“Brother! You better stop doing that! Don’t you see Elfy is watching? Don’t you want presents for Christmas?”
My littlest automatically straightened up (well, for about 7 minutes) at the reprimand of his older siblings. For a few minutes, the fact that someone was watching and that someone could supposedly withhold gifts in accordance with bad behavior, well, that was enough to stop whatever ruckus was going on in the living room. But fast forward an indecently short amount of time, and some other craziness ensued, leading me to wonder... what am I teaching my child in this season? Let me explain.
So, before I get called a grinch or ruining Christmas, let’s get one thing clear. Santa is fun. Elf on the Shelf is fun. Traditions and these kinds of things have incredible binding power in families, and this joyful season SHOULD be remembered for all of the wonder it brings to our children. I’m not saying to get rid of it all if that is your thing... just maybe, look at it a tad differently.
Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, is here, and as parents, this is the season where we happily can hold everything over the heads of our children. Presents are coming and we go into the mode of our having our children feel like their gifts must be earned.
Didn’t you clean your room? No Christmas presents then!
Stop fighting with your sister, or you won’t get anything for Christmas!
You know Santa is watching, right?
Why yes, Sparkles, the Elf on the Shelf is making sure you’re right!
We can control our child’s behavior with relative ease because we have the power to give the proverbial lump of coal in exchange for our kids being unrepentant sinners. Now, I know of very few parents that would follow through on that promise of not giving our children presents because really, we love them through it all. The expectation of seeing their faces light up on Christmas morning is truly irresistible and a magic all of its own. And if you’re like me, Christmas presents are bought on Black Friday because they are cheaper, so I’m not returning them. Nor do I have use for a Lego Set or sparkly make-up kit...well maybe the make-up kit. The moral of the story- my kids are getting those presents no matter if they are good or not.
You see, attaching a gift to behavior is an easy thing to do. Whether it’s at Christmas, how we treat others who slight us, or even games we play with ourselves (I earned this cookie...now I’m going to my closet to eat it so my kids won’t take it), reward systems are so inherent in our make-up because they are logical. They make sense! Gifts, blessings, or the lack thereof are a matter of being deserved and merited. This leads us to endless arguments about fairness in our homes and within ourselves when some undeserved blessing occurs. That goes out of our realm of logic and understanding. There’s a word for that- GRACE. And when we genuinely think about this undeserved gift, it’s a lot messier than we realize. And without going farther down this road right now, let’s stop here at this thought. Our kids don’t deserve the gifts we give them... but they are given out of our deep love and grace.
And this is EXACTLY what our Heavenly Father does for us. We don’t deserve Him- but He gave Himself to us anyway. He loves us always when we do wrong. This is the truth I want my kids to see and know and experience this Christmas.
I propose treating the gifts of this season a little differently this year. I mean, this is the year of different, right? When you enjoy all of the small joys and blessings of the season, remind yourself and your children that God freely gives us this delight, even when they are undeserved. When you give your presents to your children, remind them that you love them when they are good and bad. Tell them it is your joy that they are your children and that you delight in giving them gifts. Above all, remind them that this is what Jesus does for us. While we were undeserving, He died for us and brought us into right place with Him. He is the greatest gift of all. And can I also urge you to do something else? Don’t just say those words... spend some time with your Heavenly Father and feel them deep in your soul for yourself. Let this undeserved grace draw you closer to Jesus and your family too.
Let this season be a celebration of undeserved gifts...and be transformed by the delight they bring.