Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

The Importance Of Reframing The Most Common Question We Ask Kids At Christmas


There’s no time of the year more magical, especially for children, than the season of Advent and the coming of Christmas. Even I, a child in an aging body with more grey hair than I had hoped for at this age, continue to experience the magic of Christmas all these years later.

It’s true– it is the most wonderful time of the year.

The decorating. The music. The movies (Home Alone > Elf). The fun foods. The visits from those both near and far. And then there’s the anticipation of presents.

Ah, yes. Presents.

While I reject the over-commercialization of Christmas, I think gift-giving is and can be a beautiful aspect of Christmas celebrations. Giving loved ones gifts is an opportunity to express love, an opportunity to be thoughtful, and an opportunity to meet one another’s needs.

Yet, I fear that far too often we have programmed our children to see Christmas as being more about gift-receiving than gift-giving. We do this through a simple question I think is perhaps the most often asked question to kids at Christmas:

“What do you want for Christmas this year?”

 The question of all questions… What do you want for Christmas this year?

As a kid that question was on my mind before the leaves had finished falling from the trees. One of the highlights of the year was the arrival of the Sears and JC Penny catalogs, which would prompt me to go find a black sharpie and circle everything I wanted for Christmas that year.

While circling things in a catalogue has been replaced by Amazon wish lists, the principle remains the same: we so often ask kids, “What do you want for Christmas this year?” that such a question becomes a main focus of the holiday season. If asked this question too many times, one could understand if a child became self-focused and missed out of the beauty of thoughtfully considering ways to express and show love towards others at Christmas.

And that’s a beauty I’d hate for any child to miss out on. As a parent I have discovered that I enjoy gift-giving every bit as much as I enjoyed gift-receiving as a child, but I certainly wish I had discovered this reality sooner. I wish that I had known thoughtful gift-giving isn’t a mindless, obligatory action but is actually one of the languages of love.

One of the ways we can begin to re-program our children is simply by reframing the most common question we ask kids at Christmas. Instead of asking, “What do you want for Christmas this year?” we can begin asking them, “What would you like to give for Christmas this year?”

While the first question invites conversations about wants and materialism, the second question invites us into conversations about the people in our children’s lives, the ways we can show love towards them, and all sorts of other beautiful rabbit trails that can only be explored and discovered when we begin to ask the question differently.

In fact, reframing the most common question we ask children at Christmas helps to point the way towards the reason we celebrate at all: the fact that God gave, God loved, and God served.

In Jesus, we see the birth of the Christ-child– the one who emptied himself of all that was rightfully his to become a frail, human baby. Jesus grew up to become the one who claimed he came “not to be served, but to serve” and showed us the very best way to live: giving our lives to others.

And so, when we reframe the most common question we ask kids at Christmas, we’re not simply teaching them how to be thoughtful, other-focused individuals– we’re actually teaching them how to be like Jesus.

May we, the people who desire to raise children who live like Jesus, practice reframing the most common question we ask kids at Christmas, that we might pass on the joy and wonder that can only be experienced when we give.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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7 Responses

  1. Nice thoughts. We can always find the silver lining in something if we look, and yes, it is a nice way to teach children that giving and putting thought into a much-needed gift satisfies the need to help and share with others. Also, I appreciate hearing the cute anecdotes of adults remembering their childhoods…..yes, here too, the Sears catalogue, and our Canadian winters always had lots of snow.

    I’ve seen some Christians on blogs and sites blasted because they are told they celebrate the pagan ways of Christmas and they suggest throwing the whole baby out with the bathwater. They refuse to decorate with lights and trees and search for the pagan ways of the yuletide and scream ‘offender’ at anyone who still celebrates the western traditional way. There are similarities with the pagan celebrations, but we know Who we serve and are not worshipping trees, or the nativity scenes, or even the churches we attend, or even the pastor. We worship Christ.

    Even the Lord gave Israel feast days to help them celebrate and find joy and relaxation. We are human, after all, and do need a winter-time of retreat, and put Christ into the retreat and a lot of unexpected god-things can happen. Invite a Muslem to have dinner might be a good start. It might start a great relationship/friendship and it could lead someone to Christ down the road. Of course some presidential candidates aren’t too keen on that idea. But I digress.

  2. I like that; “What would you like to give for Christmas this year?” 🙂 But no kids here, for me to ask that question of. But it has got me started thinking, what I might like to give some of my great nieces and great nephews, that I will see at Christmas time. 🙂 Not a lot of money here, so great uncle does a lot of his shopping at garage sales! 🙂 And I know some of the kids have loved things, I have found for them there. 🙂

    But Benjamin, I would be lying if I also didn’t say, your post has gotten me to thinking about too, what I would like to get myself for Christmas? 🙂 Not thinking of anything fancy here; (ha) but you have got me thinking about doing more work on my little mini house. 🙂 I have done some work on it this year; but not nearly as much as I should have or could have. And as I tell my oldest sister, I don’t really plan on always living here with her. And if anything happened to her, I simply couldn’t afford to live here. Which is another big reason, I’ve done upkeep work on my little house and need to do more. Need to get back on that more, as a Christmas present to myself! (ha) 🙂 And maybe such would be a present to some other people as well? How? By letting some other people see, that we don’t have to have near the material things we think we have to have, to be happy and comfortable.

  3. I do agree that kids and others need to think more about what they are going to give than what they are going to get, but asking isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it shows that the person asking cares about the person they are asking and prevents frivolous gift giving (you know, the kind of gifts that you give for the sake of giving a gift rather than because the person would like it or find it useful).

    It probably would be a better idea to teach kids to ask *others* what they want even when they want to just talk about what they want and to think about gift giving as a way of showing that you love someone and care about their needs and wants as well.

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