The Ultimate Gift

By Jessica Connor

Try as I might, I’m never sure if I’m communicating the right message about Christianity to my children.

At ages 4 and 2, they know the basics: Jesus is our savior. God rules the universe.

I get a little rush of joy when my daughter points out “Jesus crosses” as we drive down the street or my son declares Christ is the “ultimate superhero.”

“They get it!” I think happily.

But then there’s there other night, when I’m tucking my son Cameron into bed.

“Mommy, I know all about Christmas,” he tells me.

“Oh?” I ask, stroking his soft hair and expecting a tale about Christ’s birth, which we have been talking about for his whole life now.

“Yes,” he says, grinning. “That’s when Santa Claus and the raining deer come!”

“Mm. And why are they coming?”

“To bring presents.”

“And why are they bringing presents?”

“Because I’ve been very good.”

“And to celebrate…”

“To celebrate good little boys and girls everywhere,” he says smugly, sure that he has it all figured out.

I, of course, then launch into the whole “reason for the season” story we always talk about, and go to bed feeling unsettled because my son thinks Christmas is more about presents than about Jesus Christ himself.

Of course he knows about Santa. Any child raised in America can’t miss the massive white-bearded, red-suited character who dominates the entrance to Wal-Mart or the largest float in the Christmas parade, who plays the lead role in half the children’s books we read this time of year.

But I thought I’d done a pretty decent job of “riding the line,” letting my child appreciate the fun “North Pole” tales even while we tell Bible stories and throw a Christmas-morning birthday party for Jesus.

I guess not.

That’s why, as a parent, I especially appreciate how United Methodist churches across the state are increasingly focusing on a Christ-dominated holiday through programs like the Advent Conspiracy or “warmth trees” or “love straws” or any other alternative Christmas giving programs featured in this month’s front-page article, “Countering Christmas Commercialism.”

When we all do this together, we can far more effectively push back the present-oriented mentality that pervades our culture, and embrace the real meaning of Advent.

Sure, giving presents is fun. But giving of ourselves as a way to honor the ultimate gift, Christ, is far more worthwhile.

Jesus is the reason for the season. And at least at my house, we’ll be doing our part to honor that.

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