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What We Give Our Kids for Christmas

Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to point our hearts to Christ, yet because it is so FULL of events, shopping, eating, and gathering, it can very easily become a season we simply get through. As a parent, I’ve often found this a stressful season, so keeping it simple and utilizing a few of the typical Christmas traditions to point us to Jesus has allowed us to make it through the month, while also enjoying the “reason for the season.”

UPDATED 12/5/2019

Giving (Just) Three Gifts

We’ve chosen to guide our gift-giving through the giving of three gifts. Though we don’t know exactly how many gifts the wise men gave the Christ-child, there are three mentioned in Scripture: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these point symbolically to the Messiah and His purpose for coming to earth.

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

  • Gold – symbolic of kingship
  • Frankincense – was used in worship and represents the presence of God
  • Myrrh – was used to prepare a body for burial

I love this song from Keith and Kristyn Getty and the way they refer to these three gifts. “Shepherd’s bow before the lamb gazing at the glory. Gifts of men from distant lands prophesied the story. Gold, a King is born today. Incense, God is with us. Myrrh, his death will make a way and by his blood he’ll win us.”

Joy Has Dawned Upon the World (Official Lyric Video)

NEW Lyric Video for "Joy Has Dawned Upon the World" Visit www.gettymusic.com/merrychristmas for free MP3 & sheet music downloadsWritten by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, this carol was written as part of a collection teaching through the Apostle's Creed and tells the story of the Gospel throughout the verses. Consider using this in your church and pairing it with a classic carol such as "Angels We Have Heard On High." Enjoy this video? Come sing along with Keith & Kristyn at one of our concerts! Full tour schedule at www.gettymusic.com/christmas. Like and leave comments below! #TuesdayTuneUp#GettyMusic#IrishChristmas#SingChristmas

Posted by Keith and Kristyn Getty on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, just as the wise men brought Jesus meaningful gifts, we give gifts with meaning as well. (Isn’t this sweet picture so cute? My kids are much older now, but this is from our early days of giving three gifts.)

A Gift of Gold – to Jesus Our King

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

This looks a bit different every year. When they were younger, each child got a set amount of money to give a present to Jesus. Specifically, a gift to give to others in His name (Matthew 25:35-40). They’ve given animals through World Vision gift catalogue, donations to our local Baptist children’s home, Gift-a-Verse through The Seed Company, and more. We’ve also had years where we they pooled their money to add to the annual gift we give for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. As they have grown older, we encourage them to have more ownership of this, and choose for themselves how they want to give back to Jesus including ways for them to earn the money they give … but they keep fairly well-stocked in cash from generous grandparents.

As a symbol of their gift to Jesus, they each get a gold ornament. These are usually just $1 ornaments from WalMart, but I’ve added a tag to each to help us remember the year and what they gave. (I didn’t start the tags until later on, so I don’t have all the year’s gifts labeled.) When they leave the house, they will have their own set of ornaments to keep. I hope they will grow to treasure these ornaments and use them one day to carry on the tradition of giving to Jesus each Christmas.

A Gift of Frankincense – to Meet with God

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD.” Exodus 30:34-3

The second gift is something that will encourage them in their walk with Christ; something they will use to meet with the Lord. Some years they’ve received a new Bible, devotional book, or Bible study. One year they got a basket to hold all their “quiet time” items, including a prayer journal Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , pens, and K-cups of hot chocolate reserved only for their time with God. My hope is that this will become the gift that they treasure more and more as they grow in their relationship with God.

A Gift of Myrrh – to Connect with One Another

Ok, so there is no great way to connect with the symbolism of myrrh! But we’ve traditionally made this third gift something that helps us connect with one another. Board games, a family gaming system, Disney passes (We can get these for really cheap as Florida residents. When we do this, this is also in lieu of birthday gifts, birthday party, Easter basket, etc. for the rest of the year!) Especially as our kids get older and we all have our different activities launching us out and about, having experiences we all share together has been amazing family time.

St. Nick Stockings

Another fun way we’ve used Christmas traditions to point to Jesus and His call on our lives to live for His glory is through our stockings. Instead of filling them with things, we fill them with small gifts and encouraging words to one another, focusing more on the latter than the former.

In the past, we’ve put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month. However, with moving and the craziness of the kid being older and our schedule fuller, we’ve been lax on this tradition. This year will be a great time to make a more concerted effort to encourage one another.

When the kids were smaller, they tended to give us little trinkets of theirs they thought mommy or daddy would want. So sweet.

One of the really fun things is that we store all the notes within the stockings the rest of the year. So each year when we hang our stockings, we have past notes to look through. (I try to jot the year on the back of the notes. Most are just small pieces of paper.)

The real “St. Nick” was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We’ve talked to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  was a great resource when my kids were little, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ. It might be fun to watch again as its been a few years since we’ve done so.

I’m so grateful we get this time of the year to intentionally point our hearts to the coming of Christ!

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Set your gaze on Christ this Christmas

It’s a downright fight for me to remember the reason for the season: celebrating Emmanuel, God with us. Amidst (what seems like) endless parties, shopping lists, and family gatherings, the season gearing up to Christmas Day is typically rushed and stressful. Beyond this busyness is a constant temptation to indulge. From grandma’s cooking to the latest and greatest gadget, the inclination of my heart and flesh to be gratified through toys and treats is given continual opportunity to think about self. My wants. My wishes. My will.

So, yes, busyness is a problem. Excessiveness and self-gratification, too. But the biggest hurdle in the way of celebrating and honoring Christ this Christmas is not primarily in the external distractions—it’s in my propensity to want what I want, how I want it, when I want it. I forget that life is not all about me. Christmas surely isn’t either. I must be intentional to remember that Christmas is, indeed, about Christ. It’s not primarily about celebrating time with family, making memories for the children in our lives, or showing love through gift-giving. Christmas is a celebration of Christ our Savior.

The actions you and I take during this Christmas season (and every other day of the year) are important. We exist to worship God. Yes, God has given us good gifts to enjoy, family to love, and a community to serve. But every party we attend, conversation we engage, and shopping trip we make ought to have an attitude of worship as the undercurrent. A desire to honor and glorify the God who sent His only Son for us should permeate our days. As we enter this Christmas season, let’s do so with a view toward worship and turn our hearts toward the glad tidings the coming of Christ bring to our souls.

p.s. If you are looking for a study to help you to just that—point your heart toward the significance of the coming of Christ, join me for this 12-day journey. Let’s set our gaze on Christ this Christmas!

Christmas Bible Study

December is buuuuuusy. This Christmas study will help you remember the reason for the season through a Christmas hymn and  two timely passages a day.

Learn more here.

 

What to do with Santa?

Santa doesn’t come to our house .

{Gasp!}

Yes you heard me right. We don’t do Santa.

I know this is a hot topic, and before I go anywhere else, I want to say that I am no way suggesting that Santa is evil, or that families are “in sin” by having Santa come to their home. This is where our family has personally landed, as we strive to point our kids to Jesus during the Christmas season.

That being said, here is what we have decided as a family when it comes to Ol’ St. Nick.

We desire to avoid confusion.

There are many reasons for why we chose this route; the bottom line is that we don’t want to muddy the waters when it comes to teaching our children about God. Noel Piper puts into words exactly how we feel about Santa (emphasis mine):

For several reasons, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. First, fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Second, celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the crumbs of reality.We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able, at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort that understanding.

Third, think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical preschooler. Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the “attributes” of Santa:

• He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
• He rewards you if you’re good.
• He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
• He gives you good gifts.
• He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

—Noel Piper, Treasuring God in our Traditions (You can download this book for free here.)

So what, then, do we do with Santa?

We don’t ignore Santa.

We don’t ignore Santa when we see him in the mall. They get a bit excited to see him, just as they would Mickey Mouse, Sleeping Beauty or Lightning McQueen. But in our kids minds, as much as they can comprehend, he is fictional.

While Chris and I feel completely confident in our decision to not have Santa visit our house (we have made the same decision for the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) there is some good that “Santa” can bring to our celebration of Christ’s coming. 

St. Nicholas was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We talk to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving is a great resource, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ.

I really love this idea, where “in the spirit of thoughtfulness and generosity practiced by St. Nicholas, family members put little cards, treats or gifts inside.” We put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month.

We desire to guard other family’s traditions.

My oldest son is in First Grade and I cannot be there every moment to cover up his mouth before he shatters his classmate’s Santa dreams. I try to remind him, whenever Santa comes up, that it is not up to him to tell people about Santa; it is up to the parents to tell their children the truth about Santa, NOT HIM.

So, what do you do about Santa? Incorporate him in your traditions? Ignore him?