It’s the most paranoid time of the year…

Well, not really. But it is at this time each year, after the shopping is done, and after I have everything wrapped, that I start rehashing my lists, looking over what I have bought each child, and what I haven’t, and trying hard not to make a mad dash back into the stores to spend money I don’t have. What if that Cinderella tent that my 4 year old has mentioned twice is THE thing she wants most in her heart of hearts, and I didn’t get it?

I know I’m being dumb. We teach our kids that Christmas isn’t about the gifts. It is about the birthday of our Saviour. I believe that with all my heart. We work hard to make sure our kids know how blessed they are, and how much they have compared to children elsewhere in the world. So many kids won’t get one gift, let alone the dozen or more I know each of mine will get.

Yet there’s a part of me that wants my kids starry-eyed with delight over their heap of loot this year, with not one lingering ‘want’ to mar the day. I want to give them everything.

In the past couple weeks we’ve watched The Santa Claus (both 1 and 2). Ever seen those movies? We enjoy them each year. But, wow, they’re savvy little works of marketing!

In each movie, grown-ups are shown pining for that elusive gift– the one thing they did not get as a child that would have made their childhoods complete. Mystery Date. Crash ‘Em – Smash ‘Em Derby. An EasyBake Oven.

Of course in the end Santa pulls off the magic, and finally they get the thing that they so much longed for as a child. Finally they feel understood and loved and complete.

As silly as it is, we buy it, don’t we? That’s what had me running through my lists this evening, wondering if I got my kids what they most want.

Problem is, there’s always the next thing to want. And the next. There’s always a hole to fill.

What I hope I can teach my children if they feel that hole this Christmas, or at any other time, is that the reason we long for more is because each and every one of us was created to live in a better Place, a place where there’s more joy, deeper connections, a more complete love than we’ll ever feel here on earth. Some days we’re pretty happy here in spite of ourselves. Other days we’re so full of longing we don’t know what to do with ourselves.

That hole in the heart can’t be filled by an Easy Bake Oven or a Lexus with a big red bow, or the newest power tool, or a glittery rock in an expensive little box. It is only Jesus who can fill it. And only when we get to heaven will the hole be filled completely, and finally all the longing in our hearts will be stilled. Only when we get to heaven will we be Home.

John 3:16


  1. So true! But as hard as I t try to keep Jesus at the center, a huge pile of presents is hard for a kid not to be absolutely taken with!!! I only have one son (and I do most of the shopping for my niece Julia cause Susan is so busy with our stores) so it isn’t nearly as huge of a task as you have! I can’t even imagine shopping for that many!

  2. Amen, Mary. There is a Jesus-shaped hole in our hearts that only He can fill. We keep trying to fill that hole with other things, though, don’t we?

    I’m guilty of wanting to provide all the wants for my kid, and she’s a pregnant married girl of 19. Still almost a kid to me, though.

    I wish you the bestest, most joyous CHRISTmas ever, Mary, and a blessed New Year.

    Love you, my friend,


  3. I also try to give my son everything, and yet I personally cannot recall a single item that I “had” to have and either received or didn’t receive. Oh, well, maybe a dog. But then we eventually got one and it sure pooped a lot. But really, I’m trying to teach my son that Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday, as well as the fact that we’re all able to come together and celebrate with a loving family. I think he gets that — at least I hope so.

    Merry Christmas, Mary, to you and your family. 🙂

  4. this is a lovely post, you’d said it perfectly.

    I too want to give my kids the true meaning of Christmas and have them focus on giving and on Christ. I also worry about the gifts and the glitz of the season.

    Thank you for pin pointing the source of that longing and the solution for filling the hole.

    Merry Christmas!

  5. Amen!!!

    What a terrific post, Mary!

  6. And I love the braids! Your 4 year old is just beaming!

  7. That was one of those posts that touched me I really needed someone to say slow down, even though I know and teach the kids that they wont get everything…still a very poinent post. Thanks

  8. Mary,
    Your post brought tears to my eyes. You really summed up how I am feeling right now. My husband and I do this every year. We just want the kids to say “wow!!” While at the same time, we really just want them to just focus on the real, true meaning of Christmas. All of these thoughts feel so terribly contradictory! I am going to forward your post to him. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words.

  9. Merry Christmas to you and all your family! May you be lifted in the true spirit of God’s love!

  10. Well said!

    Our youngest, now 14, nearly 15 years old has decided he doesn’t want anything–that’s ANYTHING–for Christmas. He is anxious to drive and has mentioned the exact type of car he would like, but that is very doubtful. He’s being a grump about anything else. So it looks like he’s getting exactly what he asked for: Nothing! YIKES! Doesn’t he know that giving gifts is almost as much fun as getting just what you wanted! Can’t even begin to spiritualize this one for him!

    But grumbling aside……your post is perfectly said. it is a self-inflicted pace we live in! Thanks for the reminder~!

    Merry Christmas!


  11. This is a great post and something that I have been trying to relate to my kids. You explained this is an awesome way!! Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!

  12. Anna Quindlen has an editorial in this week’s Newsweek where she talks about how when you see a kid ripping into a stack of presents with absolute abandon, the very best part is knowing that that’s absolutely NOT what they’ll remember about Christmas when they look back, no matter how taken with the heap they seem….they’ll remember the values and the traditions and the sense of joy and family. They’ll remember what’s important as they grow — and watching them shriek when the My Little Pony is opened is just a nice little fringe benefit.

  13. Excellent post! Thanks for relating the hole to the Holy. Definitely something I needed to read right now.

  14. Amen, sister, AMEN!

  15. Amazing post, Mary. Ever since I became an adult and my parents have not filled every desire at Christmas like they did when I was a child, I have been feeling that hole. Thank you for reminding me why that hole is there and what fills it. :o)

  16. Actually I have to disagree, just a tiny bit! Yes, Jesus fills the hole in our hearts/lives and everyone needs to know that. But I have very fond memories of receiving a much-coveted Christmas gift as a child, even now I feel the excitement of receiving some of those gifts when I think back! And I also remember the sinking longing feeling of not receiving something I dearly wanted as a child! Thankfully, my older sister also remembered one of those items and got it for me as an adult. What fun to finally have that gift, and such a loving gesture from my sister! As for my own children, I see no harm in fulfilling a desire that is not wasteful or harmful, within reason, of course. We go to church, then come home and enjoy watching them open one special gift or two. It’s the best part of gift giving for me! Have a blessed Christmas! Beth

  17. It’s a balancing act! Sometimes I have to step back and see that often I am getting gifts for my children, but for my own satisfaction. When all the presents are open if the kids are overwhelmed with stuff, I vow to keep it smaller next year! I am trying to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas, which included gifts, but to not go too overboard with the material, so we can focus more easily on the spiritual. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am an avid reader of Owlhaven, so that helped make my day!

  18. So very true, Mary! 🙂

  19. Ahhh… Thank you. I’ve been really wondering whether or not I am forever ruining my middle child by not getting him the drum set he so desperately wants.

    But the reason we didn’t get it is because we KNOW it’s not what he really needs.

    Thank you, thank you for this post.

  20. Hmmm . . . good post. I am reading A Christmas Longing right now by Joni Eareckson Tada. She is basing it on that same premise and the scripture “God is the answer to our deepest longings.” (1 Corin. 6:13).

    I am just as guilty as anyone in overdoing Christmas presents even if we do go to church, give to others, etc. I kind of wish we celebrated Christmas without the commercial aspect at all, but it’s hard to ignore social pressures.

    I would just rather focus on Jesus and give gifts another time, but it’s not going to happen. It’s just always felt like an uncomfortable combination to shop like crazy during a season when I would rather be home reading Jotham’s Journey to my kids (which hubby is doing, but you know what I mean).

    I have a full house, too, which is such a blessing to me, but I know lots of people get depressed at this time of year and I pray for them that Jesus will fill that hole. I truly believe when we feel discontent that we are simply yearning for our true home, Heaven since we are but pilgrims and strangers here . . . . I think that truth can help us when we feel out of sync with our world.

  21. Thanks for a great post. It’s what I’ve been thinking this season.
    Sometimes the “greed fest” makes me feel ill.

    You are right though that it’s the God shaped hole that they are trying to fill.

  22. Awesome, awesome post.

  23. Honey, I’m a grandmother, and I still have that urge to “fix it”! I think that’s the same love that motivated our heavenly Father to give such a blessed gift to us, “fixing” the mess humanity had gotten itself into. Then, look at us! We’re still not satisfied. As you so wisely noted, the hole is still there and will only be filled when we finally go home to our Father who alone can fill it.

    Nevertheless, since our parental love is our children’s most vivid insight into the love of their heavenly Parent, I think we often believe that means giving them “things.” Truth is, of course, the greatest gifts we can give them are the greatest gifts their heavenly Father gives them: to provide unconditional love, boundless security (not limited to a structure, a border, a continent, or even a planet), joy (much better than mere happiness), and a first-name acquaintance with their heavenly brother, Jesus Christ. Sorry, didn’t mean to go on and on, but I was just so touched by what you said. God bless you, Honey! Sounds like you’re on the right track!


  1. […] Drat it. I guess Santa should have listened to his/her mom-instincts. […]