I just bought gifts for my smaller nieces (my brother's two, ages two yrs old and three months old) and it's amazing how buying a Potty Training Elmo leads to humming "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas" under your breath at work all day.
I have one more baby to shop for, my nieces' half-sister, Amber, who's about 14 months old. Since it looks like my sister may be about to adopt her (her parents have agreed verbally to the adoption, and we're about to start the paperwork), this will be a special Christmas indeed. But what do you buy for a one-year-old? She does love "Momo" (as she calls Elmo) and she loves to pretend that she can read. She has about all the toys she could ever need already, which makes Christmas shopping hard. I wonder if it was that way for our parents thirty-odd years ago. I don't remember being overrun with toys I didn't play with, and I always knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas, but did my parents ever think, "Those kids already have more toys than they can play with--will this year's Baby Tenderlove be overkill?"
I guess it's part of the blessing that comes with living in a free, prosperous society. It's why we like to make sure the kids know that they're blessed and lucky, and there are a lot of kids in the world who aren't so fortunate. My adopted nine-year-old niece is old enough to remember a time when she was one of those unfortunates. For the first three years of her life, she lived with a neglectful mother in a roach-infested hell-hole. Then custody was given to her father, who didn't have anywhere to live but his car and sometimes left her in the car asleep to go do whatever it was he was going to do. She'd wake up to find herself alone, with no idea where he was. She still remembers that, six years and a vastly improved lifetime later.
Thankfully, her younger sisters won't have to remember that kind of life. The six-year old was just a baby, as was the one-year-old, when they came into our lives and our home, and we're almost all they've ever known. We're not rich by any means, but you don't have to be rich to make a difference in the lives of people, if you have love to share.
Having the children around reminds me of what Christmas is really about: a child born in a stable, to a family of modest means but transcendent love, who grew into his destiny as the Son of God and whose awesome, sacrificial love found its most profound expression in a cross, a death and a rolled-away stone.
That kind of love inspires you to show love to others, often in sacrificial ways. So if you have a few pennies to rub together, think about finding a worthy charity this season and give what you can. I still have links to Katrina relief agencies on the sidebar of this blog for reference if you're looking for organizations who do a great deal of good for people in need.
I'm giving to a local charity, the Jimmie Hale Mission, which cares for homeless men and women in Birmingham, Alabama, and surrounding areas. They've been doing worthy, difficult work for many years, and I'm proud to give them my support.