The difference between Christmas when my two children were young and Christmas when my two children were very young might be measured by the choices of presents they hoped to get. Their ideas of which toys they prefer have varied from year to year to the extent that advertisements aimed at children vary from year to year. But that’s not how I measure the changes in Christmas.
There was a time when I could say to the kids, “Okay, I realize that you want every Teen-age Mutant Ugly Turtle (or whatever the latest over-manufactured toy collection was), every Turtle enemy, and every vehicle and action set that you don’t already have, but remember this. If you don’t get what you ask for, it’s because Santa Claus wants to give you something he knows you’ll like better.”
And they actually fell for it.
Before that, there was the time when I could buy their toys while they went shopping with me. In that toddler obliviousness of theirs, they didn’t notice that after they excitedly slapped their drool-covered hands all over a toy that attracted their attention, it ended up in the shopping cart and later under the Christmas tree — but only if Mom agreed with their choices, based on price and educational value, of course.
One year I made the mistake of suggesting to the kids that they look through the Sunday newspaper ads and cut out the pictures of things they wanted. I imagined this as a quiet activity to keep them busy while I finished some work on my computer. I told them they could glue the pictures onto a piece of paper to mail to the North Pole.
Boy did that backfire!
The educational value of Christmas gifts is only of benefit to the parents as they silently tabulate which mistakes to avoid the following year.
However, the real difference between Christmases is measured by how the children decorate the Christmas tree. I remember well the tree that fell over because the kids hung all the ornaments on one branch. It was odd how, after I distributed the ornaments more evenly, they slowly gravitated back to that one branch — except for those that were hung more than three feet off the ground.
Then came the year when I didn’t have to explain the rationale behind decorating the whole tree. My youngest told me how to do it. So I sat back and let the children decorate the highest branches. I even let them hang up the glass ornaments that had been stored in the attic after it dawned on me that crawling babies like to eat ornaments.
That was an important year for my children. They began helping to make Christmas happen. They realized that Christmas is not, at its heart, something that happens to them. It is not a collection of clipped toy ads that, by the power of wishing and pleading, become wrapped presents on Christmas morning.
Rather, they understood that Christmas is something that people do with decorations and cards and shopping carts to spread the joy of the very first Christmas. It’s a special celebration that includes Mass and carols and a crèche that honors the baby Jesus. And without a celebration of God becoming man, wouldn’t it be a lot harder to spread the joy of Christ to the rest of the world?
Reflection question for family discussion:
What is your favorite part of celebrating Christmas? Where is Jesus in this?
Lord Jesus, help us to always remember, in everything that we do, that Christmas is about You and Your love and the reason why You came to earth as a baby human. Today we promise to honor Your gift of love by the gifts we give and by the way we receive gifts.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
© 2017 by Terry Modica of Good News Ministries