On a family radio program some years ago, I heard an eye-opening story told by the mother of three small children. She and her husband had taken them to Grandma’s on Christmas Eve. Grandparents, uncles, and aunts showered the little ones with gifts. The next morning the kids wanted to play with the toys opened on Christmas Eve instead of unwrapping the gifts under the tree. But the presents had been bought, it was Christmas morning, and the children were going to open those packages. “Smile!” Mom urged as she snapped pictures. But her five-year-old whined, “Do we have to open more presents?” “That,” said the young mother, “was when I realized that we had bought too much.”
Jesus says that one’s “life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” Luke 12:15). The young mother learned this the hard way. An abundance of material things failed to create a corresponding overflow of family joy. Doing things together is the best way to build family connections at Christmastime and every other time. Decorate the tree together, even if small hands lack the dexterity and reach of bigger ones. Read books together. Bake cookies together, even though sharing the kitchen makes a bigger mess. Take a car ride together and look at the lights. Make hot chocolate. Sip on it as you sit together and chat. Share a meal together every day at the family table.
Togetherness is a gift that far surpasses any wrapped present. Being together is what makes family life so special. The psalmist hints at this when he pronounces a blessing on the person who reveres the Lord: “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Ps. 128:2-3).