Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. (Deuteronomy 11:19, NLT)
As we draw closer to Christmas, we always ask what we’re going to give our kids this year, meaning what gifts are we going to buy. But this year, I’m trying very hard to approach that question on a different, deeper level as well. What am I going to give my kids for Christmas this year?
I love Christmas, and I always want to have the picture-perfect celebration complete with a perfectly-decorated house and the house full of delicious homemade holiday foods. I easily fall into the trap of perfectionism and miss the real meaning of the holiday and making it what it should be for my family. Exchanging perfectionism for meaningfulness is a hard lesson to hold onto. If you are a recovering perfectionist like I am, this is a lesson I have to learn over and over again.
First, I have to remember that perfectionism is not the perfection we are actually desiring and which we can only find in Christ and His provision. We will never achieve total perfection on this side of heaven.
Second, I need to remember that a perfectionistic attitude actually can cause me to “shut down” when I get overwhelmed by the messes of life. The result, for instance, may mean that instead of having an immaculately clean house with everything in its place (perfectionism – or a team of highly efficient and trained cleaning specialists helping me) or having a comfortable, cozy beautiful home ready for Christmas (a balanced attitude and family working together), I wind up with a mess that is only half done because I’m frustrated and have given up, and my family is overwhelmed along with me.
Third, making a difference in life and building into eternity requires me to focus on meaning and relationships, not trying to be “perfect.” The joy of Christmas comes when we celebrate our relationship with Christ and enjoy our time with our family and friends. If we think back to what was most meaningful to us about Christmases past, we usually find that nearly everything revolves around worship or relationships.
So, as we go into this Christmas season, how can we grow in our discipleship and help our kids grow and learn to love Christmas? How can we make this season more meaningful and memorable? What are we really giving our kids for Christmas this year?
- Make a plan and work it the best that you can. This allows us to make time for what we need to get done, and it allows us to see where we are being unrealistic with our time. Sometimes, we may need to ask for help if we absolutely have to get things done, and we realize we don’t have the time and energy to get it done. When I directed our school Christmas programs and our church Christmas programs, I had to delegate and streamline plans. For instance, I had a leader for each vocal part, and we would divide our rehearsals into four groups when working on nailing down parts. That way when we got together for a general rehearsal, everyone knew their parts, so we could work on putting it all together in many fewer rehearsals. I delegated responsibilities allowing those who were gifted in different areas to be an integral part in making the events successful.
When it comes to my home, I always want it to be perfectly clean and perfectly decorated, and I don’t think in 35 years of marriage that has happened even once. I have stressed out and freaked out and worn my self out trying to make it happen so many times until I just gave up. And what I found is that my kids didn’t get to enjoy Christmas as much when their mom was having a break down or a meltdown. Learning to relax and enjoy the season allowed me to make memories and choose what would be most meaningful for our family.
- Celebrate and worship as much as you can. I often choose a devotional to read on my own besides whatever we are doing as a church or a family. This has created some very special time alone with God where He could speak to my heart in exactly what I needed to hear. Any time we are growing in our faith and are drawing closer to God, our children can sense that and see our faith as alive and real more than any lesson can. Discipleship is mostly about us living out our faith as an example to those we are helping grow in their faith.
- Use our time wisely. Slow down and take time to enjoy this year, this season, this moment with our kids. This year has been so crazy and so different for most of us, but it has also been an opportunity to spend more time with our families. It has been an opportunity to show our kids how to respond to change, to stress, and to respond in faith rather than fear. At times my kids felt powerless during this COVID pandemic and the social unrest. They were afraid and didn’t know how to respond. It was heartbreaking to see, but it also gave us a chance for conversations we might never have had otherwise.
This year I’m really focusing on how we spend our time. We can’t have the usual parties and events like we normally do. So, making this season meaningful is even more directly related to our personal choices as a family. How will we spend this time? What can we do to bring more joy and peace into our family right now? These are the questions I’m focusing on this season. And the answers will determine how we spend our time.
So, what am I going to give my kids for Christmas this year? More stuff? Mayhem and stress? Or memories and meaning? I want to bless my family with more than presents this year. I want them to look back at this Christmas and remember that we experienced a real Christmas full of love, worship, hope, and peace more than any other Christmas we’ve had so far, because we need it more this year than we ever have before.
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But the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. (Luke 2:10, NLT)