For kids, Christmas is all about the toys. Can you remember the thrill of wandering down the store aisles in the toy section? Did you look through store catalogs & ads to circle the toys you wanted? The best time of the whole year was waking up Christmas morning to see new toys under the tree. Maybe you didn’t get to experience that because your family experienced poverty.
If you were born in the ’40s, you may remember simple toys like dolls & yo yo’s, plastic army men, Slinkys, Monopoly, & Scrabble. As the 1950s came along, the marketing for toys really took off with Mr. Potato Head, Silly Putty, Tonka Trucks, Matchbox Cars, Hula Hoops, Frisbees, Play-Doh, Colorforms, Slot Car Racers, Legos, & Barbie. In the ’60s, things began to get a little more innovative, complex, electrified & battery-operated with the Easy-Bake Oven, Operation, Etch-a-Sketch, Lite-Brite, Hot Wheels, & radio-controlled cars. Boys got their own dolls (I mean, action figures): GI Joe & Batman.
In the ’70s we played with different action figures, like Stretch Armstrong & Evel Knievel riding his stunt cycle. We had Nerf Balls & Rubik cubes. More dangerous toys emerged that are now banned, like Lawn Darts & Clackers (2 hard acrylic balls on a string you swing up & down to bang on each other until you smashed your knuckles). I also scorched my thumb with a wood-burning kit, & wiped out plenty of times on my skateboard. Then technology started to take off with handheld electronic games (Coleco football ruled!), & video games as companies like Atari began to put Pong & other basic games on your TV screen.
By the ’80s technology began to rule & toys got more expensive as Nintendo began to dominate. Kids enjoyed Teddy Ruxpin, Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Dolls, & action figures like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Masters of the Universe, & Transformers. By the ’90s, hundreds of new toys were hitting the market: Tickle Me Elmo, Beanie Babies, Furbies, American Girl Dolls, Tomagachi digital pets. Video games exploded with Playstation, Sega, N64 & Game Boy. In the 2000s, kids wanted PS2 & 3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360. In the 2010s, Marvel toys & more electronic toys & video games.
Yet, many never really do outgrow toys–they just keep getting more sophisticated & expensive. As much as we enjoy giving & receiving gifts, Christians ought to be pushing back against the rampant consumerism that Christmas has devolved into. The vast majority of children throughout history & in the world today have had very few toys, while American toy boxes are overflowing with neglected toys. Some might say we’re spoiled!
When we become Christians, it’s like being reborn, which also means starting as spiritually immature. But the goal is to grow up & become like Jesus! That means putting childish attitudes, values & behaviors behind us. Toys lose a lot of their appeal. Materialism begins to lose its grip on our hearts. You can get more joy from your toys if you keep them in the proper perspective.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17). Real joy comes from contentment and generosity. We find that we don’t need all those things to be happy. With maturity, we outgrow our desire for more and more toys. We limit our indulgences so that we’ll appreciate more of what we have. Isn’t it true that the more toys kids have, the less they seem to appreciate them?
God doesn’t want us to get caught up in a materialistic lifestyle, always wanting more, hoarding up stuff we’re just going to have to leave behind someday anyway. We only have so much room and time for toys. It’s better to leave our homes and hearts uncluttered because materialism is a heart issue!
Life can be like playing Monopoly–going around and around, trying to accumulate more stuff so you can “win,” as if the one who dies with most toys wins. But what happens at the end of the game? It all goes back in the box.