I heard about an elderly lady who had dropped her handbag in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas crowd. A young man who saw what happened picked it up and chased her down to return the missing property

As she looked inside her purse, the lady reasoned, “Hmm, that’s strange. When I dropped my bag, there was a $20 bill in it. Now there are four $5 bills. How do you explain that?”

The young man had his answer ready. “The last time I found a lady’s purse, she didn’t have any change for a reward.”

Once again, ’tis the season for love, joy . . . and grown men and women fighting in checkout lines like junior high girls. It’s sad when moms and dads whose bumper stickers promote world peace stand in line all night to wrestle other parents over the latest, greatest, most violent video game to take home to their kids.

The three wise men could never have imagined the tradition they started would end up here. Today, Frank and Myrrh are incensed over the amount of gold it takes to buy their Christmas gifts.

My wife recently helped me make my biannual trip to the local mall. After plowing my way through a couple of department stores, I found myself both mentally and physically exhausted. I felt as if I had walked 20 miles uphill both ways. But when this happens, I know exactly where to go: the massage chair at the Brookstone Store. This wonderful invention works its magic on everything from ear lobes to ankles. After I kicked a 7-year-old out of the chair, I enjoyed a thorough massage for the next couple of hours while my wife (who has much more endurance than I) finished our shopping.

As I sat there shaking like a tambourine, I began to think. We should make Christmas shopping our next Olympic event. After all, only the most finely-tuned bodies are built to endure this grueling process. We could invite people from every nation to participate. I would personally support one of those Ethiopian long-distance runners. That way, he could do my shopping.

The great Christmas Shopping Olympics would begin with the “ding” of a giant cash register. The first event: finding a parking space. Judges would score each athlete according to how fast and how close he or she could get to the mall entrance. Obviously, the one who achieved the lowest combined time and distance would receive first place.

The second event would involve finding an actual item listed in an sales flyer. Anyone who accepted a substitute would be immediately disqualified.

The third event would measure the shopping bags a participant could carry. Scoring would include a combination of the number of items bought, the weight of said items and the total number of bags.

The final segment of our Christmas Shopping Olympics would calculate the hours and minutes spent in the mall. The individual who accomplished all the above tasks in the least amount of time would win this event. After final scores were tallied, mall loudspeakers would blare out the name of the winner of the gold (or even platinum) credit card.

One year, I asked the beloved members of my WMU group, “What do you remember most about Christmas as a child?” One by one, they went around the room telling stories. One spoke of riding a horse into town for the annual church Christmas program and, at the end of the service, receiving the gift of an orange. Others told how their parents would make them something special like a doll or a new dress. For each one, the most important memory was not the gifts but the family, celebrating together.

What would it take to go back there? Christmas today seems to evoke a spirit of entitlement among our kids. Many of them expect Mom and Dad to sacrifice or even go into debt to give them the latest, greatest everything.

Frank and Myrrh gave expensive gifts, too—but with at least one difference. Their gifts went not to one another, but to Jesus.

I would like to take this time to wish my extended family a Merry Christmas. You’ve been such a joy and a blessing to this humble writer. Many of you have let me know that you prayed for my wife while she was seriously ill. Others have shared stories of how God has used these chicken scratches called “Rite of Passage Parenting” to touch your life. It was a joy to meet so many of you at the Messenger Family Reunions. For those I haven’t yet met, let’s try to change that this next year.

In the end, the greatest gift is family, and you are a part of mine. Merry Christmas!