictures of Jesus so he intuitively knew where to look. However, the same confused reaction resulted. I felt the imaginary wind being knocked out of me. It was as if I'd been running full speed, then instantaneously met a wall. You see, those two pictures were no longer on the wall. Both pictures of Jesus had been taken down. Both had been replaced with pictures of Santa.

Wow. For a second I was shocked. Then a second later a little numb. Then after that a little mystified. Had we really taken down our only two pictures of Christ to put up Christmas decorations?

We had. Can anyone say "wake-up call?"

This was a very tangible and real example of what I think many of us do. As much as we try to mention every now and then to our children what the purpose and meaning of Christmas is, that isn't enough. Gina and I were trying to have Miles point to Christ, we wanted him to see him and recognize him, yet we had removed him entirely from view. We had led him away from Christ and towards good old Santa Claus. I will never, ever, forget the confused look on my boy's face. I don't ever want to be the cause of that again.

The quote "Your actions are speaking so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying" applies very well to our Christmas celebrations. We tell our children that Christmas is to celebrate Jesus' birth as we take his pictures off the wall and replace them with Santa. We teach our children that true joy comes from giving while showering them with gift after gift. (Even if we know they won't play with them in two weeks) What happened to the days when a single, solitary, orange brought heavenly happiness to a child's Christmas?

I don't think we realize that the joy we feel in giving the "perfect gift" to our children doesn't always equate to the joy our kids receive. We love Christmas so much because we spend so much time trying to give the perfect gift, but for our kids, they spend most of their time receiving. If we really, truly, sincerely felt that giving brought so much more joy than receiving, would we not place more emphasis on teaching our children to give of themselves to others? Surely we would. Would we not shower them with opportunities to give? Instead of spending Christmas day opening presents and playing with them all day long, if true joy came from giving, why aren't we with our kids at a soup kitchen? Why don't we send packages to soldiers? Why not visit the widows among us?

One thing I do know is that kids remember the moments that truly bring them the spirit of Christmas.

I recently asked the kids what they got for Christmas last year. My boy remembered one toy, but the others couldn't remember any. I then followed that question up by asking what they remembered doing last year for Christmas. Their eyes lit up as they started to tell of the homes we had played "ding-dong ditch" at. Sara was giddy and almost jumped off the couch as she recounted the experience.  Evan was grinning ear-to-ear as he told of one lady who looked around trying to see us but we were hidden behind a fence. It was wonderful to see the joy, excitement, and happiness on their faces.

Please let us know how you share the joy of giving with your children. What traditions of giving does your family participate in? Please leave a comment and share this post! Let's make this year the year when giving becomes more important than receiving.

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At November 30, 2012 at 12:31 AM , Blogger Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

Christmas isn't Christmas unless we adopt at least one family and do some "Elfing." 2009 was a tough year, and I wasn't sure we would do it, but I am so glad we did. I posted about 2009 last week, you can read about it here: http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2012/11/my-mormon-perspective-christmas-spirit.html?m=0

If you want more ideas about "Elfing," let me know. As a kid my parents did most of the work when we adopted families. I find it even more meaningful having the kids help us. There will be a more in depth post, with some tips (a few of them are in a comment on that post, but as I have been working on that post, I came up with a bunch more.) For me, it isn't Christmas if I am not taking the opportunity to be a stand in for Christ.

At November 30, 2012 at 12:45 AM , Blogger Ben said...

Thanks for the comment Julia. I'll give it a read. By the way, I'm now subscribing to your blog! Elfing sounds like something my kids would love.


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