Gavin, our 4 year old, wrote his letter to Santa the other night (Picture to the Left). It is beyond entertaining. I particularly love the first part about the “lightsabers that stick together on the bottom so I can hit two bad guys at the same time.”
I can honestly say that I had no idea how strong the temptation would be, as a parent, to give your child everything they ask for. I know that Gavin doesn’t need everything he asks for. And at his age, he won’t even remember most of this stuff by next week. But there is a desire to make your kids happy that really challenges your better judgment on a regular basis. Luckily, we don’t have enough money to get him anything and everything he wants, so that option isn’t really on the table anyway. I guess we could over-extend ourselves, go into debt, work lots of extra jobs, etc…. But honestly, that would be a major sacrifice of our long-term happiness and future for just a brief moment or two of excitement. And we would never do that… Oh wait. We actually do that kind of stuff all the time.
We overestimate the significance of some short-term experience and end up selling out our future to get it. I don’t want to do that to our family and I don’t want to teach those lessons to our kids. Really, the greatest gift that I could give to the people in my life is not presents at all, but presence. It is better for them that I be present and available in their lives than it is for me to give impressive and exciting stuff to them. And by presence I don’t simply mean physical presence, but being present emotionally and mentally as well. If I allow work-related phone calls and emails, financial stress, the fear of something happening on Twitter and/or Facebook without me knowing about it to keep me mentally or emotionally detached during the time I have with my kids and in particular my wife, than I am withholding from them my presence. And there is no present in the world that can make up for the damage that does in the long-term.
God has given humanity many amazing gifts. James actually wrote that everything good that we have or experience is a gift from the Father (James 1:17). But, by far the most significant and sacrificial one is the gift of His presence.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (Jn. 1:14)
This Christmas, don’t overestimate the significance of presents and, more importantly, don’t underestimate the significance of presence.
Presence changes everything.