Published December 2018
As I write, it is the beginning of October and time to start thinking about accumulating gifts for various family members for Christmas. The shops are already putting up decorations and the catalogues are flowing in thick and fast.
So many choices, so much stuff, such a lot of gadgets and gizmos. Apparently, according to the US National Retail Federation projections, this year Americans will spend a staggering $600 billion on Christmas, and I’m sure us Aussies are not far behind.
And yet, honestly, my teenagers have need of nothing.
They have cupboards of clothes, electronic devices, bicycles (which they never use), toiletries, books, stationary and knick-knacks. Yet I am sure they will each come up with a list of what they ‘need’ for Christmas.
In his book Gotta Have It! Dr Gregg Jantz coins the term “excessity” — when excess becomes a “necessity.” We ‘need’ to have all the things we want. Excessities—whether they are activities, behaviours, or objects—promise protection or satisfaction in a difficult world.
“Yet they never deliver,” he adds.
If I think about what my kids really need this Christmas, and what I wish I could give them, it is not things that I can’t afford, but things that I am unable to pass on, or that I struggle to get for myself – contentment, kindness, perspective, gratitude and a strong self-image.
I wish I could give my kids perspective on how much they have in relation to the rest of the world – not only materially, but in terms of love and opportunities, stability and freedom.
If they could see how truly blessed they are, perhaps they would be more content with their second-hand clothes and electronics, smaller rooms and fewer vacations. And be grateful for their unbroken home, loving parents, stable schooling and inter-generational faith heritage.
I wish I could give them perspective on how short and unpredictable life is – that each day is a gift too rare to waste staring at a tablet for hours and re-watching endless, inane Youtube makeup tutorials or animal montages.
Also that whatever hassles they are going through at school, or whatever awkwardness they are experiencing growing up that “this too will pass”. Suffering is universal, life can be very hard, but bad times pass and there are always others worse off.
As the Bible puts it: Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
I wish I could give them perspective on themselves physically, that they are young, fit, healthy, attractive and clever, and that a few pimples and the size of their feet or the shape of their eyebrows are really so unimportant! I wish I could help them to get over themselves, so that they can turn their gaze outward and look to alleviate the suffering and problems of others.
Most of all, I wish I could gift wrap and force upon them the hugest parcel of kindness. The older I get, the more I realise that what the world needs most desperately is simple kindness. Kindness to overlook each other’s sins and look beyond each other’s irritating quirks, to anticipate the best in others, to smile at strangers, to reach out to the needy and to let offences go.
My kids can’t even stay civil to each other through dinner!
I can’t force these on my children, or discipline them into them; and although I encourage and try to train them in these virtues, I know only God is able to reach their hearts and change their outlook.
So this Christmas I thank God for the gift He gave us over 2000 years ago – Himself, as a man, Jesus, to not only show us how to live, but give us the opportunity to die to our old, destructive natures and take on His perfection. With His enabling power within us, we CAN be changed into kind, generous, content people, who live to give, and have the correct perspective on our worth and purpose.
I so deeply want that for my girls – and for myself.