When you ask my kids what Christmas is all about, they know that it is about Jesus, but they will also always mention presents. Who doesn’t love to get presents! Our 5-year old son has already been praying each night for the car transporter that he knows his grandma is getting him for Christmas.
Sometimes I ask them what Jesus wants for Christmas, and the kids will suggest the things that they like: trucks, toy cars, princess dolls, etc. I’m sure Jesus would like those things, right? But most of all, he wants US this Christmas.
Even as we celebrate Christmas thousands of years after his birth, we also recall that Jesus actually received presents for his birthday, too. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were given to him from the Magi representing his kingship, priesthood, and eventual death. While those aren’t typically gifts we give these days anymore, we can reflect on what those presents mean to have Christ as our Savior, Redeemer, and King.
So, since Jesus got presents at the first Christmas, and kids get so excited about presents at Christmas, we have used that idea to help them prepare for his coming during Advent. Some families do straw in the manger to make a soft bed for Jesus by their good deeds and sacrifices, but we find presents are the most effective at capturing the attention of our kids to help draw them into the Advent season of preparation for the coming of Jesus.
My inspiration was The Donut Man movie I watched growing up called “The Best Present of All” (who is Jesus). Here’s an excerpt from one of the songs:
What can I give?
What can I bring?
What is a gift that is fit for a king?
I’ll give my life
Not just a part
I’ll give my all to him
I’ll give my heart.
So our kids do presents for Jesus during Advent. We cut out a bunch of small paper hearts, and they pick out a present box at the dollar store. Every time they say a prayer, or obey, or make a sacrifice, or help someone in the family, they put a paper heart into the present box. We remind them in that moment of deciding whether to obey or not to obey that they have a chance to give a present to Jesus. Then, by Christmas Mass, they have their present box (hopefully) full of paper hearts to give to Jesus. We bring them to the Church and make an offering of them as his birthday present.
More than just paper hearts in a box, they represent our hearts. When we pray, or offer up our sacrifices, or help others, we’re giving our hearts to Jesus. And that’s the best present of all, what Christ wants most for his birthday!
But this just isn’t for kids.
Remember, the color for Advent is purple, just like for Lent. We are in a season of preparation, and while we don’t have to be as penitential as in Lent, it still is a time for renewed prayer, contrition, and sacrifice. So, make sure to get to Confession this Advent! Perhaps there is a certain sacrifice you can make each day of Advent, a sin you can try and let go of each day, or a daily prayer that you can add to your routine? Whether you keep track of them with paper hearts or not, we can all participate in preparing our hearts to give to Jesus this Christmas. Since there are areas in my life that I would like to prepare to receive the King of Kings, I too will be joining my kids in preparing my present for Jesus. This is something we each can do!