I'm a little sidetracked though because that wasn't exactly where I was going with this post. Over the past few Christmases I have thought a lot about what Christmas should mean to me and what I should take away from the holiday. And every year I'm slightly disappointed with myself because I get so caught up in the gifts and what I will get and what I'm going to give my family and friends, and then after all the giving and getting is over on Christmas day, I just feel a little empty inside, just a little unfulfilled. Even if I give and receive great gifts, there's still that slight hollowness that indicates I missed something. And I think the problem is my focus and the perspective of Christmas that has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a child.
I remember the night before Christmas always being such an exciting evening. My sister and I would be too wound up to get to sleep, but we wanted to go to bed early so "Santa" could hurry up and come. When we were younger and shared a bedroom, I remember us both lying in our beds, talking and guessing what our gifts might be until we'd each fall asleep. I remember waking up every year on Christmas morning, earlier than I would wake up any other day of the year. If I woke first, I'd get Shanna out of bed and vice versa. Then the very first thing we’d do was run to the living room where the Christmas tree would be lit up with piles and piles of beautifully wrapped presents just begging us to tear into them. After surveying our awaiting treasures, we'd go get Mom out of bed (who was probably exhausted from staying up all night wrapping those gifts and arranging them neatly under the tree). I can just remember the giddiness and the excitement and the thrill of it all. So much fun. After it was all over, we'd be swimming in a sea of wrapping paper, tossing new clothes to the side and searching for batteries to put in our new toys. Then off we’d go to Dad's house to start the gift-getting all over again (I always said that was the one benefit of having divorced parents, TWO Christmases). At the end of it all, after every box had been opened, I'd call whoever my best friend was that year and we'd spell out in detail what we each received, one of us inevitably getting jealous because the other got something better.
Enter Brock. There's a part of me that wants to buy tons and tons of gifts for my child and let him experience the excitement and fun that I had on Christmas morning seeing and opening all those presents under the tree. Then there's another part of me that wants to not do gifts at all so he never grows up expecting things from people and never gets spoiled or ungrateful and so he values Christmas for its biblical meaning and nothing else. But thankfully, I don't have to choose one extreme or the other and the rational side of me has decided to take a balanced approach.
Several years ago, before we had children, I read an article in a magazine or online or somewhere about an idea of how to make Christmas affordable, practical, and maybe a little more spiritual than material and I really liked it. The suggestion was to pick out only three gifts: Something valuable or something they want, Something for the body, and Something for their spiritual/physical/mental development. The premise behind this idea is that the biblical story of Jesus' birth records the wise men bringing him three types of gifts: Gold (valuable), Frankincense (spiritual), and Myrrh (for the body). Blaine and I started putting this into practice with each other because I thought it was a really great way to keep our spending in check (I really love to give gifts and that's probably the one area in our budget that I generally overspend because I can always mentally justify buying something to give to someone else), but it also ties the gift-giving at Christmas back in with the story of Christianity, which is the reason that Blaine and I celebrate this season.
So now that Brock is in the picture and this is his first Christmas, our goal has been to start the Three Gifts from the beginning and continue on with that each year. I want Brock to learn that the part of Christmas that brings the real happiness and joy is not what Santa Claus brings or what's under the tree on Christmas morning, but rather what Jesus brought 2000 years ago and the gift that he freely offers to all of us. It's not about new toys or new clothes. It's about the opportunity to receive a new heart, a new spirit, a new life, an opportunity that Christ gave us when he came to this earth, being born as a human and later dying a cruel and unjust death so that we might live. It may sound like fiction or fairytale to some, and it doesn't seem like a logical story: The God of the universe comes as a baby to live as we live on this earth and to walk among us only to be killed and rise again after three days to save us from sin. Even as I write these things I understand how someone can have a hard time believing a story like this, but the Bible also addresses that fact:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18-21, ΝΑSB)