This week, it was blistering cold outside, so we crafted ourselves silly indoors. We sang, we drank cocoa, we played games, and we made more paper plate angels than you could imagine—which was fitting given that we lit the fourth of the candles on our Advent wreath this week, which is also commonly referred to as the “Angel Candle.” As my husband and I have made valiant attempts to set our hearts and minds on things above this season, we have also been proactively thinking ahead to Christmas morning and what exactly will await our children under the tree. While it proved a bit more challenging this year to keep the minimalist hat on, I am so happy to report we managed to stick to our three gift rule (not counting stockings) and have found that our purposeful purchases have set the stage for a day where our children seem truly focused on celebrating the birth of Christ—not the presents under the tree. The decisions for what to bring into our home and their lives, however, proves far more challenging as time goes on and our oldest grows. This year, for example, is the first where our oldest child truly “wanted” something and was very specific. Specific to the extent I felt that sting in my mommy heart knowing his eyes might actually fill with tears if he didn’t find that item under the tree. Be still my heart. I felt the pressure some parenting decisions cause, and while I was tempted to cross the line and buy more than necessary, I resisted, and I’m so excited to see those big brown eyes sparkle when he discovers his hopeful wish list item is actually awaiting him. While I know it’s not for everyone, there are some specific reasons we choose to give fewer physical items, and maybe you will, too!
- We want to keep the focus on the gift of Jesus. When we flood our homes with stuff, we eventually find our hearts thinking we need more stuff, when all we really need is Jesus—in our hearts and our homes. Christmas is not one of our birthdays. It is the day we celebrate His birth, and while giving good gifts represents the greatest Gift of all, when we go overboard we can lose sight of the simplicity of knowing Jesus.
All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. (James 1:17)
- We want to be good stewards of God’s resources. Our money is not really our money—it all belongs to Him. When we choose to spend in certain areas, it represents other areas we are choosing not to invest in. No material goods—certainly not battery-operated toys—are going to help clothe and care for the lives of children around the world who have none. But what if we have enough to give abundantly to them and our own kids? Just because we can buy more doesn’t mean we should. We want to create generous hearts, not attitudes of entitlement. And as kids grow, so do their tendencies to expect more. If you start with less, it helps keep the idea that less is more.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
- We want our kids to know true love can’t be bought. While I love (and I mean love!) giving gifts, I have to remind myself that it’s very easy to equate receiving material objects with being loved. We all know people who shower others with gifts because they aren’t able to provide physical or emotional presence. While there are many factors to this tender topic, I want my children to know nothing they ever purchase for me will let me know they love me, and likewise nothing I purchase them will prove my love. I want them to experience and flourish in the freedom that a relationship of love is nothing any store will ever sell. Handwritten notes, songs recorded, paintings made—those things are priceless, and I want them to appreciate receiving every gift (no matter the cash price) from an early age. If it’s reality while they are small, it’s more likely for it to be their reality when they grow.
Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
By giving fewer trinkets, I have found our kids are more likely to see things as treasures. As parents, our hearts have grown more content in our choices as time has progressed, and we try to honor God with how we spend the resources He has provided. I find it odd to put our budget on the back burner and blow up the bank account for some Black Friday chaos. While I don’t know how many gifts Jesus actually received from those who came to worship Him, I know the three gifts the Bible mentions that the wise men brought: frankincense, gold, and myrrh (Matthew 1:10-11). So if three was good enough for God, then three should be good enough for us. And the three (plus those sweet stocking stuffers) we give will be seriously thought out and given with much purpose to those receiving them.
As I look under the tree and in the stockings filled with great care, I am elated to wake up Christmas morning, light the Christ candle on our Advent wreath, sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, and then watch as my children continue discovering the greatest Gift of all and celebrating His birth! I can’t wait to see how God continues to open their hearts as they open good gifts.
Merry Christmas to all of you, and a very Happy Birthday to Jesus!
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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