For years, my children did not know there was a large shopping bag overstuffed with presents secretly stashed away in my bedroom closet. By the time December hit, I had a mountain of bargain finds, admired goodies and technical toys to die for tucked away on a shelf. My preplanned efforts spread the financial burden throughout the year and helped avoid the last minute holiday shopping rush.

Sounds like a plan, right? Well something happened years ago that made me rethink my supposedly genius strategy. Buying throughout the year, I lost track of how much I accumulated.

It was the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, but I felt like a louse!
As I gazed at the packages all in a row, I was aghast!
The tree looked bulimic due to my past.
I slumped to the floor and grabbed hold of my man,
We have only two children. There’s enough here for ten!

We stared at the swollen pile of goodies. One by one we picked through the pile. This present can wait for a birthday, this one for next Christmas, this one for a special reward …finally, after a great deal of triage, the stack looked sensible.

That year, we made a decision. Christmas gifts were limited to three types:

A gift desired

Something needed

Something educational.

Of course, our children hated the idea and hoped that we would eventually come to our senses. We haven’t, and we’ve seen a change. No longer is Christmas an endless list of “wants” with a focus on how much someone gets.

So this holiday season, consider changing your focus. Instead of a new gaming system, take your kids to a soup kitchen and let them serve. Visit a homeless shelter or a hospital children’s ward and put things in perspective.

I know that what I am saying isn’t new, but most of us need to be reminded about our tendency to overindulge. Whether it is food, enjoyment or shopping, we live in a culture that reinforces the need for more. As we examine what motivates us to spend, we can ask, is it related to guilt from being absent or unavailable, an attempt to communicate love, a competitive attitude with others, a way to garnish an identity and look successful, materialism, a lack of self-restraint, and/or misguided thinking?

Christmas is about God giving His Son as a glorious gift to mankind. Don’t clutter that gift with so many others that the important gift becomes lost in the fray.

Cherish the Gift You Already Have

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