Grace Does Not Have a “Nice List”

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Grace Does Not Have a “Nice List”

{originally published in 2013} Recently, I sat down to watch a movie with my kids about the story of St. Nicholas (yes, it was a Veggie Tales movie, just stay with me). Long story short, here was a man (or cucumber as it were) from wealthy means who chose to bestow his benevolence on needy families as a means to share the love of Christ with others.   He did not have a “nice” list.   As a matter of fact, I’m willing to bet that St. Nick was the kind of a guy who gave to people in need, whether or not they were particularly pleasant. After all, isn’t that what grace is all about?   As I watched the story about the life of this remarkable man, I realized how much I wanted to recapture the essence of what St. Nick was trying to do all those centuries ago with my own children. How he chose to use what he had to bless others, and did so in such a way (i.e. secretly) that God would receive the praise, instead of himself.   Odd turn of events when you consider that kids now have the kind of awe and reverence for Santa Claus that was once only reserved for God. But, as usual, I digress.   I’m not opposed to “Santa”- in fact, I think it’s a great way to help kids partake in a living parable about the meaning of Christmas. But the way Santa is idolized…no, deified…can really make it challenging for a child to learn the things we try so hard to teach them the remaining 364 days out of the year.   I should know, I’m a recovering materialist myself.   To help our kids have a better grasp on grace and giving, my husband and I have decided to approach the whole Santa thing in a slightly different way. Here are some examples:   Less is more. If your kids are like mine, they want for nothing when it comes to presents (READ: multiple sets of grandparents). Our kids know Santa brings just a few gifts to our house so he can bring more gifts to kids who don’t have as much as we do.   Holiday helper. Talk with your kids about how Santa helps everyone celebrate Jesus’ birthday. We talk about how Jesus’ love is a very special gift that we love sharing with others, especially in honor of His birthday. We then describe how St. Nicholas loves Jesus so much that he wants to share what he has with others so they will know how good it feels to be loved by God.   Get them involved. Shoeboxes. Angel Trees. Adopt-a-family. There is no shortage of opportunities to give kids of all ages the chance to play Santa to those in need. Don’t be afraid to get a little historical to help them draw the parallel. And let ’em pick out the gifts.   Pre-Christmas purge. We’ve tried to instill in our kids the idea that everything we’ve been given is meant for us to share. Before Christmas, we go through their toys and figure out which ones they are ready to let someone else play with. This is not usually a one-day affair; we mark a date on the calendar after Halloween and mention it a few times through the month of November to help them warm up to the idea.   Avoid “parenting by proxy.” You know, the whole “maybe-we’ll-just-tell-Santa-you-don’t-need-presents-this-year” thing.  I want my kids to know they are loved, especially when they mess up. While I absolutely believe in consequences, I care deeply about helping them experience the blessings of grace and forgiveness in our home. Besides, it’s a seasonal threat- the Elf on the Shelf doesn’t come out in May…   Share your thoughts. We have shared our approach to Santa with our close family members so they can help us with keeping the Man in Red in his place (after all, I believe he would have wanted it that way). Yes, the words “no fun” have been thrown out there but sharing the love of God with my children is worth it to me. After all, when Santa steps out of the picture, Who’s left?   What Christmastime traditions does your family partake in to connect your children with the heart of God? Leave a comment!   Blessings to you and your family during this most joyous celebration of hope and love!    

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