Escape the Guilt Gift

By Cindy Koch

What do you want for Christmas?

A new iPhone.

How many times do you think the jolly old mall Santa Claus will hear that one this year? Wow, the pressures of Christmas presents, selfish expectations, and parenting issues tied up in this one little yearly tradition. Within earshot, mom’s eyes shift side to side, and she hides a frustrated smile. Her five-year-old wants an iPhone, pony, $500 Lego set, or a drone. That seems about right according to all of the other little kiddos eagerly waiting in line. 

And there the lines are drawn. What’s a parent to do?

Of course, this is just not a problem for the young children who believe in Santa. Young and old, kids make their Christmas list known one way or another. The gauntlet is thrown down. The guilt gift has been spoken. They look at us intently as if to say, “How much do you really love me?”

Now, to be honest, I have been blessed with a small budget and too many children. My own kids unfortunately understand that their ultimate Christmas wish will probably not be granted this year, nor next year. Admittedly, I feel the guilty pressure to create a very merry Christmas for them every single year. This happy success somehow tells me that I am doing a good job as their mother.

But I have also been blessed with older and wiser friends that share a different Christmas story. They have long since raised their children. They are now able to peer into their own Christmas past and reflect on the happiness and failures of their children. Many of my honest friends recall a vital piece of Christmas that was far more precious than momma’s child-issued report card.

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But before I let you in on their little Christmas secret, I’m going to spoil a bit of your sugar plum dreams for your Suzie. She is a terrible little sinner. Yes, I know she’s cute. Yes, I know she’s tried really hard to be good (or maybe she didn’t). But she is in for a lifetime of screwing up. The iPhone won’t make it better. The pony you buy won’t ride her off into a perfect sunset. Whether it’s public or hidden, our children are poor miserable sinners.

But there is a gift that can actually change the course of her uncertain future. You can give it again and again, not just at Christmas. It is as simple as giving her a name.

For most of you who read this, your child has already been named. He’s been marked with the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was Baptized and given the amazing gift of a Word made flesh, killed for his sin, raising him to new life. And seriously, this is no small thing.

Training our kids to hear their name—baptized and forgiven in Christ—gives them a gift that they can never take back. This name will pursue them through their whole life, chasing him through the dark depressions, following her when she can’t remember who she is. This name doesn’t change when they mess up their paths, which they certainly will in some part. This is the gift that changes everything.

As a mother who seeks the best for her children, I have been taught by wise sisters in Christ that this is the most valuable of presents to hand on to our children. The guilt of our perfect-parent gifting is swallowed up by the simplest of Words. If you got them, don’t worry about the iPhones, but more importantly, keep giving them the name of Christ that saved their life.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:1,6

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