By Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International
At the risk of sounding supercilious, I’m going to speak from my heart. You see, as the month wears on, and I return over and over to the biblical account of Jesus’ birth, I find little of this narrative reflected in our cultural norm of gift giving. I think back to our days in Liberia when we had young children, in a simpler time. Did a sense of wonder at God’s gift of love permeate our Christmas celebrations then? I think it did, but I have to admit that it was easier those days.
I hasten to remember how Jesus taught that if we give something to someone in His Name, it’s as if we gave it to Him. So I return to the conversations around me on TV and online, with family members, and I look for that kind of motivation.
The ‘bah-humbug’ side of me asks, “If it’s Jesus’ birthday that we’re celebrating, why do we give each other gifts?” Even with all our focus on His birth, have we given up the wonder of that first Christmas to commercialism? What efforts do we make to take back Christmas and celebrate with heartfelt adoration the One who delivered so much good …grace and truth….even at His birth? (John1:14)
What better time than this year to extend grace to those who fall short of our expectations? What better time to build our lives on truth…God’s truth?
Some do seem to be getting this idea. A woman once shared with me that her young son, a teenager, had suggested that family members not give each other gifts that year. Instead they could combine the funds they might have spent and give the money to a needy family or send it overseas to a missions project.
We do, of course, have many opportunities to give out of our abundance to the needy. Millions of shoeboxes, lovingly packed with toys and the Gospel message each year, are sent all around the globe bringing joy to poor children. This is just one example of ways we show our gratitude to our Heavenly Father as we bless others. Still, I wonder how much sacrifice gift-wraps our generosity.
God loved our world so much that He gave His dearest treasure – His one and only Son. (John 3:16) If you have young children in your home, there’s still time to gather them around you and ask them to consider what they can give (not get) this Christmas. Parents and grandparents, there’s still time to covenant with one another to simplify your lifestyle in the coming year. Your time, both quality and quantity, may be the best gift you can make to those you love.
Finally, a word about Santa Claus…please be careful. He is portrayed as omniscient, nearly all powerful and omnipresent. He grows fat on our selfish wishes. Likened to the Spirit of Christmas, he is, in fact, an intruder, an interloper. Could we not do Christmas well without him? Perhaps, where he is strongly entrenched in our households, it works best to just crowd him out by letting God’s Holy Spirit orchestrate the ways we capture, explore and accept the wonder of Jesus’ birth, starting this year.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man, I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him?
Give my heart.
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Our next blog entry will describe some practical ways we can accept and share the wonder of God’s great Gift. Take a moment to share with us some of your year-end celebrations that do this. Many thanks.