The holiday season, a time to be thankful, a time to count blessings, a time to be with family and friends and a time to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus. For whatever reason this year I have had a harder time preparing my heart for all that is about to happen this year. Maybe it is all that negative that is all over the television set. Maybe it is just the stress that sometimes comes as the Dad of 4 active boys.
I have done a lot of reflecting about the holidays lately and I think part of my struggle is wanting to make the holidays for my boys something I never really experienced. Holidays as a kid were not important. I don’t really remember celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas was usually just Christmas Eve at my Grandma Norman’s house eating Pizza Hut and drinking punch (although I do love the punch and we make it every year now). Gifts were sparse, family time was nonexistent and church was a complete unknown. The term Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas were just words.
I am always cautious this time of the year to say Merry Christmas to some people. When I was teaching it was almost illegal it seemed. In the PC world of public education, you have to be careful not to offend any religious or political opinions. However, for me, it was saying this to children whom I knew would not have a great holiday and would dread coming back to class after the new year and be anxious about what they would say when some of their peers shared the joy in receiving a big gift while they received very little. I think this took me back to my upbringing and something I was sensitive to.
As my children have grown, I find myself stressed in wanting to make sure my kids are not in that situation. However, a failing of mine is, no matter how happy that they are Christmas morning, I am not, thinking I could have done much better and looking past what is important.
“Nothing gives me greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth.” -3 John 1:4
This leads me to Hudson, the wisdom of a first grader. Our family has added intentions to our daily dinner prayer. One day not long ago, Hudson prayed for the safety of all the homeless. Jill and I immediately stared at each other with a joy in our heart of this intention. Since that day several weeks ago, the intention is presented at almost every dinner. This has evolved to Hudson and I having talks about how we can help in addition to prayer. Instead of me saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, what can we do to make it a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday for others. I am hopeful thanks to so many.
I have friends who keep $10 gift cards with them and have their children pass them out to people they think need it. And others who keep blessing bags in their car to pass out to the homeless and some who take their family to Harvesters, deliver gifts on Christmas Eve and so much more. We have the angel tree at Sacred Heart, that I will selfishly admit I get eager at, but then feel immediate shame as I think about the money that we might spend on these gifts instead of what I want do to for my own family.
My challenge to everyone, but especially to me is to find a way to give back this holiday season. Not only that, but do it as Hudson reminds me, with a joyful heart.
“Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9: 6-7
If you have read this far, I ask that you comment and give ideas on how your family has/plans to give back so we can all lean from each other.