What came first at Christmas? Self-centered children or their parents?

Children have been taught to think of themselves at Christmas because of all the messages they receive in our consumer-driven culture. But I believe as parents and grandparents, we bear some responsibility, too.

The solution to combating commercialism and self-centeredness is right in front of us in the teachings of the one whose birth Christmas commemorates. True joy isn’t found in stuff. It’s found in giving.

Yet holiday commercials on television this year are more overt in their claims to provide the key to happiness than ever before. One of my favorite holiday car commercials ends with “let’s see the neighbors compete with that!”


And that’s what it’s about for many of us, isn’t it? The need to keep up. To make sure our children feel like they are as special as the next child. If they don’t have “enough”, we will have failed them. Isn’t that what many commercials would have us believe?

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I used to stay up late every Christmas Eve looking at the presents and wondering…is the number equal? What about the value? Did we get enough? Maybe we got too much. But then again, I want them to be happy on Christmas morning... It was madness. And I was the one creating it. Not my children.

Then one Christmas about eight years ago, my husband and I got a really crazy idea to leave a gift for Christ under our Christmas tree.

We had made a few donations to organizations that encouraged us to make our contributions in someone’s honor. And that begged a question.

Who are we really honoring when we take care of those in need?  In the same moment, we both got it. We honor Jesus. It felt radical, but we wrote our donations down, put them in a gold foil jewelry box and placed it under our tree.

On Christmas morning, with our children gathered around, we opened up Jesus’ gift before we opened our own, and we read His gifts out loud.

Mittens for the homeless so their hands won’t be cold.

A water filter for a family, because we know you don’t want people to have to worry about getting sick or dying from the water they drink.

I was so touched, so humbled by the act of giving a gift to Christ, I could hardly get the words out.

Our children—usually wild and rambunctious on Christmas morning—were quiet and reverent: watching, learning and taking in the joy of giving to those in need.

Afterwards, we exchanged our gifts to each other, in a true spirit of love and joy we had never experienced before. It wasn’t about striving to provide a good Christmas anymore. It was about celebrating the love of Christmas.

"The Sparkle Box: A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas" was written to share the transforming power of giving a gift of compassion to Christ on Christmas morning.

Beautifully illustrated by Christine Kornacki, the book contains a Sparkle Box in the back that children and adults can fold together to hold their gifts of compassion to Jesus.

I am amazed by stories of children as young as two filling the Sparkle Box, and I never tire of hearing from adults who were moved to tears when they read the story.

I think it’s because The Sparkle Box acknowledges a truth we all know deep down inside. Christmas is Christ’s birthday. Isn’t it fitting He should be honored with a gift? And isn’t it beautiful that nothing makes Him happier than when we take care of each other.

If we want to raise children to be other-centered, we need to center Christmas on Christ. And that starts with us.