This is the last day of the year, but I'd like to share a few thoughts about Christmas, before the holidays are completely gone.
Whenever the Christmas season comes around, I seem to be surrounded by two main schools of thought.
1) The secular view of Christmas with Santa Claus and commercialism is, of course, very prevalent today.
2) Then there are the Christians who rant and rave (or simply preach, more mildly) that Christmas is not about buying gifts for people and making wish lists... so while plenty of them go ahead and give and receive gifts anyway, they almost seem to talk about it in a regretful, apologetic sort of way, as if they really shouldn't be succumbing to the world's version of Christmas. After all, they know that Christmas is really about celebrating Jesus' birth... even if He wasn't really born on December 25th.
But I have another point of view… one that I never notice anyone talking about, or enjoying the way I do. I'd like to explain it the way I did to my kids.
They once asked me, "Mommy why, if it's Jesus' birthday, do we get presents?" So I told them about Matthew 25, where Jesus said this: "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me."
Then I asked them if they could wrap up a present and hand it to Jesus to unwrap on His birthday. They answered 'no,' of course. And truthfully, even if we could, there isn't any thing that we could give to the Creator and King of the universe anyway! But... He said that when we give to others... He feels like we are giving that gift to Him. And He's not talking about obligatory gift-giving with no thought and caring behind it. He's talking about giving to the needy, of course... but I also think this applies to gifts for those who might not be financially needy, but who, perhaps, need someone to show God's love to them. Maybe your parents could use some appreciation... maybe your siblings could use something that says you love them despite everything... maybe your co-workers need to know that someone cares.
This puts a whole new spin on Christmas gift-giving doesn't it? When we're looking for a gift for someone on our list, and we're getting frustrated because we can't find anything... what attitude do we take? What are the thoughts that are going through our heads? Would they be any different if it was Jesus' name on our list?
What if we were Mary or Lazarus, and Jesus was coming over for His birthday dinner? Would we just buy the first thing we saw that was half-way suitable? Would we be thinking about return policies and gift receipts? I don't think so... not if we really loved Him. Some of us would do what the woman with the alabaster perfume did and spend our life's savings to buy a perfect gift. Others of us might take some precious time out of our days to weave the fabric and to sew a new cloak. Maybe others of us would make His favorite meal for Him. We would all want to give Him a gift that showed Him our love, in some way.
And that's what I like to do at Christmas. I like each gift that I give to show that person that I love him or her... and hopefully also remind them that God loves them as well. If they need encouragement, then I want my gift to give them encouragement. If they need to know that they're forgiven, then I want my gift to show them that I, at least, forgive them, and if I do, then God certainly does. If they need to feel appreciated... to know that they're important… then I want my gift to show that I spent either time or money or thought on them because they are worth it to me. Sometimes my gifts only cost a few dollars, and other times, when God has financially blessed us, they are more expensive. But I always hope that my gift recipients can see the love that went into it, because that's what is important to me.
So if you're one of those people who hate the commercialism and pressure of the holidays... if you're stuck thinking that you have to give gifts at Christmas... if you want to get back to the real meaning of Christmas, but aren't sure exactly how to do that... then try this next year. Make your list of people to give to. (Notice I said 'give to' not 'buy for.') Then pray for each person and ask God to give you a gift idea, within your budget, that will minister to that person in some small way. I guarantee that you'll rediscover the joy in gift-giving.
And then you can join me in saying: "I give gifts, because it's Jesus' birthday! And giving gifts to those He died for, is one small way to show that I have given myself to Him."