It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations and activities, especially as they pertain to gifts.  Once I had children, the frenzy picked up its pace. There are old traditions from both my side and my husband’s side of the family to uphold, new family traditions to create, places to be and highly anticipated presents to buy. 

Gifts and More

With every approaching Christmas season, I listen to the beautiful and uplifting Christmas songs and remember my mother-in-law as I decorate her old 9-foot tree and think of my dad who passed away on Christmas Day eight years ago.

I bake cookies with the kids and go to their school Christmas concerts (which are now sadly renamed Holiday Concerts). I frantically try to find their most-wanted Christmas items at discounted prices. And occasionally, I find the time to send out a few Christmas cards to people who are important to me but whom I somehow ignore the rest of the year.

Then every week, my family attends church and we are reminded of how Christmas is truly about the first coming of our Savior Jesus – not just His birth, but also why He came. I listen intently and vow to do better at prioritizing my life throughout the week but before I know it, I’m falling back into the Clark Griswold frame of mind: Keep up appearances. Make things bigger and better. Try to make everyone happy. Keep a smile on my face at all times.

But as anyone who has seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation knows, it can’t be done long term and things never work according to plan. It almost makes me want to revert to the opposite extreme, like in the movie Christmas with the Kranks, in which they attempt to avoid the trappings of Christmas altogether for just one year. But as they discovered, that doesn’t work, either.

Gifts That Matter

There has to be middle ground somewhere. I think I’ve finally recognized what it is: a focus on the gifts that matter. Not just the traditional presents that can be bought and re-gifted. Not the gifts that easily break after one use or require batteries that drain in a week.

No, I’m referring to our gifts of time, knowledge and abilities. To put others first. To make someone’s day a little brighter by simply sharing a smile or holding a door open or leaving a thoughtful note on their desk.

I’ve asked my boys to join me in finding ways we can serve and honor others this season. Together we’ve filled shoe boxes full of small toys and hygiene items to be delivered to children in third-world countries through Operation Christmas Child. It will be the first time many of them have ever received a present or heard the Gospel.

We laid Christmas wreaths on veterans’ gravesites at our local National Cemetery during Wreaths Across America day this past weekend. This nationwide campaign strives to make sure that all veterans are remembered and honored at Christmastime. As one of the speakers said, it’s up to us to teach the next generation the importance of America’s veterans – of how their sacrifices then have enabled us to enjoy our many freedoms today.

We’ve also inquired about ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at a local store and we’re hoping to sing carols and deliver Christmas cookies to a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve. All of these actions take just a little bit of our time and money, but can truly make a positive impact on others.

By being more intentional with our gift giving, I believe we can keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas. This year, we’ll give more #GiftsThatMatter.

What about you? What gifts are you giving this year? Please share in the comments!