by Keith Jiron
This Advent season, as I prepare for Christmas, I dedicate this article to my mom and dad.
Thanks to them, the Advent and Christmas seasons hold many wonderful memories for me. My dad was a junior high school teacher and my mom stayed home to take care of me and my four younger siblings. As you can imagine, this was not a recipe for financial prosperity. Nonetheless, they always managed to get by and we never seemed to go without.
I vividly recall being a child and feeling like Christmas morning would never arrive, anticipating the arrival of Santa and the treasures that would be sitting beneath the tree. One of many outstanding memories is the time that my younger brother and I were sent on a hunt through the house with clue upon clue, finally leading us to the discovery of the top-of-the-line video game in those days, an Atari. My brother and I jumped up and down with joy and delight.
My brothers and sisters agree with the fact that there was something special in the mix around our house during the holidays. Surely, we each have our own unique perspective as to why. Though part of it, I believe, was something beyond the delicious food, the games and the presents. Looking back, I realize now more than ever that what we had in that tiny, three-bedroom house was an abundance of love.
I now find myself with a desire to give my children what my parents gave to me. It is not a modern-day version of an Atari. It is something of greater significance that I think this passage captures well: “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9).
More important than the Atari or other material gifts, my parents demonstrated by their lives what was of real importance.
Because my parents struggled financially, their faith in God was palatable. And God always seemed to come through for them. They taught me that doing God’s will doesn’t necessarily mean financial gain, but that life is much more than that. My mother and father embody the Scripture passage from the prophet Isaiah quoted by John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth” (Lk 3:4b-5). They had and still have many rough roads, but their deep trust in God is a continual reminder for me in my own life. Their worldly investment, or rather lack thereof, might not make sense to some. But my siblings and I are all the richer for it.
This year, my wife and I decided to put up our Christmas tree a little earlier than we have in the past. I’m always conflicted about giving in to the culture and decorating prematurely for Christmas because Advent is a time of preparing and longing for Christ’s coming.
But every time my three-year-old would see the Christmas lights on all the houses, he would ask, “Can we decorate our house today?” So, on the first weekend of Advent, we took our annual trip to our favorite Christmas tree lot, selected the perfect tree and came home to decorate it. This event is always rather chaotic, and I’m thankful to my wife for foregoing her natural desire for a tree that looks like something from a magazine. The end result is kind of symbolic of our lives — chaotic, but beautiful.
This season is a good time to ask what values we are teaching our children by our own lives. What are we doing to give Christmas a deeper meaning than the presents under the tree? What lessons and values did our parents impart to us? Where do we find truth, goodness and beauty?
This Advent, I am grateful for the gift of seeing things through my parents’ eyes. I’m grateful for the perspective on life that they gave to me. I’m grateful for my wife and my own children, who indelibly place the words of the psalmist in my heart: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy” (Ps 126: 3).