My best Christmas recollection as a child actually began on summer vacation. I was about eight years old and my dad and I were walking through the tourist village where we were vacationing. I saw a pair of red, knit slippers with fake leather sole and Indian beads on top. They were those ugly slippers that were basically thick socks with a sole sewn on so you could walk outside. I repeat, ugly!
When I saw them, I said to my dad, “I bet mom would like those,” thinking he would spend the eight dollars and get them for her. His reply caught me off guard. I didn’t see a lesson coming.
My dad said, “Bobby, why don’t you buy them and give them to your mom for Christmas”. Before I could respond with the reality that I didn’t have eight dollars, he offered to loan me the money and let me pay it off little by little. Done! That was my first experience with the layaway plan. My dad got the slippers and supposedly hid them from mom until Christmas.
When Christmas morning came, I was beside myself. I couldn’t wait. But this was a totally new kind of excitement. I was more excited about giving mom her moccasin stocking slippers than I was about any of the presents under the tree for me.
Dad helped me wrap her gift and I put it under the tree the night before. When Christmas morning came, my brother and I were finally permitted to leave the stairs where we were sitting. I raced to the tree. But this year was different from any previous year. This time I dove for the present I was giving mom instead of grabbing the biggest gift with my name on it.
I turned and proudly put the gift on her lap. “Mom,” I began, “I’m not going to tell you what it is but it’s something you wear on your feet. But you cannot wear them outside (as if someone would wear something this ugly out of the house …).”
My brother Steve was ripping open his first present as I sat at mom’s feet watching her open the gift I had spent the entire Fall paying for. She saw them and loved them. I could tell by her face that they were the exact fashion statement she had been searching for. Immediately mom put them on and walked around in them. I don’t remember her ever taking them off … ever. At least it seemed that way.
My dad introduced me to a plan that year and taught me how much fun it is to give. He called it a Christmas account; but I called it a savings account. Dad held a little of my money each week so I would have a lot more money for the next Christmas.
That was the beginning lesson about learning to save. Putting away a little each time I received my allowance was the beginning of the lesson that taught me to eventually put away a little extra on my mortgage and pay it off twelve years early.
The best part of that first Christmas lesson, however, was to begin to learn the exciting truth about giving. It really is more blessed to give than receive.
The real truth about Christmas is a difficult truth to teach. We have been conditioned to believe that it is more awesome to get. We received the ultimate gift at Christmas because God gave the ultimate gift at Christmas; His son. “Why,” a child might ask. “Why would God do this for us?”
God gave His son at Christmas because He loves us and true love compels us to give rather than get. My dad began teaching me the lesson of giving and the lesson of love on my eighth Christmas. He used my love for my mom to get me to let go of my money. He helped me to focus on the happiness of someone else.
This Christmas, begin that journey with your child. Start the laborious lesson of using Christmas to teach about saving money instead of spending money, and the lesson of giving rather than getting. Remember, God so loved us that He released his Son from heaven. Love means giving not getting, but that is a lesson that has to be taught…
Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. To learn more about Pastor Bob Barnes, go to www.sheridanhouse.org.