If you're like most Christian parents, you enter the holiday season intent on focusing your family's celebrations on the "true meaning" of Christmas. We set up our nativity sets, bake birthday cakes for Jesus, and reenact the birth of the Savior so that our children aren't confused about what Christmas is about. Some of us even choose to keep Santa out of our holiday to prevent our children from losing sight of Jesus' birth.
But Santa or no Santa, most families find that the whole gift-giving commotion ends up fizzling our focus anyway. Even if Mom and Dad try to reign in the gift explosion, kids get oodles of presents from Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Bob and Aunt Susie, friends, and even neighbors. As a result, our visions of a meaning-filled Christmas get buried under all the wrapping paper, and by December 26, we start making promises to do things better next year.
In an effort to maintain some control over the lessons learned at Christmas, my husband and I have come up with a way of giving gifts that seems to work beautifully. Maybe you've tried limiting your giving to three gifts per child to echo the three gifts Jesus received from the Magi. But our idea takes this plan a step further. The three gifts themselves symbolize those that Jesus received from the wise men: "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh" (Matt. 2:11).1