My 5 year old just had a birthday, but he already has a Christmas wish list that’s about a mile long. We were recently in Target and found ourselves in the Paw Patrol aisle. After lingering and looking for a couple minutes, and my wife and I asking which one he really liked, he spread his arms and legs wide and said “I want all of it!”. (And to be fair, I say similar things if I ever wander into an Apple store). 
Now, I’m going to cut him, and my wife and I a little slack when I say that little outbursts of unchecked greed are really hard to avoid in such a consumeristic society. We, and I’m sure many other parents out there, are left with trying to figure out how to avoid “stuff-itis” this Christmas season (and just in life in general). Rather than the typical focus on stuff and getting what we want, we’re looking for ways to make giving, generosity, compassion and serving the essential core of the holiday celebrations, and to have those things point us and our children toward the deeper truths of the gift which we have already been given. And while some of these things are talked about in main stream culture, almost every company out there is steering the conversation back to stuff. So what can we do?
Right now my wife and I are helping lead through The Legacy Journey, a Dave Ramsey class that focuses on what and how we are to pass things on to our family. And this goes well beyond money to include family values and spiritual principles. One of the great quotes Dave shares is that as parents, “More is caught than taught”. The idea being, it is probably more important to do what you want them to do than to say what you want them to do. You can tell a child to be generous all you want, but it is far more effective to illustrate what generosity is by actually giving of your money and resources in daily life, for your kids to see that truth lived out. And yes, it is easier said than done, but it is so worth it.
So let’s get practical, what is one specific thing you can do today? Each year the family in focus ministry and the missions team sponsor Operation Christmas Child. It’s a ministry that packs Christmas gifts in shoeboxes and sends them around the world to children living in poverty. And with each gift there is a gospel story at the child’s level and in their language, explaining the Good News. There are a lot of different ways families and even young children can get involved, and it is a very practical way to take the season’s focus off stuff, and replace it with a mission of spreading hope and the joy of giving.

Ben Panter