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With the Christmas just around the corner, I can’t help but smile.  I know I’ve said it before, but it’s my favorite time of year!  I love the crunch of leaves, the gentle breeze, crisp mornings, the smells, the family gatherings, the coziness of home. However, I long to keep Christ the center of our Christmas and not on the craziness of gift giving.

Recently, I asked the question “Can Christmas just be Christmas?” And I offered some ways to really push back from what Christmas has become and focus in on what Christmas really is.

The Most Important Thing About Gift Giving

I also alluded to the whole gift giving craziness that has seemed to overtake us.  And that’s the one thing I don’t love about Christmas. The constant worry about gifts and all that surrounds gift-giving and receiving drives me crazy!  Don’t get me wrong, we love to give gifts.  It’s so much fun to watch someone you love enjoy something you picked just for them.  There’s an amazing feeling when you succeed in pulling off the “perfect” gift.

In order to pull off the perfect Christmas, people flood the stores on Black Friday and storm online shops on Cyber Monday. They have lists in hand going down and checking off. Some behave more like the children they are buying for and less like adults.

I know that as parents we want to make the Christmases of our children magical. I’ll admit, there’s not much that’s more magical than Christmas! However, we’ve allowed our desire to make things perfect for our kids stress us completely out! And can I be honest? Even Christmas can’t be perfect, no matter how hard we try. Even the first Christmas, while from it came the Perfect Lamb, was in itself not perfect.

A Season of Love, Giving, Joy, & Simplicity

Rather than presents, presents, presents, I long for a season of love, giving, joy, and simplicity.

As I think back to the reason we celebrate as Christians, I remind myself of the simplicity of the night our Savoir was born. There was no parade, no lights, no gifts. The things surrounding that night were…simple.

Love– the love of a mother and father as they held their Son. Love that looked down from above.

Giving– the giving of Jesus to us in the form of a baby. He became like us so that we could become like He is. There’s the giving of hope, a hope that only He can give.

Joy– the joy of a mother and father. The joy that a chorus of angels could not contain! The joy of shepherds who were the lowliest of low, yet they had been invited to come see the precious Christ child.

Simplicity– Only animals and smelly shepherds made a visit to the new parents that night. New parents who had no place to stay and birth their baby, no nice bed or fancy clothes–only a trough and some cloth.

When did we decide that in order to celebrate Christmas we had to buy until our credit cards are maxed out?

It’s time go back to freely giving–no strings attached, no expectations, no judgement. Simple thanks. Simple joy. Simply loving one another as we are loved by our Father. Just like that night. God the Father freely gave his Son. We didn’t ask for Him; we didn’t know we needed Him. And we certainly didn’t want Him. Nevertheless, God gave–freely.

The Most Important Thing About Gift Giving

Can we break away from this gift giving craziness?

Over the years, we’ve tried a few different things to bring focus back to Jesus and back to being thankful.

Three gifts.

From the time of Nan’s first Christmas, we have tried to keep the focus off of Santa and on Jesus where it belongs. For years, we gave each of our kids four gifts: three that represented the three Jesus received and one from Santa. We always talked to the kids about why they got three gifts from us and how the wise men brought extravagant gifts to the Christ child.  This simple tradition alone kept us from going too crazy with Santa Claus and spending absurd amounts of money or charging outrageous amounts to a credit card.

If you are looking for a way to make it easier to transition to a more Christ-centered Christmas, this is definitely a good choice. We did this for more than 10 years, and it does help!

Something you want; something you need. Something to wear; something to read.   

A few years ago, someone shared this idea with me. I thought it was an amazing way to better do our “three gifts” method. And it was because it gave us more direction, and we thought of different types of gifts as we tried to find gifts in each of these categories. However, even this became too much with seven, now eight, kids. We were spending too much money, and the stress of it all began to zap our joy of the holidays. Also, we were running out of room fast, even bookshelf room. I know, I know–is there ever such a thing as too many books?

Focusing on the ONE thing.  

That’s when we decided to focus on one thing. A couple of years ago, the hubs and I really were fed up with the whole commercialized Christmas and stress associated with all the gift crazy. We wanted more than anything to really, truly get back to a place of simplicity. Our hearts desired to keep Jesus the focus of the Christmas season. The Lord showed us a way to do that. He taught this simple truth: [clickToTweet tweet=”A gift is something someone wants you to have.” quote=”A gift is something someone wants you to have.”]

No more Christmas lists.  

We asked our kids to not give lists, and we purposed to listen to them as they shared the things that they would like to have. Here’s what happened.

We listened more closely and made so much more effort to make that one thing a blessing to them. I’m not saying that the one thing was a super expensive thing either.

Last year for example, my twins both got a stick horse. Their older sister had gotten one the year before, and they constantly fussed over the one stick horse. Ya’ll, a $10 stick horse brought complete joy! And I couldn’t even attempt to guess how many miles they have ridden those horses this past year or how often said horses found themselves in bed next to his or her owner.

All of the kids loved their one thing, and they were completely surprised.

What if? 

What if instead of asking for a list, we were attentive to those we love and picked up on the things they mention that they would like to have?  Maybe we start digging deeper with each other and finding out what the other wants or better yet, what they need. What if we prayed about each gift for each person we want to buy for? What would that look like?

I’m so glad you asked! It will look like the beautiful Christmas you dream of. Our pastor challenged us to pray and seek guidance where gift giving was concerned rather than dreading it. This was his challenge to us: Let it be a gift of love, something you want them to have, something they need, something to point them to Jesus and His love for us–all wrapped up in one. And sharing Jesus, my friend, is the most important thing about gift giving!

Can I get back to simple?

I know that if you are used to a more elaborate Christmas, the very idea of making such a drastic swing seems scary. I was afraid, too, that first year, but we have loved Christmas so much more! If you have been on a gift-buying frenzy (no judgement–we’ve been there), it’s hard to imagine what a Christmas like I’m talking about will look like. You are scared of how everyone will receive it. I understand that completely. In light of that, my advice would be to take baby steps to get the focus back where you want it.

It will also require prayer and seeking the Lord’s will for your family. What we do may not work for your family, and that is okay!

Check out this post at Joy Pursued for 7 Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions for more ways to help pull the focus away from gifts and back where it really belongs–on Jesus:

our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The Most Important Thing About Gift Giving

12 comments on “Holidays Made Simple: The Most Important Thing About Gift Giving”

  1. I am totally on board with your suggestion to PAY ATTENTION to our loved one’s needs and instead of doing “lists” really think about how we can care for them through meeting a small need or providing a small “joy.” Love this and love that you have released all the obligation and stress of it. I am striving for that myself this year, and love the feeling of no strings attached giving, and also the reverse: not worrying if I don’t give a gift to someone who has a gift for me.

    • Yes! I always feel so bad if someone gives me something and I don’t have a gift to offer. Glad you brought that up! I pray your family has a blessed Christmas, Stephanie!

  2. Such wisdom as always like a salve to my soul! My very favorite part though —> We didn’t ask for Him; we didn’t know we needed Him. And we certainly didn’t want Him. Nevertheless, God gave–freely. Thank you so much for this.


  3. I have four adult children and TEN grandchildren, so I started the Four Simple Gifts years ago, and it has simplified gift giving and has been a huge success! Great post! Stopping by from Grace Girls!

  4. Great post! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insight on this topic! It’s definitely something I want to implement with my young son and any other future children we have.
    Have a wonderful Christmas! 🙂

  5. This is such a great, “getting back to basics” post! I love practical ideas for making Christmas what it’s truly supposed to be. It’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness and miss the miracle, the wonder, the incredible Gift of salvation and peace that Christ brings.

    Thanks for the practical tips as well – this really does take the pressure off to know that there are others out there bucking the system and thriving at Christmas. Very inspiring. 😉


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