Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Canoe

“Do nothing out of selfishness…” –Phil. 2:3

It’s Christmas time and though the season is all about the birth of Jesus, the focus seems to be more about gift giving. Nearly every TV commercial, advertisement and billboard is focused on selling something. A challenge for every parent is to be sure and set the Christmas tone for your family. Take the time to keep the focus on the Christ child. Talk about it on Christmas day. Tell the nativity story. Pray a prayer of thanks with the family on the 25th. Keep Christ in Christmas.

A part of the lesson is teaching our kids that they can't have everything they want. It’s okay to have the means to give our kids more than they need. I read yesterday that the average American spends $800 on Christmas gifts. Of course, that’s the average, so some spend a lot more.

When I was in the 8th grade, I went on a YMCA canoe trip with a bunch of other kids to the Boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. We spent a week canoeing the beautiful lakes, fishing for Pike and roughing it in the wilderness. It was a stretching trip for a pretty insecure kid trying to find his way. The trip had a profound effect on me and helped build me into a more confident person. It also stamped a love for the outdoors in me that continues to this day.

The Christmas after the canoe trip I knew what I wanted. Better yet, I knew what I thought I needed. I wanted an 18 foot double-end aluminum Grumman canoe. I had plans to spend my spare moments canoeing the great outdoors in Texas (?) I made my wish known to Santa Claus (mom and dad) and waited for the 25th. I woke up on Christmas morning and hurried into the living room. To my surprise, there was no canoe. “Oh, it’s too big to be in the house,” I thought, “it must be in the garage.” But upon inspection, there was no canoe there either. Mom and dad showed up, along with my brothers and we received some awesome gifts I’m sure (I don't remember). I never asked about the canoe and it never appeared. A gift, after all, is a gift, with the innate choice to be given or not given.

But the message was received. I wasn’t going to get everything I said I wanted. My parents certainly had the means, but they also had the maturity to realize that there needed to be a line. As the spoiled youngest child, I needed to learn that just because I wanted it didn't mean I’d get it. They laid the groundwork for the lesson God has been teaching me my whole life: that He provides what I need.

I am innately selfish, manipulative and greedy. Yuck! I want what I want when I want it, which is NOW! I wanted that canoe but I didn't need a canoe. Truth #1 is there are few places to canoe in Central Texas. I’ve canoed the Brazos River many times and most of the trip was spent dragging the canoe, not floating. Truth #2 is that it’s simpler to rent a canoe that it is to have to store and carry it around. The canoe was a good non-investment and though I was disappointed not to get it, within a few days, I was over it.

That’s the way most “things” are anyway. The build up to getting anything is huge, then the gift is received and within a few days, it’s no big deal. It’s because we’re reminded over and over that “things” don’t bring fulfillment. Like trying to grab water, there’s no substance in things. But unfortunately, that doesn’t keep us as parents from trying to give our kids too much “stuff.”

So, celebrate Christmas and certainly give gifts to those you love, but don't overdo it. And certainly don't forget to give away the best give of all: the reminder that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and God’s gift of grace.

Now that’s better than any old canoe.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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