On the morning of November 13th, my four year old daughter  looked at me with pleading eyes and said, “Mom, can we decorate for Christmas today?” Rather than balking at her idea with an explanation about  why it was too early – with childlike enthusiasm – I said “yes!”

Her eyes twinkled as we unpacked the treasures that we had forgotten from last year.  She pranced around our living room trying to find just the right spot for each piece of décor.  Little Drummer Boy blared in the background.

“Mom,” she said, “this makes me feel really happy.”  My heart felt warm.

Christmas has always been one of my favourite times of year. I love the smell of the tree, the glimmer of candles, the reverent sound of O Holy Night, the eruption of giggles in Jingle Bells and tastes of tradition. I look forward to attending the Christmas Eve service, waking up early Christmas morning and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus at breakfast.

But there is another side. There is a sort of confusion that surfaces during  this Christmas season too.

Recently, I walked into Chapters which had just been decorated. Lights twinkled, holiday music jingled and I felt an extra skip in my step. A Disney Frozen display caught my eye, remember – I have a four year old daughter. I imagined her little eyes lighting up as she opened up a big stuffed Olaf. Then I spotted the Anna and Elsa dolls and smiled at the fact that I knew her Granny had already bought them for her.

It’s not bad to want to see our children light up, is it? I still remember my childhood excitement at seeing the tree almost gobbled up by presents. Did my eyes light up? Yes. But what did my heart do?

Is it possible that we can give gifts that are longer lasting  and more meaningful than those purchased and wrapped to put beneath a tree? Is it possible that the uninhibited decorating time with my daughter  was a greater gift than what we buy for her? As I consider the time spent planning and arranging sitters so I can shop, I wonder . . .

Maybe the true gift to give is presence not presents.

Ann Voskamp, a blogger and author, poignantly says , “What matters is people being with each other, not people buying for each other.”

She writes in her blog of the year she informed her family they would be hanging the Christmas tree upside down.

We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year so real love falls out of it….

We’re hanging Christmas upside down this year because we’re giving the whole Christmas season to Jesus and His Upside Down Kingdom, not just some tossed crusty edge of it.

Because we can feel it — how we’re done with the malls and missing Jesus.

We are done with busy Christmases and brushing past Christ.

We are done with over-stuffed Christmases….

To give the gifts of time and memories and words and togetherness. To give to the least of these because it’s giving to Christ and who in the world’s birthday is it anyways….

To upend the old exhausting burdens of the holidays that about strangle us — and string up some new traditions that are about as weightless as a tree suspended in thin air.

What if this year we give the gift of presence to our spouse and children?  Not just by spending more time together but by engaging in loving others – together.

So this year, let’s go upside down.  Let’s focus on doing something meaningful with our time, treasure and talent to bless others and reflect the true gift of Christmas – the Presence of Christ.

After all, isn’t this what Christmas is really about?

Written by Serenity Wiens

Serenity is a high school English and Journalism teacher by trade, however, she currently works for FamilyLIfe Canada. She uses her writing skill to share God’s redemptive story in her own life and helps others share their stories. She married Chris in 2001, they have a young daughter and a son who resides in heaven.