A few years ago my sister-in-law shared with me her brutal sub for santa shopping attempt with her young family. Determined to do some good and teach their children about the true spirit of Christmas, they were armed with a list of needs and a handful of wants for a family in a destitute position. She was excited to have her kids walk the aisles of Costco with her, gathering simple things like coats, socks, underwear and then a few fun surprises as she taught them about service and giving.
However, reality and the ideal rarely intersect when it comes to parenting and this instance was no exception. Instead of focusing on others, the kids begged for every shiny item they passed. They wanted new socks and coats too and huffed about “never getting anything,” when their demands were ignored. They fought about who got to sit in the cart and who got to push the cart and asked for candy and food the entire time. It was a mess, ending with unhappy and ungrateful children and frustrated parents who once again wished they had “just done it themselves.”
But then, the delivery day came, and something changed when the kids realized what they were a part of, what their small sacrifice had done for another family just like theirs who had had a little less luck that year. No one was vocal about it and there were certainly no parental pats on the back for creating an awesome experience, but the spirit in the car was noticeably different after the delivery. As the holidays wrapped up and they talked about their favorite moments, the sub for santa experience topped the list...ahead of fancy dinners, festive parties, and a morning of presents. No one remembered the fighting or arguing, no one was stuck on the treat they didn’t get, the ugly shopping trip had morphed into one of beauty with only a few days of perspective. The parents were shocked that what seemed like nothing more than at best a headache and at worst an absolute failure had impacted those little hearts in a way nothing else had that season.
This experience reminded me why, as parents, we press on. Why we encourage spiritual moments when everyone says they would rather be having “fun.” Why we financially sacrifice when it means there will be a few less presents under our own tree that year. Why we sing at rest homes when our teens roll their eyes and our little ones are too shy to make a sound; why we join the choir when it means being ready extra early on Sunday just so our voices will blend in with our neighbor; why Luke 2 is more than just a story read on Christmas Eve but one that is part of a month long study; why we deliver gifts to neighbors even when it seems unnecessary; and why we Light the World and facilitate opportunities for our children to do the same when we wonder if there is time for one more thing.
We do this so that “Our children may know to what source they may look.” Because beneath the sighs and the fights and behind the grumpy faces and uninterested looks, these are the moments that count. Deep down, every child, from 2 to 92, wants to know that they can, even in a small way, make a difference. That the world, that God, needs them, that they matter, and what better time to see this principle in action than Christmas?
When our families participate in goodness, Christ is near, and there is a portion of joy, hope, love and peace that can’t be found in the latest toy or the hottest video game. It isn’t the kind of holiday magic that is fast and fleeting, but the subtle, quiet kind that sits and stays. It’s the kind that calms the rowdiest toddler and softens the hardest teenage heart. It is the true magic of Christmas.
So keep pulling, keep dragging, keep making the memories that matter this season because our world needs all the light it can get. And one day, those reluctant kids will struggle through the aisles of Target trying to teach goodness and kindness and will stop for the man on the corner looking for a few dollars or a warm meal, because long ago, their parents started and stuck to holy traditions.
They chose others over self, effort over ease, and sacrifice over comfort. They chose Jesus, and it was worth it.
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Hear more from Brooke Romney in the episode of the All In podcast below.