Christmas gifts. What’s up with that? How did this all start? I suppose it goes back to the gifts of the Maggi. Those three kings bringing gifts to the Christ child. Did they even know what there were doing? Let’s see, what did they bring? Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Gold was a gift fit for a king. Frankincense was used at prayer times to visually remind people that their prayers rose up and mattered to God. Myrrh was a reality of life – an embalming spice, reminding us that Christ came to experience a human life and to die a human death. And we should not miss the fact that Jesus got another gift that first Christmas – swaddling clothes! Here is a little poem explaining those gifts.
Gold, we give a gift of enduring worth
Frankincense, a prayer reaching God above
Myrrh, all the wonders of life on earth
Swaddling Clothes, surrounded in your parent’s love
Two years ago in 2010 our sons were 18 and 21 at Christmas time. They were growing and drifting further and further from our reach. We realized that and knew it was the healthy progression of things. “Best Buy” Christmas gifts with their shiny promise of the newest coolest electronics were a childish thing of the past was my opinion (although not entirely theirs) so we embarked on a new more mature season of gift giving. We surmised that at this age of a young man’s life, what was really needed was not more technology and gadgets, but a sense of the world around us … a wider perspective of culture and history and people different than those found in our Suburban Bubble. So we went to Belize. We hung out with really rich people and really poor people, and incidentally, found that they really weren’t so very different than middle class people we grew up with up. Really they all just desire a better world for their children. During our first week in this Caribbean paradise, we experienced San Pedro on Ambergris Caye with its world class snorkeling and sunset cruises and breathtaking beaches where we met rich Americans and Europeans on holiday. The second week we spent inland with the citizens of Belize with real families and teachers and indigenous people. We got to learn about their culture and their history and day-to-day struggles. The boys went zip-lining over the jungle canopy and explored caves by swimming into areas with undisturbed Myan artifacts from 1,000 years ago. We visited Mayan ruins at Xunantunich with a guided tour from good friends who called the Rain Forest their back yard. We camped out in the jungle where we heard holler monkeys early in the morning and saw iguanas basking on tree branches and witnessed giant indigo butterflies bursting from their cocoons. This was a much more expansive world than the our suburban home could offer. This trip reminded us that everything matters to God whether you live in the “Carmel Bubble” or in the impoverished rain forest of Central America. Frankincense was used at prayer times to visually remind people that their prayers rose up and mattered to God.
One year ago in 2011 our sons were 19 and 22 and we wanted to offer them a practical expression of God’s grace and forgiveness. Again we successfully resisted the temptation to cave in to the “Best Buy” commercialism of Christmas and we came up with another idea. We declared it the Year of Jubilee. And here is how it worked. We tallied the amount of debt our college boys had built up through all those “I’ll pay you back, Mom, I promise” moments and we wiped the slate clean. No more were those car payments, missed student loan payments, household repairs, computer parts, speeding tickets, court costs, or book damages hanging over their heads. They were debt free as far are we were concerned. I even made up little scrolls which itemized the debts on record and stamped them “PAID IN FULL”. They were thrilled. They got it. Gold … gift fit for a king.
This year in 2012 these young men are 20 and 23, and they are struggling to determine their purpose in this world. Should I stay in college? What should I major in? What kind of work should I take on? How will I support my family? Who am I? What on earth am I here for? The realities of life. Hard to face. Hard to sort out. Especially when you are 20 and 23. Most of us have stumbled though it and it’s turned out ok for us. But of course, as parents, we hope of something better for our kids.
Coincidentally, this is the ten year anniversary and re-release of the best-selling book THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE by Rick Warren (52 million copies sold as of this writing). So we landed on our Christmas theme for this year. We want to help give our kids a sense of purpose. An overview. A road map with God as the navigator. So this year we gave them the book “THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE – What on Earth Am I Here For?” The trick will be to get them to read it. And fill out the study guide in the back so they really get all they can out of it. I really feel they are drifting because they have left God out of the equation. They are just bumping along. (Just like me at that age so I guess it’s not the end of the world.) But in true helicopter mom style, I will “encourage” them to read it cover to cover … and I will bribe them with money. We will pay for one of those daunting bills that stalk them as soon as I see they have read the book and have answered the study questions in the back of the book as proof. What a jackpot for them on so many levels!
Every Christmas we offer our kids swaddling clothes; we surround them with their parents love. Whether it’s Elmo dolls or Pokeman or a new bike or an iPod Touch or the latest fashion in clothes. As misguided and as sometimes meddling as it might seem, our boys know they are always surrounded by our love for them, no matter what, and whether they like it or not.
Swaddling clothes seem a little constricting for guys 20 and 23, so we sort of hope we don’t strangle them – on most days anyway. But as parents, we do want do impart to them a sense of the larger world, and a sense of God’s grace and forgiveness, and a sense of their God-given purpose.
And we want to do this before they become too far from our reach.