by Sarah Anderson
I already consider this Christmas a win for our family. Our boys were able to visit Santa, and sit on his lap, shedding exactly zero tears. Total success. I could stand back and simply observe as my boys so effortlessly experienced the wonder of the season. Not just with Santa, but in other ways too.
And amid the relief, it hit me. You don’t have to teach a child wonder. It’s hardwired into them. Just watch their faces—when they see the ocean, visit a zoo, take a bubble bath and eat dessert. Wonder is easy. But especially this time of year. December is ripe with opportunity to be caught up and wrapped up in the magic of Christmas.
It’s one of the reasons I love Christmas so much. Because I am learning that as much as I feel like I have to do--with the
and general insanity of it all--
the kids don’t really need it.
As parents we feel agonizing pressure thinking if we dropped even just one ball, Christmas might as well be cancelled. But it wasn’t always that way. We were kids once too, and there was a time when wonder came as easily and naturally to us as it does for our kids.
I remember the Christmas I saw “Santa’s” footprint in the fireplace of my childhood home. I remember the eager anticipation each Christmas Eve and the attempt to sleep sabotaged by giddy excitement. I remember the magic conjured up by a living nativity, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm oven and a crackling fireplace.
And then I grew up.
It makes me question if we are going about it all wrong. What if in our efforts to make Christmas special, unique and over the top for our kids, we are missing the point?
Because the truth is I don’t think our kids need to be taught to experience the wonder of this time of year. They get it. They aren’t looking at us to learn wonder. But I think they are looking at us to help them hang onto it.
They’re watching, wondering if one day they’ll wake up having lost the sentiment of the season— like maybe they’ve seen us do.
Our kids may not need another thing to do this season to prime their hearts for the wonder of Christmas. But we do. Our kids need to be able to look to us to see that the magic of Christmas isn’t something that leaks with age. That with every year that passes, it’s possible to not only keep it, but to provoke it until it’s so abundant, it quiets us and leaves us satisfied in awe.
Maybe the conflict in Christmas isn’t whether we can get everything done, but whether we can sustain the magic, the wow-inducing marvel a lowly baby in Bethlehem created. My experience tells me, it isn’t easy to do. My heart tells me, we ought to fight hard to do it.
In her book Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamott writes, “Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”
Unto us, so much is given.
Or as the prophet Isaiah said it first, Unto us, a child is born. A son is given.
Both Ann and Isaiah are right. And this time of year ought to be the time, more than any other, when the miracle of what’s been given catches us by such surprise our kids can’t help but watch and crave it themselves.
Find some time this Christmas to remember, to revel in, to soak in the mystery and majesty that the God who hung the stars, the God who pitched the sky, the God who holds the oceans, the God who counts the sand, entered the world He made, in hopes we might catch a glimpse of the mighty love He has for us.
That is true wonder. Wonder that we can’t afford to outgrow and thank goodness, don’t ever have to.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.
Christmas and the G Word
by Carey Nieuwhof
Hi. My name is Carey, and I’m greedy. (This is the point where you all say, “Hi Carey.”)
Gosh, I hate to say it. I mean no one goes around and says they’re greedy, right? We might think other people are greedy (it’s just so easy to spot the sins of others, even from a distance), but it’s so difficult to see in ourselves.
But read this definition of greedy and tell me if at least a piece of it doesn’t own you—or your kids.
Greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.
What makes this time of year difficult for greedy people is that we’re going to add to the pile of what we have that we arguably don’t need. There are things I want that I don’t need. And most of us are actually going to receive things that not only do we not need, but we do not want. In the incredibly affluent culture of North America, the problem of greed runs deep.
There’s a fine line we tread as parents in helping our kids celebrate Christmas. I still remember the almost delirious excitement I had as a child in being able to open gifts at Christmas. Let’s face it, what kid doesn’t love to get gifts at Christmas?
So, how do you make sure, as a parent, that you don’t inadvertently fuel greed in your family this Christmas?
I suppose there are a few options:
But those are almost certain recipes to kill some of the joy that comes with Christmas.
In my experience, the very best antidote to greed I’ve discovered is generosity. The more I give, the deeper I cut into the greed that lives inside of me.
The more I am willing to take giving to a sacrificial level (to the point where we are not doing things as a family because we are giving income away), the more I am reminded that this life is not about me or about my wants and desire. By far, generous giving is the best antidote to the greed that lives inside of me.
As Christmas approaches, ask yourself this question: what am I doing to stem greed in my family this Christmas? Maybe you could:
What helps you wrestle down greed in your life and in your family?
About the Author:
Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church and author of several books, including Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (with Reggie Joiner) and his latest book, "Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow." Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and parenting. He writes one of the most widely read church leadership blogs at www.CareyNieuwhof.com and hosts the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews top leaders each week.
Little Is The New Big
by Jon Acuff
The funny thing about having big fun with your kids is that it doesn’t take a big moment.
Have you ever noticed that? The times you planned something expensive and complicated with your kids, they barely blinked an eye. The time you washed the car in your driveway and threw sponges at each other they talked about forever.
Why does that happen?
I think it’s the “cardboard box” effect. Every parent has had one of those moments when your child ignores the present you got them and instead goes gaga for the box it comes in. “No,” you think to yourself, “that’s just a cardboard box. The actual toy lights up and has laser beam sounds and is amazing.” But your toy protests go ignored as they chew on their new favorite object on the planet.
The cardboard box effect continues as they get older and starts to apply to experiences, not just presents. I have forgotten week long vacations as a child but still remember the night my dad put his hand in the Jello at dinner. My brothers and I lost our minds as he scooped out a big red handful of dessert as if that was the most normal thing in the world.
We had big fun because he did something little.
In your pursuit to have fun with your kids, don’t put big pressure on yourselves.
Certainly there are moments that call for elaborate and detailed adventures, but little moments matter too.
A little trip to a bakery before school, a little water balloon fight, a little hand in the Jello, those are the fun kind of little moments that add up to big memories.
About the Author:
Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of five books. His latest, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck focuses on building a long-lasting career by investing in a “Career Savings Account.” Read his blog at Acuff.me and follow him on Twitter, @JonAcuff.