This article originally appeared in a December 2016 edition of the Shakopee Valley News

I am a parent of children who are in the prime time of enjoying Christmas. My kids are 9, 6, 4, and 1 respectively this year. The twinkle in their eyes sparks a lot of joy in our household. If we’re not careful, we can let Christmastime get swallowed up in the process of giving and receiving gifts. Having been to three Christmas parties in three consecutive days while we visited family in Illinois the week after Thanksgiving, I saw the systematic destruction of their Amazon wish list. I love watching loved ones purchase gifts for my kids and I also love watching my kids enjoy those gifts with such delight. My wife and I weren’t as quick to find gifts from us to them. One night recently we struggled with what to get them. I had one thought run through my mind, “They have all they need.” We did end up finding some good gifts to give them. I won’t tell you now, just in case they read this!

Maybe you have found yourself having a hard time finding a gift for a loved one. On the outside it appears that they have all they need. That particular loved one has a solid job, a very nice home, and stuff galore. In fact, it also seems like they have all they want as well. It’s a vital lesson to know the difference between want and need. What kind of gift do you give to someone who has all they need or want? “They have all they need.” On the flip side, have you ever gotten a gift and said to yourself, “I don’t really need this”? We make value judgments of what we need and want daily.

There are great options out there for giving a gift or a donation to someone more in need than most. I have heard of people purchasing a well that will be used for clean water in a faraway land. Some have made baskets of food to give to those local neighbors who are in tremendous need. I encourage you to be creative.

I find myself saying, almost musing, during this season of gift-giving, “They have all they need.” But is that true? As I step back and reflect on the deeper meaning of this question, I realize it is harder than answering, “Is everything checked off their wish list?” What do our children really need? I mean really, really need. What do we as adults need? Sometimes we are unaware of what we truly need. We get a gift we didn’t request and say to ourselves, “I don’t need this,” and return it for store credit. I wonder sometimes if that’s the way many people consider Christmas. God, our Heavenly Father, has given the largest, most absolutely necessary gift, to all of us. Jesus Christ was born in a humble setting around 2,000 years ago. It was the beginning of a mission. His mission was to live and die for the sins of the world, including yours and mine. For one who doesn’t see the need for that Savior, born of the Virgin Mary, that great gift may seem like something to quickly discard. Even in the midst of the hullabaloo surrounding Christmastime, you might sense that you don’t have all you need, even though you think that you have all that you need. That gift is right here for you to receive. It’s free. No strings attached. And it is all that you need. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)