I'm watching TV news and seeing all those parents desperately searching for a hamster. An electronic hamster, to be specific. Otherwise known by the unlikely name, Zhu-Zhu Pets. Apparently, it's this Christmas' MVP - Most Valuable Plaything.
Sad to say, I have been one of those parents, scheming and searching to find the "Toy of the Year." Every Christmas has one. It's been Cabbage Patch Kids, Star Wars figures, Transformers, Tickle Me Elmo, X-Box, Wii. I have not-fond memories of trying to get inside intel on when the next shipment would arrive or which store had the toy treasure I was looking for. After all, if you want to be a hero at home, you need to deliver at Christmas, right?
But with some perspective on our own now-grown family...and carrying in my heart the heartaches of so many families I've been involved with - I know it takes a lot more than a Zhu-Zhu Pet to make you a great parent. I've seen parents who will spare nothing to get some gift their kids really want who won't give their children what they need most. Like fighting to keep together the love from which they came - to do whatever it takes to make your marriage work.
Or just to reprioritize your life to be there for your child in the moments that really matter to them. Their waking up times...their bedtimes...their proud moments...their heartbreak moments...their coming home times. Somewhere along the way, I realized my kids were taking attendance, marking me present or absent for them in the important moments of their life. They need our time more than our toys. No gift could be their daddy. They needed most what I had the least of - time.
And our child needs our praise more than our presents. The Bible says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building others up" (Ephesians 4:29). I memorized that one. Too many of us mommies and daddies are quick to point out what our child is doing wrong but not so quick to praise what they're doing right. They're silently, constantly asking, "How'm I doing, Mom? Dad?" No toys can heal the wounds of tear-down words.
Being a parent is what exposed beyond denial my dark side. That's true for every mom or dad. The stress and burden and frustration of raising a child brings out all the selfishness, the control freak issues, the baggage of our own past, the anger, the critical spirit. Junk we've had in us for a long time but haven't been able to change. Parents who really love their kids, who will strain and sacrifice to get something they need or want, often find themselves unable to deliver what their child needs most - a better mommy or daddy.
That's why what the "good news" the Christmas angels announced to the shepherds is great news for parents who care. "I bring you good news...a Savior has been born to you" (Luke 2:11). Being a parent has shown me my undeniable need for a Savior. Someone who can rescue me from the sin in me that that I can't rescue myself from. So, Jesus came. To live as one of us so He could die for all of us. As the Bible says, "He loves us and has freed us from our sin by His blood" (Revelation 1:5). His life was the price He paid for the gift we could never pay for - forgiving our sins and eternal life. "The gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23). And, like any gift, it's not ours until we take it as our own. And Christmas is a beautiful time to tell Him you want the gift He was born - and died - to give.
Because then you can give your child - no matter how old or young they are - the greatest gift of all. A new mom or dad. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).