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NOTE: This post is not addressing those parents who do not have the financial means to buy gifts. That is a different topic entirely. This is about choosing not to give any gifts with the intent of teaching our children to be selfless.


I’m seeing a trend this Christmas in the conservative Christian community that has me a little bit uncomfortable:
No Christmas presents.

Parents are deciding not to give gifts to their children this year, in a effort to help them see the “true meaning of Christmas.”
I understand it. But we’re not joining in. The following thoughts are just that; our thoughts and perspective on the matter. They are in no way intended to pass judgement on those who make other choices. We respect God’s ability to direct people in different, sometimes seemingly contradictory ways. This is what we see as the best way for our family to handle Christmas.

Sometimes the unspoken message takes a stronger root than the spoken one.

Of course we want to teach our children to be content and not to be focused on material things. We also want to nurture a spirit of giving and helping others. I’m just not so sure that withholding Christmas gifts, especially in a culture that celebrates Christmas with the giving and receiving of gifts, is the way to do accomplish those worthy goals.

Personally, I think it might be a good way to inadvertently teach our children a few lessons we don’t really want them to learn, such as:

  • God is a scrooge and it irritates Him when we want things that aren’t life-sustaining needs.
  • We please God when we live self-depriving lives.
  • The Kingdom of God is a burden, devoid of the little joys of life.
  • Mom and Dad care more about kids they don’t know than they do about me.

It’s a martyr mentality that I don’t want my children to be burdened with.

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Sometimes it is “about you.”

If you’ve been a Christian very long, you’ve no doubt been told, in one way or another “It’s not about you.” I agree that the Christian walk cannot be a selfish one. But I’m also tiring of the message that God doesn’t care about my personal interests and desires, He only cares about what I do for others.

Can you see how quickly your child can draw the conclusion that everyone in the world matters except him? How can our children be effective soldiers for Christ if they carry a deep-seated belief that their own needs and desires are unimportant and even shameful?

One of my mentors from my earlier homeschooling days  tells a story that illustrates this point. When her son was young, they were making cookies to bring to a neighbor. When her son reached for a broken one, she gently corrected him. Not because he was taking a cookie, but because he took a broken one. She handed him a pretty cookie, still in one piece, nicely decorated. She demonstrated to him that day that just because we are called to serve others doesn’t mean that we are less important or that God does not enjoy giving us good things.

It seems to me that gift-giving was modeled for us by the wise men who came to see Jesus.

I find it interesting to note that when presented with gold, Frankincense, and myrrh, Mary didn’t return the gifts to the wise men, telling them that she didn’t want Jesus to be a selfish boy, concerned about material things. No, she accepted the gifts.

I see God lavishing material gifts on His children all through the Bible.

I believe we are imitating God when we give our children good things. Things they need, and yes, things they just want.

There is nothing wrong with material blessings. God gives us material blessings all the time.
Why wouldn’t He want us to experience the joy of giving good gifts to our children?

He gives good gifts

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Like most things in life, there is a balance to be found in the issue of giving Christmas gifts.

Of course there is something to be said for being careful with how much we shower upon our children all through the year and at Christmas. I could write that article too, but it’s been written. I’m not advocating breaking the family budget and filling your living room with gifts.  In our family we stick to a budget, we give some things that are needed, like pajamas, and we give some things that are just wanted. And we’re OK with our children having some things that they do not just absolutely need.

They love getting PJs!

So, yes, our family will continue to give gifts at Christmas time. Why? 

  • Because we love giving our children good gifts.
  • We love seeing the joy on their faces when they open that special toy they circled in the sales flyer.
  • We love seeing them shopping secretly for each other and snickering as they keep the secret of what’s in that beautifully (or not-so- beautifully) wrapped package.
  • We love to have our children watch us (mom and dad) open gifts from each other, demonstrating our commitment to and affection for each other.
  • We love the decor, the Christmas tree, and the pretty packages that keep us in suspense while we wait for Christmas day.
  • We love the photos we take of each other, especially the ones in which the giver of a gift gets a special hug from the receiver.
  • Because it’s fun. And if we can’t have a little fun now and then, I think we’ve misunderstood some things.

Hugs of gratitude!

But no, it’s not all about them.

We give throughout the year in many ways, both financially and through service. At Christmas time we call the church secretary and ask her who needs some help this Christmas. We get the ages of the children of a family in need and we go shopping. And it’s the longest shopping trip of the season. Why? Because my children meticulously choose the best gifts we can afford for children they don’t even know. They pitch in from their own money, and we make up the difference from the family budget.  And they pray for those children, that they would be blessed this Christmas and through the year.

Gift-giving and receiving is a beautiful thing. Our children love to receive gifts but they also love to give them. They get that from their Creator, who loves to give good and perfect gifts.