As every year at Christmastime, I feel the tension between joyfully bestowing a limited number of gifts on my children, and feeling pressured to buy them lots of high-tech toys, electronic gadgets, and dolls that are probably manufactured for $10 but cost $100 due to insatiable demand and clever marketing. Mika (age 8) and Macy's (age 6) Christmas lists:
DS game system
iphone, ipod, ipad (thanks Apple, you've already indoctorinated my children)
American Girl dolls, clothes, and accessories
In affluent suburbia, most parents, like me, are constantly pressured by their children to buy whatever their friends have and what they see advertised. According to Mika and Macy, they are the most deprived children they know (apparently forgetting the kids we met in Guatemala this summer). The limited amount of technology we make available to them is never enough, and they demand, MORE, MORE, MORE! The toys and gadgets Mika and Macy long for serve a dual purpose: they are truly a lot of fun and also allow them to fit in with their peers.
I look around and see three year olds with itouches (which sometimes land in the toilet); first graders with smart phones, birthday parties for 10 year olds with a $10,000 budget, 16 year olds with brand new cars that cost more than their teachers' annual salaries, and breast augmentation for high school graduation. I begin to wonder that if I can afford to give my girls their hearts' desire on Christmas (or put it on credit), why not?
Much has been said and written about overindulging children with material stuff, and I have no idea where to draw the line. It's a balancing act that every family must figure out for themselves. My goal is to keep Mika and Macy from feeling so comfortable in the world that they forget where true satisfaction comes--through a life devoted and surrendered to Christ. Unlike ipods and game boys that will someday disintegrate, break, and end up in the city dump, living to please God and accomplish his kingdom work will reap eternal rewards that Mika and Macy will enjoy forever and ever, amen.
This quote from the Village Church blog sums my thoughts up well:
"The price tag for suburban affluence, untempered by godly wisdom, is far too high for the Christian parent to pay. The danger, though not physical, is real. We must point our children toward the truth that satisfaction is found in God alone. This need not be a call to asceticism so much as a call to sober reflection: Ultimately, the stuff is not the problem – our hearts are. We must think hard about the choices we make in our spending. With God’s grace we may spare our children from the poverty of a life spent chasing what will not last by pointing them toward what truly satisfies."
I'm humbled when I remember that Jesus grew up in a household devoid of most "wants," yet his earthly family provided him what he needed to prepare for his mission as Savior of the world.
Mary and Joseph hailed from the insignificant village of Nazareth (possibly the "hood" of Galilee?). They did not possess wealth or social status. When they took baby Jesus to the temple to be presented to the Lord, they offered a pair of pigeons--the offering of the very poor. Mary and Joseph were unable to pass on to young Jesus much in the way of education or meaningful cultural experiences.
Despite being materially and culturally disadvantaged, Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews who worshipped the one true God and knew the Holy Scriptures. They provided Jesus with a home that was built on love, faith, and family. These priceless gifts are as important to children now as they were over two thousand years ago.
So what exactly is going to end up under the Christmas tree for my girls this year? I've bought what I consider fun and age appropriate gifts for Mika and Macy, including a puzzle and a jump rope. Will they feel deprived once they return to school in January and see and hear about all the stuff their classmates received? Possibly. They might as well get used to it, though, because we won't be bankrolling new cars or boob jobs, either.
It will probably be a long time before they appreciate the things that money can't buy--a loving home, plenty of family time, and a spiritual heritage that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren. My prayer is that someday, Mika and Macy will know that the greatest gift at Christmas isn't found under the tree. It doesn't come with apps, megabytes, consoles, ear buds, or avatars, but it's definitely a keeper.
The greatest gift at Christmas isn't expensive. It's priceless! Jesus, God become man, born to lowly Jewish peasants, the Savior of the World.