Givers and Takers

The holiday is over. Packages and paper, like confetti, are strewn across the floor. Mom and Dad are exhausted from a late night of playing Santa. The kids? They’re just getting started. There are toys to break, video games to wear out, and clothes to admire.

It’s a good day, the kind that passes by unnoticed, but lodges itself somewhere in the heart. Life’s best moments are often like that. Just another day in this grace we call life.

Our kids are older now: 22, 19, 15. We wistfully recall the days when they’d gang up on our bed at dawn on Christmas morning shouting, “Time for presents!” Actually, they still attack our bed on Christmas morning, which can be quite a jolt for Mom and Dad.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’d trade the early days for the present time. Somehow, watching your children develop into teenagers and adults who make you proud brings with it an even deeper joy. Not better, but certainly deeper.

When our kids were young, we wanted them to experience the joy of giving at Christmas time. But with the avalanche of consumerism that overwhelms our children during the holiday season, how do you stem the tide? How do you teach them to give when all they are ever asked is “What do you want for Christmas?”

We gave it some thought and, among other things, we began a family tradition that we still honor. On a certain day before Christmas, we would trek to the mall as a family. To each child we would give money for gifts. The instructions were simple: buy gifts for every member of the family. Combine your money if you want.

At the beginning, Mom and Dad helped with the purchases. Soon, however, they were prepared to do it on their own. Generally speaking, they first shop as a group for Mom and Dad’s gift. Then they scout for one another.

Every year, these are the gifts we save for last. They’re not the most expensive gifts we open, but often the most significant.

In fact, this tradition has become such an important part of our family that we do it even to this day. It’s probably our favorite part of the holiday season.

I suppose it may seem strange for three grown and nearly grown children to be shopping for their parents and one another with money given them by Mom and Dad. But for us it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it.

I’ve often thought of how ironic it is: we give our children money so that they can go out and buy us gifts. Why would we do this? Because we love attention? Because we like gifts? Because we’re selfish?

Of course not. Then why such joy in receiving a gift which essentially came from our own pocket? Because of the love from which the gifts spring. Because of the satisfaction we feel in teaching our children to live unselfishly. Because of what we see in their faces as they discover for themselves the joy of giving.

After all, all of life is a gift of grace, and the sooner we learn it, the better.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty, might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).