By Joey and Carla Link
December 9, 2020
God loved everyone in the world so much He sent His Son to live on earth, demonstrating for us what love is by giving Himself up for us so we can not only live life fully, but have the promise of eternal life. (John 3:16) This promise is especially meaningful at Christmas. During the Christmas season, we celebrate the wonderful gift God has given us by giving gifts to one another. We spend a lot of time thinking about what presents to get to show our love and appreciation to one another. When you stop and think about all the work everyone goes through to make Christmas special, have you thought about how you are using this once a year event to train your children to do the same? I (Joey) remember my parents taking me shopping so I could buy presents to take to church for the Sunday School gift exchange party. I didn’t pick the gift out, pay for it, or even wrap it (my mom did), but I proudly walked in to the party with my gift! This scenario repeated itself for the gifts I gave to family members on Christmas day. What were my parents teaching me through this whole experience? When it came to giving gifts, I had no ownership in the process. They decided everything; I was simply along for the ride. I didn’t have to think about what to get, how to earn money to pay for my gifts or how to wrap them. Yet I walked away from the event with gifts for myself. This taught me to think of myself and “getting” instead of teaching me to put the needs of others first and “giving”. At what age will you teach and train your children to begin thinking, planning, saving, and shopping for the gifts they give? Christmas gift-giving is a great time to teach your children:
- A gift costs the giver something
- A gift does not have to be something you buy; it can be a talent shared or service provided
- There are many creative ways to earn money to pay for gifts
- Giving gifts takes time and preparation
Preschool age children can help wrap the presents they give. Get plain paper bags and have them color them. I remember Carla had our girls dusting the baseboards in rooms when they were this age to earn money for the gifts they wanted to give. When kids are in elementary school, make lists of who they each want to give gifts to and what they want to give. Take them shopping to get an idea of the cost and put a budget together with each child. Have them come up with ways they can earn the money to buy them or they will need to cut back on the gifts they give. Working on lists together gives you the opportunity to talk about why you give gifts and share reasons why the people your child is giving them to are worthy of receiving them. I (Carla) remember the time one of our daughters did not want to give her brother a gift because she didn’t think he deserved it. I asked her if she deserved God’s gift of eternal life. Giving gifts is a wonderful time to remember we all get gifts we do not deserve. When your kids are old enough to earn money outside the home (babysitting, mowing lawns, etc.), have them add to their stewardship goals a savings account for gift giving. We taught our kids that a percentage of the money they earned went to tithe, savings, to spend as they pleased and for gifts. Early in December we had our kids choose toys or other items they were willing to give away. I (Carla) had each child help me clean the toys they picked and we gave them to a community organization that collected used toys in good condition for gifts for needy children. As a family, pick a local homeless shelter or a project like Samaritan’s Purse you can get gifts for as a family. Wash your kids’ coats and outerwear that no longer fit and take your children to a place where they are collected. By doing these kinds of things, you are teaching your children that God gave the gift of His Son to everyone and so should we. Your children can develop giving hearts and spirits. Remember it’s not just about giving a gift, it’s also about the thought that goes into a gift, the purpose and the cost for it. Jesus knew He was going to be the GIFT God gave everyone who believes in Him. He knew the purpose was so we would have a way to have eternal life. He also knew it was going to cost Him His life. God knew that too. So the giver of this gift, God, gave sacrificially for us to spend eternity with Him. He knew His Son was going to suffer and be in pain, both emotionally and physically. Yet both God and Jesus gave this gift to you and me and our children. As you teach your kids to give as Jesus did, what a better time to ask them if they are living like Jesus lived and if He lives in their hearts.