The True Meaning of Christmas

Well, the Christmas season is upon us in force!  I love this time of year.  Especially this year, with the good weather.  If you ask Jason he would say the weather stinks.  We should be covered in snow with unbearably cold temperatures.  But being from California, I love the more mild weather.  I know the snow would be good for us as far as the drought goes, but I would be lying if I didn’t say how much I LOVE the nice weather.  It is December and I can still walk outside during the day with bare feet and a t-shirt on!

I feel like Christmas is different for me in more ways than the weather this year.  As the kids grow and their understanding about the world changes, Christmas is changing.  I  should preface this next paragraph by saying that I love to shop.  It is very easy for me to get caught up in the whole materialism and “things” part of the season.  There are really great sales that make it sooo easy to buy things and spend lots of money!  I love to think about the looks on peoples faces when I give them the perfect gift.  I have long since realized that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on someone to give them the perfect gift, but at Christmas, there are just so many people to buy for that before I know it, I have a closet FULL of stuff and an empty bank account.  I am very lucky to have a frugal and grounded husband who keeps me on track and out of debt.  Before we started any of our Christmas shopping this year, we decided to set a budget for each child, since this is the area that I have the hardest time with.  I love to spoil my kids! :)  A dollar amount that is significantly smaller than in previous years.  I have been bound and determined to stay within my budget.  I feel very strongly, more so this year than in the past, that we need to be more concerned with the true spirit of the season than the things we get.  There are so many people in need and we have the means to really help others.  But also, I am feeling so strongly, almost anxious, that my kids need to learn that Christmas is about Christ and not about gifts.  It is hard to teach that lesson that when they get so much stuff!  My Mom, bless her heart, does the 12 Days of Christmas for my kids each year.  It is wonderful!  But that means that the 12 days before we even get to Christmas, they are opening a gift.  Then a gift Christmas Eve, which is our tradition.  And then of course Christmas morning there is the gift frenzy with all the rest of the gifts under the tree.  We are soo blessed!  We get so much stuff!  But I want my children to realize that our most important blessings come from Heavenly Father in ways that we can’t unwrap on Christmas morning.  Anyway, even though I have tried very hard to stay in my budget for each kid, we have exceeded it.  Doubled it in fact.  I am disappointed in myself.  I can return several things and get smaller versions…but that won’t decrease the amount of things they are getting.  I can just return a few things and not buy anything to replace it.  I don’t think I can express how difficult it would be for me to return the things I have bought.  The kids will LOVE them so much!  So where does that leave me?

I have really been trying to pray and do some soul searching.  I think it leaves me still focusing on the gift and “things” aspect of the season.  I am talking with Jason about what we can do to get back on track monetarily, but I am still left with how to teach my kids the true meaning of the season.  I need to change my whole perspective.  Stop focusing on the gifts myself.  Just giving my kids less isn’t going to teach them how to serve those in need or how to appreciate what they have been given.  The only way to do that is to set the example and really serve those around us.  And to involve the kids in that service.  That is really hard sometimes because they can’t keep a secret and they have no tact in their speech about other people appearance and situations.  They just call it how they see it and in not so quiet voices.  Also, it takes time to teach and lead and show them how and what to do.  It takes patience.  But, therein is the true meaning of Christmas.  Teaching, serving, loving and giving time.  I have started with baby steps in bringing this stronger spirit of Christmas into out home.  We read a scripture and Christmas story every night before bed and most nights we talk about what we have learned and how we can apply it to our own life.  Through our neighbors we have found a family with 8 kids that may not be having a Christmas this year because of some really terrible circumstances.  We have talked with our kids about it and are going to do secret Santa for this family together with another family or two.  We are really increasing the amount of Christmas activities that we do.  I had the opportunity to go to The Forgotten Carols with a friend last week and it was FABULOUS!!  I am totally taking my whole family next year.  Last night Jason and I went to the First Presidency Christmas Devotional and it was excellent as well!  I love our first presidency!  They are so inspired!  I am trying to go to the temple more.  We are taking the kids to shop for the secret Santa family and then going to see the lights at temple square in a week.  Anyway, you don’t need to hear my whole schedule.  But my point is, that this season, I am trying to give the kids more experiences as their gifts than presents as their gifts.  It is hard because the really spiritual things have age limits of 8 years and up.  So, we are trying find spiritual things to do without the age limit.  I would LOVE to serve with Garion and Kayla (if she is old enough) in a soup kitchen.  If anyone has any other ideas on activities we can do as a family to teach the true meaning of Christmas either this year or in years to come, please let me know.  I would love some ideas!  My next goal, will be to carry the attitude and acts of service throughout the year, with the kids involved!

It is funny to me, because it seems like I am going to be learning more than my kids this year about giving and serving and loving.  But I guess that is how it goes.  The teacher almost always learns more than the student at first.  If Jason and I  have done our job and taught them well enough, then they will learn from our examples what is truly important and when the time comes for them to teach, their experiences will deepen their understandings and increase their testimonies of Christ.  “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” -Mosiah 2:17