So, as you know, it’s the holidays. Kinda hard to miss it. We have entered the season of glitter — everything appears bright and shiny. On TV, people are laughing and loving each other. No one seems stressed or over-scheduled. We have entered the season of rebirth and we are getting ready to be handed a “do-over” card on January 1st.


This season is such a mental conundrum for me, full of emotions. I always start the season with the best of intentions: by lighting the advent wreath, reading the Bible before Sunday dinner to highlight Jesus, His birth and journey to the ultimate sacrifice, but, even with all this spiritual prep work, Husband and end up I showing our kids how many toys can get stuffed under one Christmas Tree. Every year, no matter how I try to remember the real meaning of this season, materialism creeps in.


I’ve never been able to pinpoint the moment that the switch gets flipped, but as we get closer to December 25, time slips away and Husband and I find ourselves at Target buying the generic toys off the shelf. Every year! You know what I mean, right?


There is this mental knowledge that (for Christians) Christ’s birth is the reason. But then the world creeps in, and tells us to be afraid. There is no true meaning behind all these toys, just a fear that if we don’t buy toys in mass quantity, our kids will miss out on the joy of going back to school to share in the ever so popular conversation, “What did you get?”


I am not so sure my children truly understand how this time of year could be used to grow wiser, especially as I have to work so hard to wrap my mind around it myself. To foster the true meaning of the advent season, be people-oriented instead of toy-oriented. As the stacks of wrapped gifts under the tree grows higher and higher, I know deep down I’m not helping my kids realize that there are people who love you and care about you and there are people who want to be loved and cared for. When there are too many presents and not enough giving of love and care, all you end up with is a mass of gift receipts and an emptiness. December 26th rolls around and my children’s world is the same. Nothing has changed. They are not wiser, I am not wiser, an opportunity was missed. But this year, this year I’m getting a grip and wrestling the empty materialism to the ground.


This year, I am taking a hard line.


There will be a deeper meaning to our Christmas. This year we are cutting down on materialism and discussing the gift of service to others. This year, we are paring down on the endless shopping and have decided to try the “Give Four” approach to Christmas. We sat the kids down and with nervous words confessed the truth: we have fallen for the commercialism on TV. We have fallen for the “What is everybody else doing?” mentality and we, in past years, have failed to live the deep meaning of this season. But this year, as a family, we’re going to seek deeper meaning for Christmas. There is a whole world around us, full of people in need of not just things, but of love. And we need to honor that.


Santa will still come and visit, mom and dad will still give you gifts, but the gifts have to have some meaning behind them.


This year we will buy you:

Something To Wear

Something nice, but also practical. To keep you warm if you volunteer, to help someone else.


Something To Read

A book that will challenge you and help you grow into a responsible, caring adult, and open your eyes to the world around you.


Something You Want

So you can always remember to be generous when others want something.


Something You Need

For you to know how important it is to meet other’s needs when possible.


You may ask for Santa to bring you a few gifts, but they can not be electronic and must encourage imagination. In return, you must do something service-oriented for someone every day. You must look at someone in in his or her eyes every day and smile and wish them well. We will hold each other accountable at the dinner table and talk about how we have extended joy and kindness to those who need it this time of year.


I explained to my family that I want us to be less about the things, and more about the people. When we get too many things on Christmas we get caught up looking at the things and not the people. We marvel at the toys and we forget to marvel at people. This year, we’re going to make it about the people. Do something for someone else. Give them the gift of service and attention. Hold a door open for them, pick up something they dropped, give more hugs, pay for someone’s coffee, take a meal to someone who is hurting and hungry. Let's give the gift of service. We need to understand who we share this world with, this world that God created and His son, born on Christmas, died to save.


When we told the kids, Daughter understood immediately and was on board. Son, in his eight-year-old wisdom, immediately started negotiations, which furthered my resolve that this year we needed fewer toys and more service in our lives. This shift in attitude for this holiday won’t be easy for us as parents. You want so much for your children to smile Christmas morning as they run to the tree. You want so much to give them the world. But what good is the world, if you don’t show compassion for the people in it? This year, I am hoping the kids go back to school and change that ever so popular conversation to, “Whom did you serve?”