As our kids receive gifts at Christmas, it’s an important moment to teach them gratefulness. My parents insisted we give thanks (verbally and affectionately) for each gift we unwrapped before opening another. Now, Brian and I require the same of our boys.
But I’m sometimes concerned that the number of gifts our boys receive this time of year only reinforces the selfish idea: “It’s all about me and what I want.”
While selfishness is natural to my boys and to all of us, giving and sacrifice is not. That’s why I was thrilled when an opportunity to redirect their attention from themselves to others came along this Christmas.
Thanks to the initiative of Carolyn McCulley, our family, along with other members of Covenant Life Church, were put in touch with needy children in our community. And so this morning, I loaded the boys in the double stroller and along with Mom, Nicole, Janelle, Chad, Jack and Caly took them toy and clothes shopping for a little boy and girl.
I’m not sure how much Liam and Owen (ages 3 and 4) understood—besides the fact that they weren’t taking the toys home to play. But I overheard Andrew (6 1/2) explaining to Liam that the toys were not for him. It’s a start!
Whether or not they’re old enough to really grasp the significance of what we did today, I don’t think it’s too early for us to begin to chip away at the selfishness in their hearts. As we look for opportunities to give each year (and not just at Christmastime), I pray that by the time they have children of their own they will know from experience that “It’s better to give than to receive.”
“‘Tis the Season to be jolly? Well, maybe” says author Jim Elliff.
Whether or not you are feeling jolly this Christmas week, I want to encourage you to take five minutes to read this brief article.
Our friend Kim sent us this sweet Christmas story from her grandmother…
My grandmother was a school teacher and my grandfather was a dairy farmer. Well, one day the local Santa Claus was sick and couldn’t go to the school to do his annual “Santa Sitting” so they called my grandfather. Although he was always busy on the farm, he was the only man in town available at such short notice for such a crisis as this. My grandfather got the call, left his barns immediately, donned the Santa suit, and greeted each child on his lap. The next day a little girl said to my grandmother, “Oh, Mrs. Robinson, yesterday we saw the REAL Santa Claus.” To which my grandmother replied, “Well, are you sure? There are many helpers to Santa.” And the little girl puffed out her chest and replied with great confidence, “I’m absolutely sure, Mrs. Robinson, I could smell the reindeer!”
My 93 year old grandmother died this past summer….but none of us will ever forget her, or this silly tale!
May the joys of Christmas be yours this weekend!
for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle
Chances are, many of you will be making holiday preparations this weekend—baking cookies, decorating for a Christmas party, wrapping gifts, etc. While it’s a fun opportunity to turn on Christmas music, we’d also suggest listening to a Christmas sermon as you work, to remind you of the miracle of the incarnation and prepare your heart for Christmas. To that end, we want to recommend three Christmas messages by Mark Dever, Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church:
A Promise, Not A Wish
December 17, 1995
Born to Die
December 25, 1994
The Church and Her Challenges: Death
December 25, 2005
1 Corinthians 15
Joyful listening everyone!
Recently I discovered that the selfish little girl who spent hours perusing the toy section of the Sears catalog in order to make a Christmas list still hasn’t grown up. I know. All of you under thirty year olds have no idea what I’m talking about. But in that age just after dinosaurs and before google, the Sears catalog was where a child went to dream about what they’d find under the tree on Christmas morning.
I’m too mature and sophisticated to think much about presents anymore. But sadly, my selfish heart still looks for ways to make Christmas all about me. Instead of longing for that new Strawberry Shortcake bike, I want a Christmas experience that meets all of my expectations. I want the tree and the decorations to look just right. I want family celebrations to happen on my timetable. I want my three year old to play contentedly as I make cookies and hum holiday music.
Might as well call it “I-mas.”
In the Knowing God chapter Janelle referred to yesterday—“God Incarnate”—JI Packer realigns my holiday desires:
“The Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems to be a need….If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit. ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Cor 8:9).”
Jesus Christ, who for my sake became poor—please grant me true Christmas spirit this year.
You can’t beat a good book paired with a hot drink this time of year. And I have a pretty sweet recommendation for both. For a little Christmas reading that will remind you of the significance of this holiday, look no further than chapter five, “God Incarnate” in Knowing God by J.I. Packer. This book is a “must read” that should be ordered today if it doesn’t already have a home on your shelf. I’ll just give you sneak peak to hold you over until you get to enjoy the full experience:
“It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word became flesh’ (Jn. 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation….The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear” (p. 53, 63)
Now the only thing to make your reading of this chapter any sweeter is to have a cup of homemade hot chocolate in hand. My mom has been making hot chocolate for years and it is a family favorite. Oh and did I mention that it is super easy to make? Here are the directions:
Combine one 11-ounce jar of non-dairy creamer, an 8 quart size box of dry milk (will make 8 quarts when mixed with water), 1 pound of Nestle’s Quik and ½ a box of powdered sugar. Mix it all together and use 4 to 5 heaping teaspoons per cup of hot water. I like to top mine off with a huge scoop of cool whip, but marshmallows are also allowed.
Merry almost Christmas, everyone! We’ll catch ya again tomorrow.
Besides men (who I think are the hardest to buy for) teenage guys and girls can present a daunting challenge to the Christmas shopper. So, we thought we’d throw out a few suggestions for this demographic. Many of these would be great ideas for college students as well.
The ESV Bible
They’ve got so many fun styles, including a journaling bible the girls are sure to love. Scroll down to also see CombatZone, TruGlo, and TruGrip options.
West Coast Revival
This new cd by a group of guys in Sovereign Grace Ministries boasts great lyrics with a sound that will appeal to young people.
Humility: True Greatness
One of our favorites by Dad
Growing Up Christian
by Karl Graustein, a member of Covenant Life Church. Dad is currently taking Chad through this book and finding it very helpful.
My husband is teaching a class of Jr. High students from this condensed version of Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.
Thoughts for Young Men
Every young man should read this classic by JC Ryle.
This fictional account of a girl growing into womanhood is by Elizabeth Prentiss
This group’s albums The Beauty of Simplicity and Eternity is Now are great music options.
Love Comes Softly Movies
Mom read these books to us when we were girls. The movies are pioneer fun in the tradition of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Love’s Enduring Promise and Love’s Long Journey follow in the series
The Blazing Center
This DVD by John Piper come highly recommended for young people.
Don’t Waste Your Life
Also by John Piper, every young person should read this book.
No list would be complete without the Josh Harris collection. Choose from I Kissed Dating Goodbye or Boy Meets Girl.
A couple of slightly random Christmas thoughts…
Today was a special “girls day out.” Since Kristin, Janelle and I spend the majority of the Christmas holiday with our in-laws, we spread the Mahaney Christmas out over the month of December. One Monday (our husbands collective day off) the guys go out and exchange gifts, then it’s the girls turn, and finally we have a party for the kids on the third Monday.
“Our turn” almost didn’t come as Brian got the flu. But Mike bravely stepped in and watched the Chesemore kids and Caly. Thanks Uncle Mikey! We got to enjoy lunch and hang out and talk and talk and talk. We capped off the afternoon with Starbucks and Cinnabon (a hard to beat combo). Traditions, both old and new, are expressions of God’s goodness and faithfulness at Christmastime.
Over the weekend, Mom’s friend Julie gave her two more suggestions for Christmas reading with children.
One Wintry Night
by Ruth Bell Graham
The World of Narnia Collection
by C.S. Lewis (and adapted for little children)
Julie keeps both books with her Christmas decorations and pulls them out every year to read to her two boys. I can’t wait to read these with Jack.
Finally, as we’ve been discussing Christmas gifts lately, these excerpts from a Valley of Vision prayer seem fitting:
“O Source of all good,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts, thine own dear Son…
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him…
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.”
Thanks to Ellie for this Christmas-season Friday Funny!
Have a tremendous weekend,
for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle
The following was in a Christmas letter last year from some dear friends of ours. The husband is writing:
It all started with Lisa asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, “It sure would be nice to wake up on Christmas morning to find something on the driveway that goes zero to 200 in 6 seconds.” She said, “I’ll see what I can do.” Well, on Christmas morning I ran out front to find a small package nicely wrapped on our driveway. Now I was really curious to see what she had bought me so I tore it open. It was a scale! She said, “Stand on it…it will go zero to 200 in less than 6 seconds.”
Not sure what to get those men in your life—dads, husbands, teenage sons, grandfathers, brothers, friends—for Christmas? We want to help! So we asked CJ for some book recommendations for men, and he provided us with the following suggestions. These books cover a broad range of interests so you’re sure to find something for that special guy on your list. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor Comrades: Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals by Stephen E. Ambrose Firehouse by David Halberstam Johnny U: The Life and Times of John Unitas by Tom Callahan The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges The Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History by Peter Maas The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever by John Feinstein Meet the Puritans: With A Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel R. Pederson and Randall J. Beeke April 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James M. McPherson The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf by Mark Frost Letters from a Nut by Ted L. Nancy Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History by Jeremy Schaap Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept by Mark Dever Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg by James M. McPherson The Meaning Of Sports: Why Americans Watch baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do. by Michael Mandelbaum Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture by David Powlison