It's an all-out battle in our cultural context to convince our children that Christmas is about Jesus and not about them. Hey, it's a battle to convince them that life is about Jesus and not about them. One of my favorite ways to make Jesus the real reason for the season with my kids is to give Him gifts--it's His birthday, after all. Seeking ways to give gifts to Jesus and to avoid elongating our kids' wish lists is a worthwhile precedent to set as early as we can.
One thing you can do right away is pack a Christmas Shoebox with your kiddos (they're due in the next 10 days, so hurry!). This ministry of Samaritan's Purse is a great way to connect your family with a child in need overseas, as well as to know that the Gospel--and not only material items--is going out. I have one friend whose daughters have birthdays in November and they're having a Shoebox Party, which I think is awesome--it's always more fun to serve with friends!
In addition to packing a Shoebox, look for other ways to serve with your kids in your community. In Japan we packed "Bags of Love" for local orphanages and children's homes. In the Czech Republic we purchased Christmas gifts for the children of prisoners through Angel Tree. Here in Denver you could sponsor a family through the Denver Rescue Mission.
The great thing about each of these opportunities is that the recipients of the gifts are already connected to excellent missions--in other words you're not going to be doing destructive, drive-by charity. You won't be doing "When Helping Hurts." Rather, you're resourcing the ministries that are already in the lives of the families and children in need. You're contributing to situations where long-term, gospel help is already happening. And, you're demonstrating to your kids what it means to celebrate Jesus by giving to the least of these (Matthew 25:45).
If your past Christmases have been child-centered rather than Christ-centered and you're worried about rocking your kids' worlds with a massive paradigm shift mid-childhood--go ahead and prayerfully do it anyway. Sit them down and explain where you're coming from, what your motives are, and what God is teaching you. It may be rough going at first, but as they see your hearts, God will work in theirs too. Better to rescue them from themselves now, then to persist the myth that the holidays are all about them.
I'll sign off now by offending everyone and saying that we don't do Santa. I just can't find anything redemptive about lying to my kids and telling them that a mere mortal man is watching them 24-7 and that if they're good enough they can earn some gifts from him. It's so anti-gospel and anti-grace and anti-Jesus-is-the-reason-for-the-season. If we moms give this Christmas some thought and planning, and if we're willing to be counter-cultural and potentially looked at a little weirdly by our in-laws and neighbors, we can make the party about Jesus again--ultimately doing what's best for our kids anyway. It's true, it's an all-out battle. But the fight is worth it because the glory of our God and the good of our kids hang in the balance.