What are the four greatest Christmas gifts parents can give to their children year-round?
Certainly we have the obvious one, love. But how do we love? How do we manifest our love, this love which should be poured out as agape love, a love of total self-giving, a sacrificial laying down one’s life and complete pouring out of one’s own blood kind of love?
This agape love can be expressed concretely through the four greatest gifts parents can give to their children at Christmas time and for a life time. Surely as parents we are called to do our best in providing for our children including housing, food, clothing, and education. But these, I maintain do not make it to the top four greatest gifts.
How about making star athletes out of our children at the cost of our family always being harried, busy, rushed, and exhausted, having little down time to enjoy family unity and peace? Are these among the supreme gifts? No!
I assert that the first of the greatest gifts is to pass on the gift of faith in God, leading by example, including the unswerving practice of one’s faith and religion. This will bear untold fruit in the life of our family.
The second greatest Christmas gift we can give to our children year round and forever is, are you ready, a secure, enduring, happy marriage between father and mother. Children find a great sense of security in this gift, and thanks to this gift, they will flourish more in virtually every aspect of their lives. This calls for commitment, effort, and sacrificial agape love on the part of the parents. We can do it!
Try to guess the third greatest gift, which is something children ask for often. When the gift is received the entire family is incredibly joyful and transformed on the special occasion of the arrival of this magnificent gift. The family will never be the same. This gift calls for faith, courage and generosity on the part of the givers.
The third gift lasts for many decades, only getting better, changing, and developing each day. This gift is unique, and can never be repeated, but a similar gift can be added approximately every year. It can only be given by three persons agreeing and acting. Have you guessed it yet? Yes, this profound gift is that of another child. And those three persons agreeing are husband, wife, and God.
The fourth greatest gift is quite simple, yet challenging. At the same time it is tremendously efficacious. This fourth greatest Christmas gift parents can give to their children year-round is that of the parents, to the best of their ability, and at the cost of sacrificing many things, being present to and loving their children. No amount of money, gifts, sports, or activities will ever be able to substitute for our loving presence with our children. We are called to be present to our children, and to give them our full attention. Let’s put down the smart phone, or should I say the not so smart phone?
May I share a beautiful story that happened about not very long ago? Very early in the morning while I was praying in my bedroom, my daughter Brighde, age six at the time (nicknamed Wings because we think she may actually be an angel in disguise) came in as she often does and lay on her back on the carpeted floor near my feet. It was a precious gem of a moment. She said, “I love laying on your floor, Daddy” as she made herself extremely comfortable. We were simply being present to one another. It was to me as if she had said, “I love the security and love I feel being in your presence, Daddy.” God, may I live up to this great responsibility and privilege of fatherhood. Thank You, Jesus, for the gift of our spouses, families and friends and for this particular gift of grace.
Let’s live Christmas all year round by lavishing these sublime gifts upon our children. We do not need to go shopping for these gifts. They cost nothing, yet they cost everything, that is total self-giving agape love. And when we give these gifts to our children we receive an infinite return of love from them, as well as from the Babe who was born on Christmas Day, namely Love Himself, our Blessed Lord, Jesus; the One Who we have faith in and Who has faith in us in entrusting our children to us; the One who is faithful and true and Who will never abandon us; the One who is the Source of Life, the One who is always present to us and loving us unconditionally. Sounds a lot like the four greatest year-round Christmas gifts, doesn’t it?
James M. Littleton
President, Co-founder & Co-director of Forming Faithful Families
32 W. Nebraska St.
Frankfort, IL 60423
Core material borrowed from my book, Healed Through Cancer and Other Adversities.