“Well, it will be 364 days until we get to have fun again.” This comment came from my 7 year old son as he and I were relaxing after the chaos of Christmas morning. My heart ached as I heard him say this. Memories of my own Christmas morning disappointments surfaced. I remembered opening all my gifts as a child and then feeling empty and sad when it was over. I hadn’t gotten everything on my list or maybe it was I didn’t get that one gift that would’ve made me feel happy. Seeing that look of disappointment on my own kids faces this Christmas morning was nearly my own undoing. Somehow, I was repeating the same mistake that my parents had made and I had no idea how to undo it. We had prayed and worshipped as a family all month. We even bought our own Advent wreath this year to try and shift our children’s focus!!! Come on! How did it still become all about what they got for Christmas? How did we allow them to set their hope and happiness in presents?
My sons comment haunted me through the night and into my time with Jesus the next morning.
“How do I change this pattern?” I asked Jesus. “How do I help them feel content and joy filled around Christmas and all through the year?”
I didn’t feel the way my children did. My relationship with Jesus had grown in a way that I was so content and filled this year. I knew that it wasn’t over just because the presents were unwrapped; with Jesus, the celebration and fun never had to end.
“I am older Jesus. How do I teach a 10 and 7 year old to not put their hope or desire in what they receive?”
I fretted over this. My heart and mind turning circles…fighting off a sense of failure as a parent. Finally I realized I needed to be still. I needed to hear the Spirit talk to me and fretting was not going to help.
In the silence, I was led to Acts 2 first. The story of the early church and how they never stopped gathering together and doing life together. They shared all that they had with one another. In short, they were all in each other’s business…an open door policy. My heart began to stir around this idea.
What if we truly interacted in ways that required us to step into each other’s mess to serve and sacrifice?
How would that change our hearts? I felt led next to another scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I chuckled as I read it. I could spend my entire life working on that one verse, and I felt I was beginning to see what the Spirit was saying to me. Finally I heard him speak to me clearly “This is a year of cultivating gratitude.” This was not new for me. I had heard the Spirit asking this of me for a couple months, and honestly I had not done it well. Complaints were easy to come by from me, and my children often heard me. I knew what he wanted us to do.
So that morning, my husband and I sat down with our children and allowed them to speak about their disappointments over Christmas. They shared honestly about what they wished they had received and why they felt so crummy after it was all over. We didn’t scold or make them feel guilty. We just let them vent. Then we talked about hope and where we set our hope. We talked about being thankful. Each one of us took a turn sharing what we were feeling ‘whiny’ about and finding a way to turn it around into a thankful thought instead. It was so good and I had hope that maybe this was it.
Of course an hour later it all fell apart as things often do in the baby stages!!! But I will cling to hope and fight for a spirit of thankfulness in my family this year. I will open my doors and allow people into our daily mess in the hopes of true fellowship. And maybe, just maybe next Christmas won’t be a letdown for my children but a season of joy, fellowship and thankfulness.
Christy Barber lives in Monument, Colorado with her adventuresome husband and two children. She pursues her heart by writing music, poems and creating whenever time allows. She wants to inspire hope through her own stories of struggle and journey with Jesus.